In one of his first moves as the GM of the Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens acquired Josh Richardson from the Dallas Mavericks for essentially nothing.
No picks or significant assets were sent back, only a trade exception and a single player, albeit a young player, in Moses Brown who was recently acquired in the Kemba-Horford swap. He was traded before he even played a game in a Celtics uniform.
During an inconsistent, up-and-down season under first year coach Ime Udoka , Josh Richardson has been one of the most reliable players this season. Currently averaging about 10 points, three rebounds, and a pair of assists off the bench on 46/42/86 shooting splits, you couldn’t ask for much more production from a bench guy.
However, I think his skillset and complimentary play would be better suited for the starting lineup.
First off, I, along with probably many C’s fans, don’t love double big lineups. While he does basically play backup center and starting power forward, replacing Al Horford with Richardson makes it much easier to alternate the minutes of Horford and Rob Williams at center and slides Tatum and Brown up to the forward spots.
Based on his skillset, Richardson should in theory play more with the core four (Tatum, Brown, Smart, Rob) given how well he would complement them. His steady play, spot up shooting, and versatile defense makes him an ideal role player. Richardson should not only be a starter, but should also be playing at the end of games consistently.
The other aspect of inserting Richardson into the starting lineup is a trickle-down effect on the rest of the rotation.
As I already mentioned, Horford would become the full-time backup center, which would essentially eliminate any Enes Kanter and Bruno Fernando minutes (to the pleasure of all C’s fans I’d assume).
Richardson moving to the starting lineup would also open up playing time for the young wings in Romeo Langford and Aaron Nesmith (if that’s what Udoka and Brad want) at the backup 2 and 3 spots. However, given the C’s recent run of great play that has brought them back to within a game of a top 6 seed, playing the kids seems like a bad idea at this point.
While getting under the luxury tax line seems like a strong possibility for a team unlikely to win the title this season, which in turn could lead to a Josh Richardson trade, there are other alternative trades to achieve that. Also, it does seem like the C’s should be in win-now mode and try to get a higher seed in the playoffs, due to their latest run of play and how wide open the east is this season.
No matter how the Celtics decide to approach the rest of the season as the trade deadline draws closer, whether that means buying or selling, not trading Josh Richardson, but rather inserting him into the starting lineup, just makes sense.