You could say that Nick Richards swatted away his doubters with his prolific play on both sides of the ball in the Bahamas.
Nick Richards with the emphatic swat. pic.twitter.com/1IVqyeypGf— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) August 12, 2018
After struggling mightily to impact games offensively in his freshman year, Richards showcased a more comfortable feel for scoring, as well as an advanced utilization of his offensive skill set.
Primarily the improved timing of his shot attempts and his fluidity in hitting post hooks and floaters allowed Nick to dominate just about every matchup that came his way.
kentucky often lacked offensive fluidity last night, but a lot of that was experimentation. when the upperclassmen played together they manufactured some good looks, like this cake from nick richards. pic.twitter.com/4O0b6cvsHw— J. Kyle Mann (@jkylemann) August 9, 2018
Richards also showed more comfort in taking mid-range jump shots, something he has always had in his arsenal but could never position himself well enough to get consistent, comfortable looks from that area.
All of that appears to have changed in the offseason.
Adding a cherry on top of an already impressive and improved showing in the exhibitions is that Richards also showed improved footwork, increased assertiveness and basketball IQ on several scores around the rim.
Nick Richards takes the contact and finishes the and-1. pic.twitter.com/AuC58kHaNQ— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) August 12, 2018
Good patience and footwork from Nick Richards, use the rim to shield, baseline move for two. pic.twitter.com/QijT7o5yMW— The Dime Drop (@dimedrophoops) August 10, 2018
Having higher volume as a scorer will be the biggest factor in how big of a role Richards plays on this team. He will always be able to have high efficiency percentages, but in order to keep himself on the floor longer than 15 minutes a game, Richards has to contribute consistent scoring production around the rim.
In terms of playing defense, however, there is little to be concerned with. Richards put on a massive highlight show with his rim protection by emphatically blocking shots.
Nick Richards swat leads to the breakaway slam by Keldon Johnson. pic.twitter.com/cwbiTuFl8j— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) August 11, 2018
Whether it was in man-to-man situations or playing help defense on the baseline, Richards showed impeccable timing on these blocks.
Dude tries and fails to move Reid Travis and then Nick Richards swats his shot with two hands. pic.twitter.com/KNt6Zj7qBe— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) August 12, 2018
Richards has the physical capability at 7-foot and the offensive skills to be a high-level starting center and a potential first-round NBA Draft pick.
With an enhanced level of comfort and fluidity in his play along with an heightened sense for being aggressive and making plays, Nick Richards perhaps has the most NBA upside of anybody on this Kentucky team by year’s end.