Nick Richards looked prime to be a first round NBA Draft pick coming out of high school, but his progression took a little longer than most expected. It looks like now is finally his time.
Richards came into Kentucky as a consensus five-star prospect and was ranked in the top 20 by all four major recruiting services, including 247Sports (No. 15), ESPN (No. 17), Rivals (No. 17) and Scout (No. 17). He seemed to be the next sure-fire one-and-done under John Calipari.
However, Richards’ game took some time to progress. That was largely due to the fact that he dominated with his size in high school, but he lacked the necessary skills to continue that in college. To be fair, he had only started playing basketball when he was 14 or 15 years old.
The 6-11 big man went from starting all 37 games as a freshman, a season in which he struggled, to coming off the bench as a sophomore, a season in which he struggled even more. Big Blue Nation was rightfully disappointed, but Richards finally put it all together his junior year.
After averaging just 5.1 points per game and 4.4 rebounds per game as a freshman, and 4.4 points and 3.3 rebounds per game as a sophomore, Richards blew up to the tune of 14 points and 7.8 rebounds per game as a junior.
The First Team All-SEC center is now looking to continue his career in the NBA.
- Position: Center
- Height: 6-11
- Weight: 247 lbs
- Points per game: 14.0
- Rebounds per game: 7.8
Sports Illustrated- #56 to the Charlotte Hornets
Bleacher Report- Undrafted
NBADraft.net- #45 to the Orlando Magic
Strengths: Richards is a long and athletic center that will likely make his living altering shots. But it doesn’t stop there. He’s improved tremendously as a rebounder, as he has learned to use his size in more ways than one. At 6-11 and 247 pounds, Richards can bang down low with the best of them.
Richards also has improved his jump shot and free throw percentage. Hs midrange game became dangerous as the year progressed last season and his free throw shooting was up to 75 percent.
As mentioned above, Richards is a large human being that can bang down low, but he’s also very fluid and mobile. He runs the floor well and he’s an explosive leaper. This helps him both in throwing down some nasty alley-oop dunks, as well as blocking shots.
Nick’s game has come a long way since his high school days and even his freshman and sophomore years in college. He’s truly progressing at an impressive rate and the long-term potential is still there.
Weaknesses: Richards has obviously improved a ton, but the biggest factor working against him is age, and that’s probably why you see him so low on NBA Draft boards. The Jamaican big man is already 23 years old, so while his progression is impressive, questions about how much better he can truly get will be a cause of concern for NBA GMs.
Moreover, Richards has improved tremendously on the offensive end, but you can’t help but feel like he’s still a bit mechanical in his approach. He struggled at times when opposing defenses took away his first move towards the basket and his hook shot, while improved, is still inconsistent.
He also lacks some basketball IQ, which is probably a factor of starting basketball so late in life. This is especially apparent in his rebounding and shot-blocking. Sure, his numbers were solid in those departments, but at his size and with his athleticism, he leaves something to be desired. Moreover, his passing needs to improve, especially out of double teams, as does his overall decision-making.
Conclusion: I think Nick Richards will be one of the steals of this draft. He has all the tools to be a very solid role player in the NBA, it’s just a matter of putting it all together. His lack of feel for the game is a bit troublesome, but overall, I think the intangibles are too good to pass up.
As you can see above in the NBA Mock projections, Richards is probably either going to be a late second-round pick or go undrafted. I feel confident someone takes a chance on him, but it’s by no means a lock.
Really, the most important thing for Richards is finding the best fit with a team that will take the time to continue developing him like he did at Kentucky. Rim running, rim protectors will always be useful in the NBA. And if he can continue to improve his jumper, maybe even out to the three-point line, and refine his offensive skills, I think he’ll be just fine.