Celtics

4 things to know about new Celtic Josh Richardson, who has talents on and off the court

Richardson was traded to the Celtics from the Mavericks on Saturday.

Josh Richardson joins the Celtics after one season in Dallas. AP Photo/Duane Burleson

Brad Stevens’s first offseason as Celtics president has already seen a few trades.

The second one of the offseason became official on Saturday, with the Celtics acquiring Josh Richardson from the Mavericks for the remainder of the Gordon Hayward trade exception and Moses Brown.

Richardson, a shooting guard, joins Boston after six seasons in the league. Here are four things to know about Richardson:

His defense might be his best skill.

Richardson’s main selling point is his defense and his defensive versatility. Throughout his NBA career, the 6-foot-5 wing’s been tasked with guarding other wing players or even point guards to disrupt the opposing offense.

Dating back to his third season in the league, Richardson’s put up some terrific defensive numbers. His 1.5 steals per game with the Heat in the 2017-18 season tied for the 14th-best that season. Richardson’s 2.25 defensive real plus-minus (which measures a player’s average impact on his team’s defensive performance) ranked fourth-best among small forwards that year.

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Richardson followed up the 2017-18 season with another impressive defensive campaign in 2018-19. That year, he had 1.1 steals per game and a 2.1 DRPM that ranked fifth-best among shooting guards.

Richardson’s defense did take a bit of a dip in Dallas this past season. He did average a steal per game and his 0.53 DRPM was still a positive, but it ranked 22nd among shooting guards. Richardson did miss nine games due to a positive COVID-19 test however, which could have played a role in a slight defensive decline.

The Richardson trade strikes a common theme with the other two trades Stevens has made so far: acquiring players who are a positive on the defensive end. Richardson, Al Horford, and Kris Dunn have all shown defensive upside in recent years, which the Celtics need after their defensive rating last season was their worst in the nine years Stevens was head coach.

Richardson isn’t a great shooter, but has the potential to add to the Celtics’ offense.

If Josh Richardson is indeed going to replace Evan Fournier in the Celtics’ rotation, his skillset offers something different than Fournier’s.

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Richardson isn’t the knockdown shooter Fournier is, shooting 43% or worse from the field in four of his six seasons in the league while Fournier’s shot 45% from the field over his career. Richardson’s also been below average from 3-point territory the last two seasons, converting 34.1% of his deep shots with the 76ers in 2019-20 and 33% in 2020-21.

As a matter of fact, Richardson’s 53.6% career true shooting percentage (which is used to more efficiently measure a player’s field goal, 3-point, and free-throw shooting) is below the considered average of 56.2%.

But Richardson has shown he can be a plus-shooter from deep. He’s shot above over the considered league average of 35% from 3-point territory in three of his six seasons, including an impressive 35.7% 3-point percentage on 6.3 attempts per game in 2018-19. Richardson’s also a career 39.2% shooter from corner 3s, which can be a useful skill when he shares the court with Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart.

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Richardson’s flashed some playmaking ability in the past, too. He averaged 4.1 assists per game in 2018-19, which would’ve been the fourth-best on the Celtics last season. Obviously that’s not good enough to make a primary playmaker, but it could be good enough for Richardson to be a ballhandler for small stretches.

Richardson’s been on the move a lot in recent years, which has led him to cross paths with new Celtics coach Ime Udoka.

Richardson hasn’t been able to settle in a professional home for long since his early years with the Heat.

The shooting guard was drafted in the second round of the draft by the Heat in 2015 and signed a four-year extension in 2017 (which would kick in for the 2018-19 season). After arguably having the best year of his career in 2018-19 though, Richardson became the centerpiece of a sign-and-trade package that sent him to Philadelphia for All-Star Jimmy Butler.

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Joining Richardson in Philly for that season were Horford and Ime Udoka, who was brought on as an assistant coach that year. While Butler departed the 76ers, the team was still expected to be a title contender in 2018-19. They fell way short of their hopes though, getting the No. 6 seed in the East and were swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Celtics.

Richardson was again on the move following that season, getting traded to the Mavericks for Seth Curry. As detailed earlier, Richardson’s time in Dallas didn’t go as well as expected, with the Mavericks getting knocked out in the first round by the Clippers for a second straight year.

Richardson also has a top skill off the court.

Richardson’s active with his hands on and off the court.

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The Celtics’ newest player is musically gifted. He plays the piano and likes to DJ during his time off the court.

The reason why he plays the piano is special to him.

“I took piano lessons when I was really small,” Richardson said in a video during his time at Tennessee. “My grandma played piano a lot. I quit for a long time then I started playing again when I was in 10th grade because my grandma passed. So, I just wanted to do something that I knew she would like.”

In 2019, Richardson created a playlist for Apple Music to celebrate Black History Month.

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“I tried to highlight a few lesser-known artists,” Richardson said of the playlist. “Since I am a super easygoing person, my playlist, made up of R&B, rap, and some pop music, reflects a mood of hanging outside or chilling with friends. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. ❤”

Richardson’s next musical task is to learn how to play the guitar.

“I actually have a guitar. I don’t know how to play it yet,” Richardson told SixersWire’s Ky Carlin. “I’ve started learning, but I’m not good yet. I just need somebody to teach me. I can read piano music so I feel like learning guitar can’t be too bad.”

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