Nick Richards | NBA 2022
Charlotte Hornets big man Nick Richards is the league’s lone current Jamaican player, having earned a spot in the NBA rotation for the first time in his career. Only seven other players in the nation have done so: the famous Patrick Ewing (and his son Pat), Jerome Jordan, Samardo Samuels, Omari Johnson, Rumeal Robinson, and Wayne Sappleton. He admired Ewing, to be sure, but having participated in every sport as a child, Richards adored one of his countrymen in particular.
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“Usain Bolt,” Richards said during last Friday’s shootaround in Cleveland to Basketball News. “I used to run track and field when I was younger.” Richards, a 7-foot-245-pound monster, is seizing his moment to show the NBA what he’s made of and sprinting with it — just like his idol.
Charlotte’s backup big man entered last weekend as the league leader in Basketball-Offensive Reference’s Rating statistic (137.4), thanks to a stunningly effective 68.2% True Shooting percentage in a career-high 19.0 minutes per game. Nick Richards before Richards could comment to hearing those figures, longtime center and Hornets teammate Mason Plumlee playfully spoke for him: “I want some more minutes!” “The world’s best veterinarian” (laughs). To be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about it. “Perhaps Mase is correct?” Richards grinned as he leaned back in his courtside position.
“It’s nice to get some minutes and repetitions in. [I’ve] been getting into a terrific rhythm the last several games. I’m just happy. Nick Richards i’m making a good contribution to my team. But, to be honest, we should be able to rack up more victories. We should simply learn from every game and attempt to improve from every single defeat we’ve had so far. Just focusing on specifics and becoming better at playing for 48 minutes. As [Hornets head coach Steve Clifford] said, “we don’t want to play well for [just] 30 minutes, nor 48.”
(Note: Richards is currently third in Basketball-ORTG Reference’s [134.8], with a minor drop to 66.2% TS.) He’s raised his average game time to 19.5 minutes.)
Nick Richards has made an immediate impact with the Hornets’ second team, capitalizing on a chance he hasn’t had yet in his career. His playing time has been irregular over the previous two seasons, with him polishing his abilities with the Greensboro Swarm in the G League as a rookie, then monitoring the people in front of him in the rotation with the big club.
“Honestly, I feel that the first two years were extremely terrific, that they were really critical years for me,” Nick Richards remarked. “I sat back and listened to my vets in front of me.” I simply observed how they played on the court and tried to replicate it.”
Richards didn’t spend any time. To begin the season, he had two double-doubles in three games, totaling 39 points and 21 rebounds as Charlotte went 2-1. He’s totaled 24 points and 24 rebounds in his previous two games, recording back-to-back double-doubles.
Nick Richards is currently averaging 18.1 points and 12.0 rebounds per 36 minutes.
“I believe it’s simply his approach.” Being consistent in this league is difficult. He’s been quite consistent for us. And I think you appreciate that as a teammate, and the staff appreciates it,” Plumlee told Basketball News. Obviously, he had the games earlier in the year when he had tremendous statistics, and I believe he’ll have more games like that, but simply knowing what to expect every night is a show of maturity.”
Plumlee likes seeing Nick Richards seize the mantle while taking a respite after his breakthrough.
“It makes me feel amazing, and it definitely gives our squad a shot,” Plumlee said. “What’s been interesting is that our rotation is constant, while other teams do things differently.” So it’s been amazing to watch him match up with the starting bigs and do his thing.”
Nick Richards’ success is mostly due to his explosiveness. According to Basketball-Reference, he is all over the boards to keep possessions alive, behind just Steven Adams with a 16.6% Offensive Rebound percentage. According to InStat, the Kentucky alum is scoring 1.42 points per possession on putbacks.
“I can stand up, but I need to load a bit more.” “Plumlee commented on Nick Richards’ athleticism. “He’s faster. He’s a better jumper. Some of his dunks are just spectacular.”
“Coach [Clifford] has been asking me to try to collect myself more instead of simply trying to get it up there faster.” But I’m going to concentrate on it,” Richards stated. “Rather than simply going straight up, you attempt to collect and slam the ball.”
Clifford said that Charlotte is encouraging Richards to utilize the gather more since his shot is being blocked too much.
“If he goes a little lower, gets his eyes up, he can read the defense better and still make a fast move,” Clifford said. “Alternatively, as they say, ‘look up and watch out.’ If everyone is here [in the paint], just touch the ball out sometimes. So I believe it is also a part of his growth.”
Richards’ screening and handoff ability are also beneficial to his teammates. He and Terry Rozier top the Hornets’ two-man combinations (minimum 100 minutes) with a plus-20.4 Net Rating. Next up is a resurrected Dennis Smith Jr. (15.2), followed by the Nick Richards-Kelly Oubre Jr. tandem (7.2). There’s also a strong bond with LaMelo Ball, despite the fact that they’ve only played three games together this season.
“We have a lot of extremely excellent players that play well off the pick-and-roll.” “That’s basically the foundation of our offense,” Richards said of freeing up his teammates for excellent looks. “So it’s simply a matter of recognizing your job on the team and playing your game within that role.”
“I believe right now he’s the league’s 35th-best screener, which is crucial to me,” Clifford said on Friday. “When everyone returns, I believe our team will have three guys who have the ability to be extremely strong pick-and-roll players, as well as a terrific screener. And he’s a good screener who’s improving. He’s becoming better at it. His screening, both on and off the ball.
Nick Richards is also making improvement as a roller. He’s becoming better at diving hard at the bucket and has started timing his cutbacks at the ideal times.
“I believe he focuses on the things that help him perform effectively. He is unconcerned about the other issues “Clifford continued. “He sprints, rebounds, provides physicality, screens, and has the potential to become a terrific roller. And if he achieves those things, I believe he recognizes how vital those qualities are in this league. It distinguishes him.”
As the NBA season nears its halfway point, Nick Richards seems to be finding his groove, and Plumlee and Clifford both see that progress and potential in real time.
“I believe he’s having a fantastic year,” Plumlee remarked. “I believe he’s had an influence on the game every time he’s been in it, and he’s had an impact on both ends.” He gets us second-chance points, defends the rim, runs the floor aggressively, and has been a great help to our bench.”
“What do you think about Jarrett Allen? He runs, dashes to the basket, defends the rim; he’s a fantastic player. And I believe Nick recognizes that by mastering those skills, he can become as excellent as he desires. These are abilities that many men overlook “Clifford said.