The Sacramento Kings brought in shooting guard Marco Belinelli to pair with compulsive passer Rajon Rondo ahead of the 2015-16 season. After a productive stint in San Antonio, Belinelli spent much of his time in Sacramento struggling to live up to expectations. He shot a career-low 30.6 percent from behind the arc and below 40 percent from the field overall.
After the season, the Kings decided it was time to cut ties with the veteran swingman and get younger at the position. Somehow, even after a dismal season, Sacramento managed to land the 23rd overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft from the Charlotte Hornets in exchange for Belinelli.
With a hole to fill at the two-guard spot, the Kings used their newly acquired draft choice on Malachi Richardson, a lanky, athletic scorer out of Syracuse.
Richardson traveled between NBA D-League affiliate Reno and Sacramento plenty during his rookie campaign. He put up solid numbers in Reno, showing off his ability to score in a variety of ways.
With the help of injuries and poor play at the position, Richardson began to see the floor for the Kings. Unfortunately, Richardson himself got hurt towards the end of the season which ended his promising rookie season prematurely.
Overall, the first-year shooting guard played in 22 games and averaged nine minutes per outing. He put up an impressive 14.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per 36 minutes, according to Basketball Reference.
The potential is there as a scorer. Richardson does need to improve his three-point shot as he only poured in 28.6 percent of his attempts from downtown in 2016-17, but his capacity to score off the dribble, whether that’s in the form of pull-up jumpers or slashing into the paint, is apparent. The rookie shot 50 percent on two-point attempts during his rookie season.
But 2017-18 Opening Night is less than three weeks away and as it stands at the moment, Sacramento has a log-jam at the wing. The team has three guys competing for two spots at shooting guard. That doesn’t include the possibility of Joerger moving George Hill over to off-guard when De’Aaron Fox is in the game running the show. So realistically, there could be four.
Some combination of second-year man Buddy Hield, rookie Bogdan Bogdanovic and veteran Garrett Temple is going to eat up the minutes at the two-guard spot. Since Richardson has plenty of length, the Kings could possibly look at getting him some minutes at small forward, but there are players in front of him there as well. Vince Carter is going to play and the Kings’ coaching staff seems impressed and intrigued by rookie Justin Jackson’s skill set thus far, making Richardson an afterthought.
If Malachi Richardson wants to see the floor and have any real impact on Sacramento’s performance in 2017-18, he is going to have to outplay a few of the youngsters that currently stand in his way during training camp and the preseason.
Richardson is definitely a prospect to watch early on this season as he has immense potential on the offensive end, it’s just whether or not he continues to progress and the Kings’ personnel stalemate allows him to show it off.