After losing Game 4 to the Philadelphia 76ers 106-102, the Miami Heat find themselves returning to Philadelphia for Game 5 in a 3-1 hole. Despite this, and despite the presence of budding superstars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons on the Sixers, perhaps the most impressive player on the floor Saturday was Heat guard and former Volunteer Josh Richardson.
Richardson exited Saturday’s game with a sprained left shoulder in the second quarter, but returned to play 35 minutes for the Heat. He scored 10 points, dished seven assists, grabbed five rebounds, and broke a Heat playoff record with a ridiculous seven steals. He also hit a three-pointer and blocked a shot.
Richardson played four seasons in Knoxville, appearing in 136 career games with the Vols from 2011 to 2015. In his junior year, Richardson, Jarnell Stokes, and Jordan McRae led the Vols to the Sweet Sixteen. The next season, Richardson averaged 16 points per game and was named to both the All-SEC First Team and the Defensive All-American team.
After his strong senior year, Richardson was drafted by Miami with the 40th pick of the 2015 NBA draft, where he has played his entire NBA career. He has made his mark in the NBA as a 3-and-D specialist, meaning he can space the floor on offense and lock down opposing wings on defense. This year, after signing a four-year, $42 million contract, Richardson has averaged career highs in minutes (33.2 per game), points (12.9 per game), assists (2.9), steals (1.5), and blocks (0.9). In today’s NBA, where coaches try to switch as many pick and rolls as possible to avoid leaving shooters open around the perimeter, Richardson is a perfect wing: you can’t afford to leave him open on offense, and he can switch onto four positions on defense.
Josh Richardson is a candidate to be named to an All-NBA defensive team this year, and his play for the Heat has been stellar, especially recently. The VFL has become one of the most important players on a playoff team this season, which is rare for a four-year player in college. Despite his injury, Richardson will play in game five for the Heat Tuesday night, where the former Vol will have another chance to shine on the national stage.
Written by: Jacob Boughter
Edited by: Colin Castleberry