The Last Word on Pro Basketball series on NBA draft profiles continues with University of Kentucky junior, Nick Richards. There are few players in the nation that have improved as much as Richards has for the Wildcats.
Nick Richards is a 6’11 junior center out of Kingston, Jamaica. Richards was part of Kentucky’s 2017 recruiting class but was viewed as a project. He was the 18th ranked recruit out of The Patrick School.
After two average years, Richards exploded this season. In his first two seasons at Kentucky, Richards averaged 4.5 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. This season, Richards averaged 14.0 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, firmly stamping his mark on the Kentucky program. Richards was widely considered for the SEC Player of the Year Award that ultimately went to his teammate, but he had an outstanding season.
Nick Richards’ best skill is his ability to get better. He has easily been one of the most improved players in the country. If you told any Kentucky fan after his freshman season that they would play through Richards in two years, they would laugh at you. Richards was a great post presence that helped Kentucky’s offense function. He clearly has the desire and work ethic to continue to improve and develop his game.
Richards essentially was not allowed out of the paint in his first two seasons in Lexington. Last season, he was able to use a face-up game and make jump shots from about 15 feet. That is a huge improvement and an important one, to say the least.
For NBA purposes, Richards’ best strength might be his ability to run the floor. He is very agile for someone his size and was a good rim runner. John Calipari does not like to use transition often, but a big guy that can run the floor puts a lot of strain on defenses. He should get some easy looks in the NBA because of his agility.
There is no doubt Nick Richards is a project. He needs to continue to expand his range to about 18 feet. Ideally, after five years he can knock down some threes, but if not, it is not the end of the world.
Richards also lacks a plethora of post moves. As of right now, he mainly utilizes hook shots, but those will become more difficult against bigger defenders. Every post player needs to have a go-to move and several counter moves. Right now, he just has his go-to move. Again, this is another skill that will improve with time in an NBA system.
Richards was in foul trouble too often. Most of the time, it was against solid interior defenders. The two games that stick out are against Michigan State and Xavier Tillman, as well as Ohio State and Kaleb Wesson. He is going to be facing players like those guys every time he steps on an NBA court.
Tony Bradley. Both are about the same size and somewhat limited offensively. Both were highly touted coming out of high school but are looking for their niche is a modern-day NBA system. Realistically, Richards can be a rotational big man while he works on expanding his offensive game.
Late 2nd round pick. Richards was nowhere near a draft board last year. This year he might have played his way into a pick, but at the very least he will earn a G-League contract.
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