The Miami Heat, now the presumed favorites to land Minnesota Timberwolves star Jimmy Butler, are reluctant to surrender Josh Richardson.
According to Darren Wolfson, the organization is in no rush to give up on the 25-year-old wing (via 1500 ESPN):
“My understanding is – from talking to numerous league officials, league sources, front-office folks [and] a couple of coaching sources – that the Timberwolves have all the parameters of the deals that they can make. So it’s on the Wolves at some point here to say yes. Now, do they wait a little bit longer just to see if some team adds some player in, like Miami? Miami is not willing to move Josh Richardson. But in the end, do they offer Josh Richardson?
Some league people thought, yeah, at the end, Pat Riley would make him available when you have the chance to acquire a star like Jimmy Butler. But so far, as of Oct. 2, no sense whatsoever that Miami is making Josh Richardson available.”
As such, trade negotiations between Minnesota and Miami have stalled. Wolfson noted that Miami’s front office is willing to offer Goran Dragic (who made the All-Star team last season) and Hassan Whiteside, but don’t plan to hand over Richardson or Bam Adebayo (unless they suddenly have a change of heart).
Richardson, specifically, has shown similar development to Butler. During their respective third seasons in the NBA, the two players had very similar production. This shows exactly why Miami is reportedly keeping him off the table during these trade talks.
As a three-point shooter, the Heat wing found his sweet spot above the arc. Richardson was 98-for-239 (39.4 percent) on his non-corner three-pointer attempts. This ranked in the 82nd percentile, per Cleaning the Glass.
His efficiency on jump shots ranked in the 77th percentile overall, according to Synergy Sports.
Last season, Richardson was most often used as a spot-up shooter, which accounted for 27.1 percent of his offensive plays. During his first two NBA seasons, he relied on spot-up shooting even more – 40.3 percent as a rookie and 33.4 percent as a sophomore. He scored 1.06 points per possession on this play type, which ranked in the 68th percentile.
His head coach Erik Spoelstra has encouraged him to be more versatile on offense, relying less on spot-up scoring (via Miami Herald):
“All we want from [Richardson] is to be aggressive, not just be a spot-up guy. And he’ll continue to get better with that. Now, his shooting, I think that will change and improve no matter what. Our shooters, we want them having a green light. He’ll continue to have that neon green light. But it always helps you when you get a couple easy ones and he got some layups.”
Richardson developed a knack for scoring on handoffs — which he used with a 16.1 percent frequency. That jumped significantly from the 3.9 percent frequency he used as a rookie. Richardson averaged 1.10 points per possession on these plays, which ranked No. 6 overall (minimum: 100 possessions) last year. It was his most effective way of scoring.
He was also above-average when cutting to the basket last season. He was 27-for-37 (73.0 percent) on those attempts with the Heat, though he did not get many opportunities to showcase this skill set.
The wing scored a career-high 3.0 points per game on drives. For what it’s worth, the Los Angeles Clippers (24.1) were the only team in the Western Conference that had a higher scoring rate on drives than the Timberwolves (23.7) last season, so it’s easy to see why Minnesota covets him.
He also had the best steal percentage (28.0 percent) on his team among those who appeared in at least 20 games. Richardson led Miami with 1.5 steals per game. Only 10 players in the league had more total steals (121) than he did last season.
Richardson ranked No. 16 overall in defensive win shares (3.6), finishing above top defenders like Oklahoma City’s Paul George and Golden State’s Klay Thompson.
While the talks may change as the season nears, the Heat are currently making the wise decision of holding onto their young assets rather than parting with them for a 29-year-old entering the final year of his contract.
Miami is reportedly “trying as hard” as any team in the league to land Butler. If they can get him without giving up Richardson, they might have one of the best defensive wing-stopping lineups in the NBA.