Nick Richards, Center, University of Kentucky
- 6’11”, 7’4” wingspan, 247 pounds, 22 years old
- 2019-20 Season Stats (Junior season): 31 games played, 29.6 minutes, 14 points per game, 7.8 rebounds, 0.2 assists, 64.2% shooting from the field, and 75.2 from the free throw line.
- ADVANCED STATS STRENGTHS: True Shooting Percentage (67.4), Effective Field Goal Percentage (64.2), Offensive Box Plus/Minus (4.6)
- ADVANCED STATS WEAKNESSES: Assist/Usage Ratio (0.08), Steals (0.1), Defensive Win Shares/40 min (0.070)
- CURRENT BIG BOARD RANKINGS: Tankathon (61), ESPN (58), The Athletic (68), CBS Sports (72)
Most Kentucky players end up going one-and-done, but Nick Richards has been a fixture in its core since 2017. Arriving in the same class as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kevin Knox, and PJ Washington, Richards was also a 5-star prospect...but he clearly needed more refinement in college. He was a small factor in the rotation his first 2 years, averaging less than 15 minutes a game in both seasons. However, this past season, he emerged as the starting center on a young Kentucky team, providing the team with a “veteran” presence in its interior.
Though he’s an older prospect, he still needs to add more to his game. Can he evolve into a reliable center at the next level? If so, is it as a Memphis Grizzly?
What He Does Well
Nick Richards won’t command many touches, especially at the next level, but in college he showed he can finish when given scoring opportunities. Richards converted on 64.2% of his shot attempts (8.2 per game), as he thrived as a roll-man and a lob finisher. He finished in the 99th percentile in points per shot around the rim in half court settings (1.64) and in the 89th percentile as a roll-man (1.3 points per possession). At the next level, Richards projects as an energy big that spends most of his offensive time as a roller and in the dunker spot. If surrounded by the right playmakers, he can thrive as a backup 5.
Richards projects as an intriguing defender, particularly because of his massive size (6’11” with a 7’4” wingspan). He also generated some upside as a defender this past season, allowing 0.59 points per post-up possession (87th percentile) and 0.47 points per isolation possession (85th percentile). It’s going to be important for him to be able to defend down low and in space, as the league has become more switch-heavy, and Richards has the tools to become one.
Where He Needs to Improve
Nick Richards’ game isn’t well-rounded.
His offensive skill set is very limited, as he had just 23 assists and he never attempted a 3-point shot in his entire collegiate career (105 games). His playmaking is not great at all; he had 49 turnovers against 7 assists. In today’s NBA climate, where big men are asked to do more than ever before, this is extremely alarming for his development. Unless he evolves into another Clint Capela or DeAndre Jordan, it’s going to be difficult for him to find the court if he doesn’t round out his game offensively.
Though he has defensive upside, he still has more room to grow. This past year, he was 7th in the SEC in fouls (98), and smarter drivers and foul-drawers could feast on him. In addition, he generated a low number of steals, as he only corralled 10 career steals. He has to show he can be more than an emphatic shot-blocker if he doesn’t want to get played off the floor.
Fit and Verdict
I don’t like Nick Richards’ potential fit with the Memphis Grizzlies.
He projects as a limited roller at the next level, which is clunky next to Brandon Clarke in the second unit. In addition, they already have another fringe prospect at the 5 in Jontay Porter. There isn’t a need for another one, especially considering that 3 of the Grizzlies’ 4 best players all are big men and two of them are a part of the team’s long-term core. Unless they believe a big man available at 40 is better than Porter, they should pass for a perimeter-oriented talent.
Nick Richards could be a nice fourth big down the road for an NBA team, but he’s far too raw to receive minutes right now, and for the Grizzlies to consider him at 40.
Verdict: Nick Richards either falls in the 50’s, or he goes undrafted and joins a team under a two-way contract. He spends most of his rookie season in the G-League.
Stats found on sports-reference, NBA.com, and Tankathon.