As I think most of us have expected, particularly following the Syracuse basketball team’s run to the Final Four, freshman guard Malachi Richardson will test the NBA Draft waters but will not sign with an agent, giving him the option to withdraw his name and return to the Orange for next season.
I am entering my name into the NBA draft but will not sign an agent🏀
— KingMali (@KingMali23) April 18, 2016
Frankly, it’s a smart decision by the 6-foot-6 guard from New Jersey, who averaged 13.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game last year. Richardson, a former McDonald’s All-American and the Gatorade Player of the Year in New Jersey as a senior in high school, gained a lot of notoriety during Syracuse big run through the tournament, particularly with his performance against Malcolm Brogdon and Virginia.
In that game, Richardson torched the Cavaliers in the second half, even with Brogdon – who was both the ACC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year – guarding him. That was an eye-opening game that started making Malachi more a household name.
Richardson, who has a knack for shining under the spotlight of big games and big moments, was certainly a bit inconsistent this year. He finished the year hitting 35.3% from long range, and 37.0% from the field overall. His shooting ran hot and cold, going from extremes of 16.3% from three in December to 51.9% from downtown in January.
Frankly, this is the best move for Richardson, who can now work out for NBA scouts and get a feel for where he’ll fall in this year’s draft. Right now, most projections have him as a second round-type prospect, though things can obviously change. NBADraft.net has him going 24th to Charlotte, while DraftExpress.com doesn’t currently have him listed at all. ESPN’s Chad Ford currently has Richardson rated as the No. 55 prospect for the upcoming draft and doesn’t project him as a first round pick.
Right now, I’d guess that Richardson will ultimately return to Syracuse for his sophomore season, though obviously it’s hard to predict how these things will turn out. He’s certainly got enough holes in his game that another year in college wouldn’t hurt, but a 6-foot-6 shooting guard with solid athleticism and a good – if inconsistent – shooting stroke and scorer’s mentality is something the NBA covets.
Malachi has until May 25 to withdraw from the draft, and until then he can participate in the pre-draft combine and work out privately once each for all 30 NBA teams to better understand how he stacks up and projects in this year’s draft.