Vols in the Pros: Josh Richardson

Matt Raymond details Josh Richardson and his rise to NBA playing time with the Miami Heat.

Josh Richardson shoots over 2 Ole Miss defenders. Photo by Ben Ozburn.

The Miami Heat got a steal with their second round draft pick this year in former Tennessee point guard Josh Richardson. Although he has only played in preseason and summer league games, Richardson looks to already be making some noise down at South Beach.

During Richardson’s first two years at Tennessee, he mainly played as a defensive specialist, helping to lock down perimeter shooters. He saw action in every game both as a freshman and as a sophomore, starting nine games his first year on Rocky Top and all 33 his sophomore year.

Richardson’s junior year, however, is when he really started emerging as a star. In a game against Missouri, he held the Southeastern Conference’s leading scorer at the time, Jabari Brown, to only eight points on 1-of-10 shooting on the night. It is also worth noting that the one field goal Brown did make that night was when Richardson was not on the floor.

Richardson really started getting the recognition he deserved at the NCAA Tournament. Surprisingly, the Vols made a push into the Sweet 16 after entering the tournament as an 11 seed. In the first game against Iowa, after not scoring in the first half, he went off for 17 points in the second half and finished with eight rebounds as well. Against Mercer, he scored a career high 26 points to help push the Vols into the third round of the Tournament. In Tennessee’s four NCAA Tournament games, he led the team in field-goal percentage (.617) and assists per game (3.0) as well as ranking second in points per game (19.3).

Entering his senior year, many people questioned who the point guard for Tennessee would be. Head Coach Cuonzo Martin left the Vols to take the job as head coach at the University of California-Berkley. With the big three of Jordan McRae, Jarnell Stokes, and Jeronne Maymon all graduating and a large roster turnover with the coaching change, Richardson was left to lead a very young team in a very competitive Southeastern Conference.

In the season opener against the then No. 15 ranked VCU Rams, Richardson made his first start at point guard. Continuing with his defensive background, he held preseason All-American Treveon Graham to a mere 3-of-13 shooting. While Tennessee’s season was not what he or many others hoped it would have been, he did manage to average an impressive 16 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 2.1 steals per game. He ended the year with some serious recognition as well, garnering First Team All-SEC selections in both in the Coaches and the AP poll as well as being selected for the SEC All-Defensive team and the SEC Community Service Team. He finished his career ranked third in school history in games played (136), ninth in minutes played (3,802) and games started (110), 10th in steals (147), 16th in blocked shots (88), and 28th in scoring (1,252).

Going into the NBA Draft, many people though Richardson could be a late first-round pick. Some also thought he could even creep higher into the first-round with his talent and the amount of upside he possessed at the point guard spot. However, not many people outside of the conference knew much about him. As the draft entered the second round, Richardson’s name had still not been called.

All that changed, however, when the Miami Heat decided to use their second-round pick on him. As the 40th overall pick, Miami did what Richardson did 147 times in college — got a steal.

In his first appearances as a pro, Richardson helped lead the Heat to an undefeated record in the Orlando Pro Summer League. In the final game of the league, he had a personal best 18 points, two rebounds, and two assists in a 91-68 win over the Detroit Pistons.

In late July, Richardson signed a contract with the Miami Heat. The three-year contract is worth about $2.5 million, with the first year fully guaranteed.

Richardson has played in six NBA preseason games. He earned his first start against the Orlando Magic. During the 95-92 loss, Richardson scored 18 points and had three steals.

It is not known how much playing time Richardson will see this season with the Heat. With star players like Mario Chalmers, Goran Dragic, Dwayne Wade, Gerald Green and Tyler Johnson, Richardson may end up playing in the NBA D-League for some time before getting his shot at the big-time. However, with the noise the rookie has already been making, watch out for him in Miami for years to come.