Nick Richards Scouting Report
By: Alex Brown @AhbAnalytics
2020 Draft Age: 22.56 years
Measurements: 6’11, 247 lbs, 7’3.5 Wingspan.
Background: Started playing competitive basketball at age 14 after he moved to the US, became an All-American. Started his freshman year at Kentucky, though in a limited role. Only started three games during his sophomore year, where he seemingly regressed from his previous year.
Personality: Rather laid-back, not incredibly mentally tough. Nick really struggled during his first couple years at Kentucky with his mental approach, and often looked dejected. When he made mistakes his confidence fell immensely, and he did not seem to take criticism too well. However, something has seemingly changed this year regarding his mental approach. His confidence seems incredibly high despite the added pressure of being the primary big for Kentucky, and it has been a transformation that has put him back into the draft conversation despite his age and past performance. Coach Cal and Nick’s teammates have really embraced and supported him as well, perhaps showing that all he needed was an excellent support structure to feel comfortable learning from mistakes. Whether or not this will persist is yet to be seen.
Athleticism: Fluid & coordinated in space… not overly quick, likely average at the NBA level… gets up quickly in space, but rather average from a standstill… Moves well laterally, but nothing special… Can turn his hips rather quickly, especially when rotating for blocks… His coordination and fluidity is his biggest athletic asset… Ability to turn hips combined with solid lateral quickness will help him to be a switch defender on certain wings/guards, especially slashers.
Projected Fit: Complementary 5 with stretch potential, play finisher off roll/dump-downs and pop-shooter.
Projected Draft Landing: Late Second Round/Undrafted in the 2020 Draft Class
- High: Efficient mid-rotation NBA 5 that learns to stretch the floor at a near average rate, finish plays efficiently, and generate blocks at a near average rate vs NBA level competition. The development of his shot would add notable versatility to his offensive attack, especially opening his pick and pop game. NBA level training adds notable strength that improves his finishing and defensive versatility. Confidence continues its upward trajectory, encouraging Nick to diversify his game whilst mastering his niche. Two-position interior defender, solid help defender & rotator with some switch potential on slower guards/wings.
- Medium: Back of rotation NBA 5 that spends notable time in the G-League, likely on a two-way deal. Ends up above average regarding his efficiency as a play finisher and roll man. His shot develops further into a serviceable (but below average) percentage from deep, opening up his ability to be used in high P&P scenarios. Maintains steady confidence, but plays solely within his role. Provides defensive value on the interior with solid help defense & rotations… Relatively limited switch potential, but occasionally is able to.
- Low: G-League/Overseas fit ends up being the better option, leaving him as an average play finisher and rim protector that will be more valuable overseas. Potentially loses his newfound confidence and takes longer to develop further, which he cannot afford to do if he really wants a successful NBA career… Floor stretching does not develop, leaving him rather one-dimensional offensively. Laid back nature makes putting on weight/strength quite a chore. Only provides higher defensive value as a helping rim protector…
- Efficiency: As you can tell by Nick’s synergy profile, he is incredibly efficient in the half-court and transition. He consistently puts himself in the right position to finish a play. He also has a notable 69% TS and 66.2% eFG. His offensive synergy numbers are better than fellow play finisher Oscar Tshiebwe‘s in every single category, despite Oscar Tshiebwe having more elite length and superior strength. Ranks in the 98th percentile in halfcourt offense… He really does not need a lot of touches to be effective in providing a winning impact…
- Free Throw Shooting: Currently shooting 75% from the line, and with a career (quite high) 64% free throw rate this is a valuable strength to have as a play finisher. He has consistent mechanics and above average touch when shooting… He is not an excellent finisher through contact, but really succeeds in getting to the line when he does not have a clear shot. This augments his efficiency in my eyes, as he finds ways to get tangled up down low when he has the chance to get blocked or turn the ball over.
- Interior Touch: Richards has developed some high level interior touch, especially on his post hooks. He is comfortable rising up for these hooks with either hand, and can hit them from any angle around the rim. His superior length is certainly a factor in his success here, but the fluidity he puts on display is impressive as well. He could do a better job of clearing space for these shots, but the touch is there. However, he does rely on this rather heavily as fails to mix it up.
- Low Turnovers: Nick seldom turns the ball over with a career low turnover rate this year. This is mostly a function of him playing to his strengths, but notable nonetheless for a play finisher. If he handled the ball more and got more touches, his turnover numbers would probably jump significantly. He has 43 turnovers to only 7 assists.
- Pick and Roll: Nick has a lot of gravity as a roll-man and lob threat, and positions himself quite well. He is incredibly efficient as a result, and places in the 90th percentile as a roll man. This is undoubtedly augmented due to him playing alongside some really solid playmakers in Maxey and Hagans, but impressive nonetheless. Furthermore, he stays committed when the guards commit to scoring and gets some easy put backs.
- Shooting Upside: Nick has consistently shown that he has the touch to knock down long mid range jumpers. While he hasn’t extended his comfortable range to 3pt land yet, it is likely that he will be able to make this jump in time. His mechanics are smooth for a big, with a higher release and a semi-consistent lower body. Furthermore, his success at the free throw line is another piece of evidence regarding his projection as a potentially average NBA 3pt shooter.
- Off Ball Movement: While his movement is nothing flashy and often stagnant due to his off-ball screening role, there is a reason why Nick places in the 99th percentile as a cutter and in transition. He makes subtle moves to position himself in the right position for his variety of playmakers to easily find him on dump-downs when the defense is being broken down. While he does not necessarily clear out space, he finds room to operate within their offensive set without negatively impacting slashers.
- 3pt Shooting: While his shooting projects favorably with solid touch, FT%, and flashes from mid-range, he has yet to add the three-ball into his arsenal. While it is not necessarily his role to shoot threes due to his ability to finish plays so effectively for Kentucky, he could certainly add another dimension to his offensive role if he adds a deep shot. Mainly, it will open up his ability as a popper, and will add more spacing and gravity to his off ball movement. This is quite valuable.
- Offensive Creation: Projects as only a complementary piece, and will only be as good as the creators around him. His spot up game needs to develop further if he wants to blossom offensively… Nick also does not have a good enough post game to be a notable attack point offensively. Other than a predictable drop step & hook, he cannot create for himself effectively in the post… He cannot back down defenders in the post effectively due to his rather high center of gravity and lack of lower body strength.
- Handle & Playmaking: Can’t really handle in the open court, as he is rather slow and loose with the ball. His ability to score in space is pretty much solely based on his teammates finding him cutting to the basket. He cannot effectively create for himself as a slasher off the dribble. As a playmaker, the only chance Nick has to get assists are passing out of the post to open shooters. He is a player who should have limited touches offensively, and should really only get the ball when finishing a play.
- Overall Skill: For his age, Nick does not have a versatile offensive skillset and still seems to be fundamentally behind in a myriad of areas. His footwork in the post has a lot to be desired, and he does not have the ball skills needed for a larger role.
- Physicality: While Nick gets to the line quite often, his ability to finish through contact is not that great. His touch dissipates, limbs flail, and he often prefers to avoid contact rather than powering through. His physicality is not an asset on either end…
Here is Nick’s shot chart via TheStepien’s shot charting tool:
- Help Rim Protection: The greatest defensive value Richards provides is his ability to rotate on the interior and turn quickly to deter slashers. While his on-ball defense is mediocre, his rotations are quite effective and are augmented by his ability to turn his hips quickly. When rotating, he has space/time to load that helps him time his blocks more effectively.
- Quick Hips: Can turn his hips quite quickly for his size, which is a valuable trait in a rim protector/switch defender. I believe that this is the more underrated part of Nick’s defensive game that has contributed the most to his success. He does not do this at an elite level, but certainly above average. This contributes to his potential to defend some guards/wings off of switches. While he couldn’t shut down a Ja Morant archetype, he could certainly switch on slower, less agile guards looking to attack.
- Effort on Close-Outs: Nick uses his length effectively on close-outs, and seldom allows uncontested jumpers in his area. He gets up rather slowly due to lack of strength in his lower body, but he makes the effort to contest every shot that he can. With increased strength, he has the potential to block shots on the perimeter at times.
- Generating Turnovers: Richards only has 10 career steals to his name in 103 career games, which is certainly less than ideal. His inability to strip the ball is rather obvious in the post, where even smaller guys can take advantage of his inactive pre-shot hands.
- Physicality: Does not project to be an extremely effective 1v1 defender in the post despite high synergy numbers, as needs to strengthen his lower body. His length and athleticism is enough to bother post players at the collegiate level, but I fear that without elite strength or athleticism this will fade vs. NBA competition.
- Feel and Anticipation in Man Defense: In 1v1 situations, Nick does not project as a great defender. He often jumps at simple fakes and can get caught in the air rather easily. Foul trouble also ensues often, and he does not always look mentally present on the defensive end. There are moments when he is not sure what to do when systems deteriorate… He is mostly reactive, but has flashes of proactive play as a rotator.
Nick Richards has the upside to be a rotation big in the NBA, and likely will spend time in the G-League honing his IQ and developing his skillset. His notable efficiency and potential versatility on the defensive end are enticing for role players, and should he declare this year I could see him providing value if picked in the late second round or signed as an undrafted free agent to a two-way deal. My personal projection for Richards is most aligned with the ‘medium’ section of his career projection. His age is a negative, especially with his feel still needing a lot of development. While he has had a major role at Kentucky this year, it has certainly been augmented by the guards he is surrounded with (Hagans, Maxey) who can effecitvely break down defenses and get him the ball. Furthermore, he didn’t perform incredibly well against other NBA level bigs… He will need to make an immediate impact in his role if he does not want to be confined to the G-League due to the way the modern game values centers…
Notable Swing Factors: Jumpshot Development, Work ethic, Strength.