Philadelphia 76ers lack a proper replacement for Josh Richardson

Josh Richardson | Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Josh Richardson | Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

The Philadelphia 76ers will need to game plan differently in Josh Richardson’s absence.

Four minutes into Wednesday night’s loss to Toronto, Josh Richardson injured his hamstring. He came up limping after a defensive possession and immediately waved to the bench. Before long, he was ruled out of the contest with a left hamstring strain. He will be reevaluated today.

Odds are Richardson will miss time, maybe even a significant amount of it. Injury woes have plagued the Philadelphia 76ers all season — Embiid’s hand injury is the latest example — but this is an especially difficult blow. Richardson’s contributions hold a special place in the starting five.

The Sixers rely on Richardson for more than he gets credit for. He operates at point guard from time to time, and his playmaking chops are essential to unlocking Ben Simmons‘ full repertoire in the halfcourt. His ability to create at multiple levels, hit open 3s, and defend the point of attack caries considerable value.

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As Richardson heads toward a presumed stint on the bench, the Sixers will need to find a replacement. The trade market is one obvious option — Philadelphia is likely to make moves regardless — but in the meantime, in-house options are needed.

The obvious move is more minutes for Furkan Korkmaz, Matisse Thybulle, and James Ennis, but neither fixes the core issues mentioned above. The Sixers will need someone else to carry playmaking duties in the halfcourt.

In Richardson’s absence, I would expect another shot at the rotation for Trey Burke, who has returned to Brett Brown’s doghouse in recent games. Raul Neto may also see more extensive minutes — more importantly, more extensive minutes in conjunction with Simmons.

As for the starters, with both Joel Embiid and Richardson out, expect Brett Brown to continue his tethering of Ben Simmons and Al Horford. Tobias Harris will take on expanded duties as the shot creator who leads the second unit in Simmons’ absence.

Shake Milton got a brief taste of playing time in Richardson’s absence Wednesday night, and the results were mixed, but positive overall. He hit a couple threes, made a few fruitful drives, and generally filled the space of a capable 3-and-D wing who can create off the dribble moderately well. He might get a renewed crack at the rotation.

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The Sixers need Richardson back sooner than later, especially in the midst of a tight Eastern Conference playoff race. Ideally, the strain is a mild one.