Philadelphia 76ers: Josh Richardson looks spry in Orlando

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

Josh Richardson has given the Philadelphia 76ers a lot to like in Orlando.

The Philadelphia 76ers are 1-1 through two scrimmages in Orlando, but the record is deceiving. The Sixers ran Memphis’ starters off the court, then did the same to OKC. Philadelphia has dominated both games when the starters have been on the floor.

Strong performances have permeated the roster. Ben Simmons looks as good as advertised at power forward, Tobias Harris is doing Tobias Harris things, and Shake Milton continues to flourish.

It’s never wise to make sweeping declarations after a couple scrimmages, but the Sixers look fantastic. The ball is moving, the offense is flowing, and the chemistry appears in a much better place. Just look at the new bench routines.

While many players have jumped off the screen, there’s on in particular who hasn’t received enough attention — especially after the OKC game. Josh Richardson.

Richardson only posted eight points in Sunday’s loss to OKC, but he has settled comfortably into a new role offensively. With a ball-handling burden lifted from his shoulders by Shake Milton, Richardson has seen his usage dip. As a result, he’s doing more as a spot-up shooter and cutter, highlighted by his connection with Ben Simmons.

Before the break, Brett Brown often tethered Richardson to Embiid in the rotations, taking advantage of Richardson’s ability to work the in-between game. With Milton joining the starting five, it appears Richardson will now spend more time tied to Simmons. Their overt chemistry is a positive.

On the defensive end, however, is where Richardson has shined the most. His reputation as a defender was well established before the season, but injuries have dragged down Richardson’s consistency for much of this season. So far in Orlando, he looks fully himself.

Richardson has expectedly drawn the point guard assignment in both games, defending Ja Morant and Chris Paul for extended stretches. At 6-foot-6 with a 6-foot-10 wingspan, he has a considerable size and length advantage over both, which he has used to full effect.

When Richardson is healthy and engaged, there aren’t many better defender at the point of attack. He understands where to position his body and how to use his length without fouling. The result was four steals against OKC.

Paired next to Simmons — an elite defender in his own right — Richardson’s ability to swallow ball-handlers and generate turnovers will not only boost the Sixers’ defense, but the offense as well. Turnovers equate to transition opportunities, and Simmons is at his best when pushing the tempo and creating on the fast break.

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It’s still early, yes, but it’s clear Richardson is healthy. For someone who was dealing with hamstring issues before the hiatus, even a clean bill of health is a major development. Richardson is playing his brand of basketball in Orlando, and he remains essential to the Sixers’ success this season. Fans should be very pleased.