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NBA Draft Preview: Syracuse Guard Malachi Richardson

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A primer on the former Orange guard in advance of tonight's NBA Draft.

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Player: Malachi Richardson

Position: Shooting Guard/Small Forward

Age: 20

Vitals: 6-foot-6, 205 pounds, 7-foot wingspan

Stats: In 37 games for the Syracuse Orange last year, he had 13.4 points per game, 4.3 rebounds per game and 2.1 assists per game. Malachi shot 37 percent from the floor, 35 percent from three, and 72 percent from the foul line. Also averaged 1.2 steals and 2.1 turnovers per game.

Current NBA Draft Projections:

Strengths: Length, ability to hit create for himself, possesses a shooter's mentality, not afraid to play a bit more physical on both ends of the floor, already shows himself as a capable three-point shooter.

Weaknesses: Can be a volume shooter, not a great defender but an opportunistic one, overall shooting percentage and free throw numbers need work, can get into foul trouble, not always strongest finisher in the paint.

What are scouts saying:

From yesterday's article on Seth Davis's annual "Finch" report --

"Hard one to get a handle on. Big kid, huge hands, inconsistent shooter. I don't think he's a pure shooter yet. If he can tighten up that jump shot he can be a prototypical two/three in the league. My question is, can he make plays with the ball in his hands? Seems like he's striking while the iron is hot because of his last 10 minutes against Virginia in the NCAA Tournament. He played in that zone at Syracuse so you don't know if he can defend. He has broad shoulders so he'll fill out. My main concern would be whether he's athletic enough to play against starters eventually."

Thers's also the theory out there that he has a guarantee from the guard-deprived Grizz to select him in the first round, hence the Memphis-heavy projections from the outlets above.

After his workout with his "hometown" Philadelphia 76ers, there was talk he could be a potential top-10 pick.

What he's saying:

He's pretty confident in his decision, and hasn't been paying attention to all the mock drafts and projections floating around. As he said himself, "The draft boards don't mean anything. They're not making any decisions. DraftExpress. They're not drafting anybody."

His decision received an endorsement from former Orange and current New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony. That rumored guarantee from Memphis may also help his confidence out quite a bit.

Summary

Most folks in draft circles seem to consider Richardson a bit of a several-year project, but one with plenty of upside. He lacks real explosiveness or athleticism that sets him apart from other shooters in the draft, but makes up for it with his size and ability to hit from outside. He'll need to work out going harder to the rim if he wants his inside game to improve.

Obviously part of his decision to declare for the NBA Draft was motivated by Syracuse's Final Four run, and the same could be said of the team that eventually selects him. That's fine, by the way. It's happened many times before, and will again. It's also not the only thing a team will use to evaluate him given the money on the line with each and every pick.

Scouts love his size and think he can fill out a bit more. They saw all season that he can create his own shot and is a capable defender with room (and ability) to improve. His overall shooting percentage is low and indicative of the inconsistencies he displayed a times. But his ability to not just hit threes, but threes that shifted the tide of games is the type of thing that can't be taught. Hate to lean on a tired cliche like "clutch gene," but if it exists, Richardson certainly has some of that in him.

In the limited time Orange fans got to know Malachi, he showed himself to be an emotional but still level-headed player who had a will to win and the physical tools to carry his team as needed. Given how well he played against elite competition last year (regular season and postseason), there's no fear he was padding stat sheets against lesser opponents at all. While defense wasn't his calling card, he was opportunistic, using his length to his advantage. Malachi knew how to pressure opponents on that end, and was able to get more physical when needed.

Again, he'll need to add some weigh to truly get any burn at the small forward spot, and those shooting percentages from two and the free-throw line will be the first order of business once he's drafted. But for whichever team picks him, there's a lot to like if they're going to put in the time. A situation like the Grizzlies could work well for him, since they're transitioning at the guard spot (so he'll get opportunities), but also heavy on veterans who can help teach him.

Good luck tonight, Malachi!