Sleeper Deep Dives: Kadary Richmond
After putting together an impressive freshman season off the bench for Syracuse, the sophomore guard is primed for a breakout season at Seton Hall.
Kadary Richmond came into this season with a solid freshman season under his belt, but also with a lot more to prove. Richmond excelled defensively as a freshman in the Syracuse system, dramatically outshining his 89th place ranking in RSCI Top 100 for the 2020 high school graduating class. He showed that he was a far better prospect than that during his freshman season, especially through his defensive and passing acumen. Richmond finished 3rd in the ACC in steals, 4th in steals per game, and 11th in assists—all while coming off the bench for all but three games in his freshman season.
After proving that he could excel in cutting off passing lanes and pressuring in Syracuse’s zone defense system, many expected him to return for another season with the Orange. However, Richmond instead decided to transfer to Seton Hall, a program that would give him a starting spot and a much larger role in the team’s offense.
The early returns on Richmond’s Seton Hall career have been mixed, but the change in role has been clear—through three Seton Hall games, Kadary Richmond has started as many games as he did at Syracuse last season. The Pirates moved to 3-0 after a massive upset win over #4 Michigan, and they have another big game coming up next as they face another 3-0 team in Ohio State next week.
In addition to the early season results, opinions on Kadary Richmond seem to be rather mixed. Sam Vecenie of The Athletic had Richmond at #19 on his most recent big board, while BasketballNews.com currently has him at #52. ESPN is even lower than that on Kadary Richmond—their current Best Available Prospects list for the 2022 NBA Draft doesn’t even have him in the Top 100.
In short, some people see Richmond as a potential first-round pick but he is far from guaranteed to be picked that high. His stock on average was outside of the Top 30 to start the season, as you can see by browsing the No Ceilings $DRFT IPO rankings.
There have been ups and downs already in Kadary Richmond’s brief Seton Hall career, but his defensive acumen, handle, and craftiness around the rim are enough for him to fly up prospect rankings if he can be a consistent starter for a team that has already proven its upset power in this young season. So…let’s dive deep!
Kadary Richmond’s draft stock is built first and foremost on his defensive capabilities. At 6’6” with a 6’9” wingspan and excellent lateral quickness, Richmond can punish ball-handlers at the point of attack, switch with impunity, and jump into passing lanes when given the tiniest hint of an opening. Once he’s ripped the ball away from his opponents, he is a menace in the open floor:
The ability to turn defense into offense can be a difference-making skill for defense-first guards, and Richmond is one of the best players in the country at doing just that. It isn’t just a product of the zone defense at Syracuse; his effort and awareness on defense in the more traditional Seton Hall scheme have both been exceptional to start the season.
Richmond’s steals aren’t just a way for him to get his own shot, either. He is great at creating for others in transition as well—yet another way that his stellar defense can lead to scoring for his team:
Kadary Richmond ranked in the 75th percentile as a defender last season for Syracuse, per Synergy Sports. The sample size over his three games at Seton Hall is too small for his defensive stats to mean much of anything, but for what it’s worth those numbers also back up the eye test for his defense early on—he is currently in the 86th percentile defensively so far this year.
Richmond’s size will be a huge factor in his NBA evaluation as well—while he’ll probably spend most of his time guarding opposing ball-handlers due to his propensity for generating turnovers, he is also big enough to hound larger players on the wing if necessary. The current advent of larger primary playmakers in the NBA is also a big plus for Richmond’s draft stock—Cade Cunningham and his ilk can’t simply shoot over the top with Kadary Richmond guarding them.
There is plenty to like about Kadary Richmond’s offensive game as well. However, if Richmond works his way into the first round of the 2022 NBA Draft, it will be due to his prowess on the other end of the floor. He’s already started to show in the early going that his steal totals from last season weren’t just a product of the Syracuse system. If he can continue to excel on that end of the floor, the odds are good that he’ll be hearing Adam Silver calling his name on Draft Night.
Offense: Transition Swishing and Dime Dishing
Offensive production might not be the calling card for Kadary Richmond, but he is far from being a zero on that end of the floor. His passing talents were the easiest part of his offensive game to see in his freshman year. He can make accurate passes with either hand, and he does a particularly great job of fitting passes through tiny windows of space off the dribble. Richmond mixed in a few highlight-reel dimes over the course of the year, and he was excellent at finding his teammates—especially Marek Dolezaj—around the basket on cuts. In terms of box score numbers, Richmond was third on the team in assists (and second among guards) despite being sixth in minutes.
In addition to his passing acumen, Richmond has one of the best handles in the class for a player his size. He is also a crafty finisher around the rim who can fight through contact, and he makes mid-air adjustments and double-clutch layups look much easier than they actually are for mere mortals. That skill set makes him dangerous for opposing defenses whenever he gets close to the basket—when Richmond gets those opportunities, he is fully capable of scoring through a crowd or making a defense look lost with a quick dump-off pass to a wide-open teammate near the rim.
While his threat level near the basket is certainly a problem for opposing defenses, the surface numbers for Richmond as a scorer at Syracuse don’t look all that enticing. His 6.3 points per game and his 45/33/72 shooting splits are nothing to write home about. However, a deeper look at Richmond’s offensive numbers shows that he was a far more important part of the Syracuse offense than the box score numbers might suggest—and those numbers bode well for him to break out in a larger role for Seton Hall this season.
The starting point for Kadary Richmond’s potential as a scorer is his prowess in transition. His defensive playmaking certainly plays a part here—after all, there isn’t much that anyone can do to stop someone with Richmond’s athleticism, handle, and craft around the basket when he gets out in the open court:
However, defensive playmaking alone can’t turn a non-contributor into a superstar on offense. Even the best defensive playmakers in the world can’t score 20 points per game just from jumping passing lanes and running to the rim.
Kadary Richmond’s overall offensive numbers on Synergy from last season are a bit like his scoring totals and shooting splits. On the surface, it doesn’t look encouraging—he ranked in the 36th percentile overall as an offensive player, scoring just 0.812 points per possession. Look just a bit further, though, and you see how much Richmond helps lift the players around him regardless of his own scoring numbers.
In terms of scoring for himself, Richmond was good in transition (72nd percentile, 1.148 PPP) and pretty terrible in halfcourt offense (22nd percentile, 0.701 PPP). In terms of creating for others, though…this is where things get interesting.
Kadary Richmond ranked in the 84th percentile in points per possession plus assists last season per Synergy Sports, generating 1.242 points per possession. That’s an elite mark that does a far better job of telling the tale of how much Kadary Richmond helps your offense. This isn’t just a facet of his abilities in the open court—Richmond ranked in the 91st percentile in transition offense, but jumped from the 22nd percentile all the way up to the 64th percentile in terms of halfcourt offense when factoring in the plays he made for others. He isn’t always able to get all the way to the basket to score himself, but he has a knack for finding open players and generating easy buckets when defenses collapse on him.
Richmond’s passing skills will be a key part of him sticking around in an NBA rotation. Given his size, he won’t necessarily have to generate a ton of offense as a primary playmaker. Even if he never develops the kind of scoring punch that we see from most NBA point guards these days, Richmond could fit in at the next level as a defense-first wing who can create for others when the ball swings his way or drive to the rim when he gets a chance.
The biggest area for improvement for Richmond this season is his jump shot; it’s hard to be a 3-and-D player without, you know, the “3” part. The difficulty here is that outside shooting has never been a big part of his game. Richmond shot just 21 triples in 28 games at Syracuse (shooting 7-21), and he has gone 0-2 from deep in three games for Seton Hall this season. Richmond’s jump shot is far from broken; he has a pretty steady base and a high release, both of which bode well for his potential development.
The crucial thing to watch with Richmond’s shooting is less about his form and more about his willingness to take more of those shots from long range. His ability to simply breeze right past people on his way to the basket will be hampered by the higher quality of defense in the NBA, especially if they can sag off him when he has the ball in his hands behind the arc. If Richmond becomes a bit more of a threat from outside, teams will have to at least close out on him when he’s open from deep. Those close outs would give him the kinds of lanes to the rim that he has shown that he can use to his and his team’s advantage.
Even if Kadary Richmond never develops as a scorer to the point where he becomes one of his team’s primary scoring options, he can help his team in multiple ways on offense. His passing and ability to drive to the basket can make him a positive offensive contributor—especially if he starts putting up a few triples here and there to stretch out opposing defenses.
Unfortunately for Kadary Richmond, the biggest profile game for Seton Hall this season was also Richmond’s worst—he finished with zero points on just two shots in the Pirates’ massive upset win over the Michigan Wolverines on Tuesday. Some draft evaluators will certainly point to that game as a weak spot; after all, he was essentially invisible in a big game that Seton Hall fans will surely remember for many years to come.
Still, that was only one game—for better and for worse. Richmond certainly didn’t shoot his team out of the game, and Seton Hall won that game on the defensive end of the floor anyway; his perimeter defense was a key part of Michigan’s poor performance on offense.
The most important factor in Richmond’s draft stock going forward is also the most obvious: he will simply have more opportunities to show what he can do this season at Seton Hall than he would have had at Syracuse. Instead of having to fight the perception of Syracuse prospects struggling on defense and needing to adjust to an NBA scheme, Richmond will get a chance to prove himself as someone who can be a menace in any defensive system. He is already in the starting lineup, instead of having to fight for a spot, and he’ll have plenty of chances to top off his defensive CV with some playmaking wizardry and acrobatic finishing around the basket.
Kadary Richmond showed incredible defensive potential and a solid but easily overlooked offensive skill set last season at Syracuse. While his start to the season at Seton Hall has been somewhat disappointing, there have still been flashes of his ability to make an impact on both ends of the floor. If he can improve his offensive consistency, sprinkle in a few more triples, and continue to be a terror on defense, Kadary Richmond could work his way out of sleeper territory and work his way into the first round of the 2022 NBA Draft.