In the wake of the Orlando Magic's signing Quentin Richardson to a contract of as-yet unknown terms, there's been some question as to whether the organization sees him as more of a shooting guard or a small forward. While the signing undoubtedly ends Matt Barnes' tenure in Magic pinstripes, it could also mean the team is disinclined to match the Chicago Bulls' front-loaded offer sheet to reserve shooting guard J.J. Redick. Adrian Wojnarowski, who first reported the Richardson signing for Yahoo! Sports, believes Orlando is now "less likely" to match the offer sheet; I disagree.
But regardless of his role, whether he's Barnes' replacement, Redick's replacement, or some combination of both, one fact stands above any doubt: Richardson can shoot, particularly from deep. He's coming off a career-best 39.7% performance last season, and as a member of Mike D'Antoni's exciting 2004/05 Phoenix Suns squad, he led the league in treys made and attempted, at a 35.8% clip. For his career, Richardson's connected on 35.9% of his attempts from beyond the arc.
We can go further. As I pointed out via Twitter yesterday, Synergy Sports Technology data show that Richardson ranked 7th in the NBA last season in points per jump-shot attempt, with a minimum of 300 jumpers attempted.
Another Synergy nugget: Richardson excels as a jump-shooter no matter how the ball finds its way to him. From post-ups? 1.25 points per shot. From pick-and-roll? 1.208. From isolations in which the ballhandler draws Richardson's man away, and then dishes to him? 1.591. Put it all together, and Richardson scored 1.236 points per shot in catch-and-shoot situations. Orlando will give him plenty of similar opportunities, as it ranked 10th in the league last year in percentage of shots taken off the catch, and 2nd in points per shot in those situations.
What helps Richardson's efficiency is that he cuts out the middling in-between game: a full 63% of his total shot attempts came from three-point range last season. Break it down further, and 87% of his jumpers were three-pointers. What these data indicate is that Richardson is going to the basket if he's not shooting from beyond the arc. But he is primarily a jump-shooter.
That last point is worth remembering: Richardson isn't a guy who does much off the ball offensively. He does not crash the offensive glass, nor is he a guy who cuts to the basket with any great regularity. In this way, he's much different from Barnes, whose dives to the basket when ignored proved valuable to Orlando last year. I suspect that Richardson can make up for this deficiency in a different way: if defenses ignore him, he's shooting a three-pointer, whereas if they ignored Barnes, he had no choice but to fill the lane, since he doesn't have a great outside shot. The Boston Celtics demonstrated in the playoffs that the Magic's offense is weakened when it doesn't have four three-point shooters around Dwight Howard in the middle. Leaving Barnes open helped the Celtics to contain Howard and the Magic's other options.
Don't get me wrong: Barnes' knack for finding holes in the defense was helpful, and he knocked down some open jumpers on occasion. My point is that it's always preferable to have someone to whom defenses must pay attention on the court. That's Richardson, and not Barnes.
Now, there are certainly reasons to temper enthusiasm and expectations. Richardson is just three seasons removed from floundering under D'Antoni in New York, when he shot 35.9% from the field and 32.2% from three-point range. And Richardson is not demonstrably superior to Barnes in any aspect of the game apart from jump-shooting, though his rebounding--one of the oft-overlooked skills Barnes brings--is at least comparable. On the whole, Richardson's shooting prowess makes the signing worthwhile only so long as the Magic match Redick's offer sheet, and in that regard I find myself agreeing with Royce Young. A rotation of Richardson and Mickael Pietrus at small forward, with Vince Carter and Redick at shooting guard, is far more potent than one stretches Carter, Pietrus, and Richardson between the two positions, with perhaps a bargain-basement wing like Antoine Wright thrown in the mix as well.