With the NBA trade deadline less than a week away, a mountain of pressure faces Utah Jazz. As constructed, this team doesn’t have the tools to make a run at a Larry O’Brian trophy. Their issues with perimeter defense, depth, and back up big play have proven to be too crippling to their success. Given that their most valuable trade asset, Joe Ingles, now sits on the sideline with a torn ACL, finding ways to solve these problems has become even more challenging.
Although the Utah Jazz only have a few assets to move around, one attainable target that could help solve their issues on the perimeter is Josh Richardson. In his seventh season, Richardson has averaged 10.1 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 1.5 assists. Like most players in this price range, Richardson isn’t perfect; he’s a poor rebounder, sub-par playmaker, and an inconsistent scorer. But, given what Utah currently needs, Richardson’s strengths (particularly his perimeter defense), would compliment Utah’s roster well.
At 6-5, 200lbs, Richardson would be one of a few targets where the Jazz wouldn’t compromise on size. His 6-10 wingspan and solid vertical athleticism allow him to guard both larger and quicker players. Richardson has a positive Defensive Box Plus/Minus rating and through the span of his career, has averaged better than a steal per game. No, Richardson won’t end up on an All-Defensive team at the end of this year. However, he would enter this roster as arguably Utah’s best perimeter defender.
Just take a look at this defensive play Richardson made against a Terry Rozier drive:
This play is incredible! In transition, Richardson is able to find the ball, stay in front, and give a great contest on the layup. He even gets credit for the block on the play. Currently, I don’t see any of Utah’s perimeter players defending in transition at this level. Simply having the capability of making a play like this on the roster would serve as a massive upgrade.
And here, Richardson shows off his defensive IQ and focus on this steal:
Although it may seem like a simple play, the combination of Richardson seeing both the ball and his man after the switch is impressive. He uses his length to get into the passing lane and makes a great play. The Jazz rarely force turnovers like this.
Finally, take a look at this play, where Richardson helps on a rolling big, jumps out to a perimeter player, and then forces a turnover:
Again, while this play might not leave your jaw hanging, it's one the Jazz repeatedly fail to make. Richardson simply helps at the right places and the right times and it leads to a stop. Having one more player on the roster that can competently help and switch would greatly benefit Utah.
On the offensive end, Richardson brings good perimeter shooting (41.1% from three) and driving capability. Bringing him in would allow Utah to keep solid spacing on the court, but wouldn’t fill the playmaking hole Joe Ingles’ injury left.
For the Boston Celtics, trading Richardson would center around getting under the tax line. Richardson is on the books through next season and is making around 12 million dollars a year. I suspect that Utah would have to involve a third team in the trade and include some sort of draft capital to satisfy the Celtics’ wants in a deal.