SACRAMENTO -- Malachi Richardson is the next man up.
According to head coach Dave Joerger, he’s seen enough from the Sacramento Kings’ shooting guards and he’s going to give the rookie first-round pick an opportunity.
“I think that it’s time for Malachi to get into the rotation, especially with Rudy (Gay) out,” Joerger said. “That’s something that you’ll see, probably, going forward.”
His first look came in the third quarter of Sacramento’s 112-98 loss to the Grizzlies on New Year’s Eve. Richardson, 21, finished the night with seven points on 2-of-4 shooting in 10 minutes of action.
“I’ve just got to get in and be aggressive,” Richardson said. “I just want to help my team. If he’s going to play me, I want to get out there and play as hard as I can.”
Richardson, like the Kings’ other first-round picks - Skal Labissiere and Georgios Papagiannis - has been commuting back and forth between Sacramento and the Reno Bighorns all season long. None of the three have been playing meaningful minutes for the Kings since training camp.
With the Bighorns, Richardson has shined, averaging 21.0 points and 4.3 rebounds in 35 minutes per game. He’s shot 42.9 percent from the field and 44 percent from 3-point range in 11 games playing under head coach Darrick Martin.
“I think it helped a lot,” Richardson said of his experience with the Bighorns. “It gave me more confidence, got me back in the flow of actually playing. I’ve just got to be aggressive.”
Taken out of Syracuse with the 22nd overall selection in the 2016 NBA Draft, Richardson has the prototypical size of an NBA shooting guard. He stands 6-foot-6, 205-pounds with a 7-foot wingspan and he posted a 38-inch vertical leap at the combine, but there were concerns about his defense coming out of college.
“I think I’m pretty good defensively,” Richardson said. “Get down in a stance and guard - it’s either that or get scored on.”
Joerger didn’t mention what Richardson’s promotion means for the remainder of the Kings’ shooting guards. He said in pregame Saturday afternoon that he intends to keep veteran Garrett Temple with the second unit.
Both Ben McLemore and Arron Afflalo have been given an opportunity to start, but neither have flourished in the role. McLemore is averaging 6.1 points on 40.7 percent shooting in 16.9 minutes and Afflalo was posting 7.2 points on 40.7 percent shooting in 23.8 minutes per game before going down with an elbow strain.
The coaching staff has raved about Richardson’s demeanor dating all the way back to training camp. He has a confidence about him that they hope translates to the NBA. It sounds like Joerger is ready to test and see what the rookie can bring to the table.