Josh Richardson was recently acquired by the San Antonio Spurs in the deal that sent Derrick White to the Boston Celtics. That move also netted the Spurs a 2022 first-round pick, a 2028 pick swap, and Romeo Langford, but Richardson was an underrated part of the trade.
In fact, while White is the better player, Richardson is a solid defender, an above-average 3-point shooter, and is also on a much cheaper contract. Therefore, getting 80% of White while adding a first-round pick is a terrific move that helps the team both now and going forward.
That said, in the seven games since the trade, Richardson has played in just three games. That could be telling, and considering that he has another year left on his contract, it's fair to ask if he will be on the Spurs next season. Let's examine.
Richardson's game seems like it would fit well on the Spurs, particularly in the second unit. However, the decision not to play him consistently is similar to the Spurs' handling of Thaddeus Young. Young, like Richardson, was a throw-in for a trade that netted the Spurs multiple picks. Despite that, Young also seemed like a nice fit, but San Antonio opted to give minutes to younger players instead.
He was later traded, which could very well happen to Richardson. While that may be a waste of his talent, the team is obviously in asset stacking mode, something that they probably should've been doing years ago. Still, they've done a great job so far, including adding three additional first-round picks.
What could the Spurs get back for Josh Richardson?
That could also be the asking price for Richardson, which might be a little high, but the Spurs could offer added value to entice teams. For example, they could agree to take back contracts that run past next season, helping teams get off of unwanted salaries in exchange for a player that can help them now. Of course, the cost would be a first.
Or the Spurs could package the Lakers' pick, projected to be 42nd overall, with Richardson to acquire another first in this year's draft. That could make sense to a contender, or at least a playoff team that would essentially be trading back in the draft to add a rotation player. Were that to happen, San Antonio would add to their three first-round picks, which are currently 7th, 18th, and 19th overall.
Using Richardson to help San Antonio trade up from the second round, as the Spurs did with Young, makes a ton of sense. After all, armed with four firsts, they could try to move up into the top three of the draft by packaging 7, 18, and the pick acquired by trading Richardson. That would put the Spurs in a position to select Jabari Smith, Paolo Banchero, or Chet Holmgren while also still having a top 20 pick.
There are other options too, including holding off until free agency or even waiting until the season to trade him, but the former seems more likely. For instance, teams with limited options could look to the Spurs for help, considering they have a projected $30 million in cap space.
San Antonio may also prefer to spread out their draft assets rather than add another pick in this year's draft. While teams could be willing to trade away firsts that are further out, similar to the Bulls trading their 2025 first-round pick for DeMar DeRozan. In the meantime, Richardson may continue to play sporadically over the remainder of the season.
All in all, while Richardson could be an ideal White replacement, he doesn’t fit the team’s long-term plan. As a result, the Spurs should look to trade him and almost certainly will. The first such opportunity will be during the 2022 NBA Draft.
During which time, they could use him, along with their upcoming cap space and/or the Lakers pick to acquire another first-rounder. Or they could move him later. Either way, the White deal could be the trade that keeps giving.