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December 13, 2010
The Clipboard
Variety is the Spice of Jason Richardson's Game

by Sebastian Pruiti

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Phoenix's Jason Richardson might be one of the most complete offensive players in the NBA, at least in terms of being able to do a number of different things. He can knock down the three ball, play with his back to the basket, and he can jump out of the building. In Richardson's second full season with the Suns, it is appears that the team is getting a feel for his abilities and they are really embracing it. The Suns are moving Richardson around and using him in a number of situations, and Richardson has really been benefiting.

So far this year, Richardson has put up a Win Percentage (Win %) of 60.5 and an Offensive Rating (ORtg) of 109.1, both numbers are highs in his time with the Suns. In addition, Richardson has a WARP of 2.5, which is good for 28th in the NBA. He is doing all of this while putting up better True Shooting Percentage (TS%) and Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%).

For a feel of how many different things Richardson does on the offensive end, let's take a look at his possession breakdown from Synergy Sports Technology:

Play type       %Time
Overall        100.0%
Isolation        7.3%
P&R Handler      5.8%
Post-Up          8.5%
Spot-Up         23.6%
Off Screen      13.3%
Hand off         2.5%
Cut              7.3%
Off. Rebound     4.3%
Transition      20.8%
Other            6.8%

Now, 40 percent of his possessions come off of Spot-Ups or in Transition (he does play for the Suns after all), but after that everything seems to be very balanced. To illustrate this point, let's take a look at the Suns running the same basic action three different times in three different games. Richardson does something different each time:

In this clip, the Suns use Richardson's athletic ability to get a lob at the rim by running him off of a Channing Frye backscreen.

Here, you see the same exact action (Richardson coming off of a Frye backscreen), and because the defense is so worried about Richardson's athletic ability, he is able to sneak in and set a backscreen of his own for Frye, leading to the lob.

Once again, you get the same exact action but this time Richardson gets to show off his shooting stroke. Again, Richardson comes off of a Frye backscreen, but this time after coming off of the screen he puts his foot into the ground and comes off of a pindown screen from Frye. He calmly knocks down the jumper off of the curl.

These three clips show the Suns' willingness to move Richardson around and use him in a number of different ways. The reason why the Suns are willing to do this is because he is comfortable in just about every single situation on the offensive end. With the Suns looking to replace Amar'e Stoudemire's production, it only makes sense. We already know that Richardson can knock down threes and perform in transition, so I want to look at the situations that Richardson isn't really known for and look at why he is so successful:

Richardson has posted up on 8.5 percent of his total possessions, and he has been able to put up 0.94 Points Per Possessions (28th in the NBA) while shooting 55.6 percent.

Doesn't that action look familiar? This time, Richardson notices the size difference he has over O.J. Mayo and simply posts him on the block. After he makes the catch, Richardson faces up. This is where Richardson's variety of different skills really puts pressure on the defense. Mayo is forced to respect Richardson's jumper and play up on him, allowing Richardson to rip the ball through and drive baseline where he finishes at the rim.

Even when Richardson doesn't have a size advantage against his defenders the Suns still like to get it to him in the post. To do this successfully, the Suns create a mismatch by using ball screens.

Against the Nuggets, Arron Afflalo is covering Richardson and he doesn't really have a size advantage against Afflalo. So Richardson sets a screen for Steve Nash. This forces Afflalo to switch on Nash and Chauncey Billups to defend Richardson. This sets up the easy lob in the post for Richardson.

Again, you see the Suns forcing the switch. This time, Nash sets the screen for Richardson. The second the switch happens, Richardson takes Billups into the post and takes advantage.

Another area where Richardson is having success is when he cuts off of the basketball. Richardson is scoring 1.38 points per possession (23rd in the NBA) on 69.6 percent shooting. Naturally, a lot of this has to do with Steve Nash:

Here, Nash comes off the screen forcing the help. As soon as Richardson's man shows, he cuts along the baseline and gets the pass from Nash, and he is able to finish at the rim.

The final area where Richardson is really excelling in is during ISO situations. Richardson is putting up a PPP of 1.07 (good for 12th in the NBA) while shooting 47.8 percent. What makes Richardson so dangerous in isolations is his shooting ability. Richardson shoots the ball well enough that defenders need to respect it. They play up on him, and Richardson is able to use his athletic ability to get by them:

Here, Richardson makes the catch and gives Lamar Odom a nice pump fake. This gets Odom on his heels, and it is what allows Richardson to get by him and work the midrange where he knocks down a jumper.

In this clip, Richardson makes the catch and gives a pump fake. It isn't even a good pump fake, but it is enough to get his defender on his heels. That little hesitation by the defender lets Richardson get all of the way to the rim and finish.

So far this season, Jason Richardson has had good balance on the offensive end. He is doing a little bit of everything, and he is doing just about all of these things well. This is the reason why I don't really see a drop off coming from Richardson this season. Let's say his three-point shooting drops off. He's still having success in the post, cutting off of the basketball, and attacking the rim that he can focus on doing those things and shoot the three ball less.

The Suns will continue to put him in positions to be successful. If Richardson is knocking down the three ball, they will keep getting it to him on the outside. If he is having success in the post, the Suns will continue to feed him there.

The 2010-11 Pro Basketball Prospectus is now available in paperback form on Amazon.com. For sample chapters and more information, see our book page.

You can follow Sebastian on Twitter at twitter.com/@SebastianPruiti.

Sebastian Pruiti is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Sebastian by clicking here or click here to see Sebastian's other articles.

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