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Josh Richardson's length, defensive versatility could help shorthanded Heat down the stretch

Everybody knows the Heat has one of the league's best rookie defenders in Justise Winslow

What some people might just be discovering now after the All-Star break is that second round pick Josh Richardson has some of that defensive DNA the Heat loves, too.

The 6-6, 200-pound, lanky 22-year-old rookie out of Tennessee played a season-high 36 minutes off the bench in Saturday's blowout win over the Wizards and made three stellar blocks at the rim his teammates and coaches took note of. 

"He played 36 minutes the other night and it was hard not to notice his four saved possessions in transition," coach Erik Spoelstra said Monday after shootaround. "Everybody knows it. The bench was talking about it. The team was talking about it this morning. That earns you more minutes. That's the type of style and DNA we want out of our guys."

Richardson, who played in only 23 games and averaged just 11.5 minutes prior to the All-Star break, has played 55 minutes combined over the Heat's last two games with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade out. He's averaged 6.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists and has gone plus-18 on the court.

Richardson's ability to guard point guards, shooting guards, small forwards, and on occassion power forwards (mostly on switches) is his real value to the team. His long arms make it difficult on shooters and it's ultimately the biggest reason why the Heat drafted him.

"I was like that in college all four years," Richardson said Monday of guarding the one through four positions on the floor. "It's not any different now."

Including his last two games, there's only been seven instances this season when Richardson has played 20 minutes or more. Four of those games were when Wade was sat out.

Richardson's defensive numbers are slightly below average overall. Opponents are shooting 0.4 percent better when he guards them (44 percent defensive field goal percentage) than their average (43.7 percent). 

But his length helps tremendously the further those shooters get away from the basket. He's holding opponents to 34.3 percent shooting (-3.2% differential) on shots greater than 15 feet and three-point shooters to 34.1 percent (-3.0% differential).





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