If the 76ers had a team MVP award for the preseason, Josh Richardson would have already clinched it.
The team’s new shooting guard is making a major impact while being the team’s most versatile player.
Tuesday night’s game was the latest example.
Richardson, acquired from Miami in the Jimmy Butler trade in July, started at point guard. The 6-foot-6, 200-pounder responded with 11 points, five rebounds, six assists, one steal, and two turnovers in the Sixers’ 106-86 preseason victory over the Detroit Pistons at the Wells Fargo Center. His only downfall was his shooting: 4-for-12.
He wasn’t satisfied with his outing.
“I’d probably did like a six-and-a-half,” he said. "I think I could have made some better reads with the ball. I could have been a little better on defense, a little more aggressive.
“I’m glad we came away with the win.”
Richardson said getting familiar with the calls is the biggest step he needs to take while playing point guard. That would enable him to have various plays to run instead of calling one or two plays the entire game.
The fifth-year veteran was the team’s primary ballhandler because the Sixers (4-0) were without three key players. Point guard Ben Simmons missed the game with lower-back tightness. Power forward Al Horford had a scheduled rest day. And reserve swingman James Ennis was out with a right-calf sprain.
Simmons said he’s fine, and Ennis downplayed his injury. They both sat out for precautionary reasons.
“If it was a regular-season game, I would definitely play,” Ennis said. “It is nothing that I am really concerned about. I will be ready to go on Friday [in the preseason finale vs. Washington Wizards.]”
But against the Pistons (2-2), Richardson replaced Simmons. Tobias Harris slid up from small forward to power forward. Joel Embiid started at his normal center position. Rookie Matisse Thybulle got the start at shooting guard, while Furkan Korkmaz was the starting small forward.
Meanwhile, the Pistons were without their best players: center Andre Drummond (rest) and power forward Blake Griffin (left hamstring soreness).
Embiid was his usual self and scored 12 of his 24 points in the first quarter. Reserve center Norvel Pelle blocked five shots and had 13 points on 6-for-7 shooting in 12 minutes.
Although he wasn’t satisfied, Richardson did a solid job of running the offense. He also kept beating defenders off the dribble. A prime example of that came in the third quarter when he took Langston Galloway off the dribble and delivered a left-handed dunk on the former St. Joseph’s star.
And Richardson was a bulldog on defense.
“I love Josh,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. "I remember him down in Miami. He’s one of the top defensive guards in our league, as far as his length, his long arms. His shooting has really improved through his years in Miami. I think that was a great pickup for this team.”
Richardson has displayed a variety of skills in the Sixers’ four preseason games.
He made 3 of 5 three-pointers against Guangzhou. He blocked three shots vs. Charlotte. And he recorded five steals and excelled at backup point guard in addition to starting shooting guard against Orlando.
“He plays with a charisma," coach Brett Brown said. “He plays with a personality. He’s got a bounce.”
The elusive Richardson is also hard to screen on defense like former defensive standouts Bruce Bowen and Gary Payton, Brown said.
“I said it before, I’ll say it again, Philadelphia’s gonna love him,” Brown said. “They really are. He is so built for Philly. He plays hard. He’s got no back-down. He’s got swagger.”
“I just think he’s just a really important piece to what we’re doing.”