MIAMI — The numbers say Josh Richardson is an elite defender. But he’ll have to wait at least one more year to get formal confirmation on that.
Even with the Heat — including coach Erik Spoelstra — lobbying for the 24-year-old forward to receive recognition for his defense, Richardson was left off the NBA’s All-Defensive teams. Richardson placed 16th in the voting and is the only Heat player who received votes, with the names of the 10 selections voted on by 100 media members announced Wednesday.
The All-Defensive first team is Utah’s Rudy Gobert, Philadelphia’s Robert Covington, Indiana’s Jrue Holiday, and Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday from New Orleans.
The All-Defensive second team is Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid, Golden State’s Draymond Green, Boston’s Al Horford, San Antonio’s Dejounte Murray and Minnesota’s Jimmy Butler.
Richardson received three first-team votes, but still finished behind Houston’s Chris Paul, Oklahoma City’s Paul George, Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Golden State’s Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson among those who did not make a team but did receive votes.
The 6-foot-6 Richardson seemed disappointed by the news that he missed the cut, tweeting a shoulder shrug and face palming emoji after the All-Defensive teams were revealed. And he has a point.
Among the 139 NBA players who played in at least 40 games and defended at least nine shots per game this past regular season, Richardson finished with the seventh-best opponent field-goal percentage at 41.6 percent behind only Jaylen Brown and Horford from Boston, Davis from New Orleans, Embiid and Ben Simmons from Philadelphia, and John Wall from Washington. Three of those players made an All-Defensive team — Horford, Davis and Embiid.
Richardson also tallied a team-high 2.6 deflections per game this past regular season, and recorded a team-high 121 steals while also blocking 75 shots (second-most on the team). He was the only player in the NBA to finish with at least that many steals and blocks.
“He’s All-NBA defense,” Spoelstra said of Richardson toward the end of the regular season. “Night in, night out he’s going to have three of the toughest covers in the game. … and he doesn’t even blink. And that’s the expectation and how he’s developed that potential. He’s become a very disciplined, dynamic defender, one that can really guard multiple positions in a totally different way.
“I think it’s a shame, I don’t think his name out there. I don’t think people recognize the kind of defender he is except for the teams that he plays against. I think they see it.”
When asked during the regular season if making an All-Defensive team is important to him, Richardson said: “I think it would be awesome, but I’m not going to be bent out of shape if I don’t. I know how those things go sometimes. I’m not too worried about it. I think I’m a top 10 defender in this league. I know in my own head.”
The last Heat player to earn the honor was in 2016, when center Hassan Whiteside was named to the second team.
Only six Heat players have made an All-Defensive team during the franchise’s 30 seasons: Alonzo Mourning, LeBron James, P.J. Brown, Bruce Bowen, Dwyane Wade and Whiteside. Mourning and James are the team’s only ever first-team selections.