Atlanta Hawks: What Will Jason Richardson’s Role Be?


After days of speculation, reporting, and waiting the Atlanta Hawks and Jason Richardson finally made it official. On Tuesday the veteran shooting guard signed a one year nonguaranteed contract for the veteran’s minimum.

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I noted when the signing was reported that this was not likely to be a transaction that moves the needle for the Hawks. I said that I would be surprised if Richardson plays meaningful minutes with Atlanta. What if I’m wrong? There are any number of roles he could slide into. Let’s take a look at the scenarios from least likely to most likely.

Starting Small Forward

This is clearly the least likely scenario. If Thabo Sefolosha is healthy this is 100 percent his job to lose. If he’s not healthy it will probably go to Kent Bazemore, Tim Hardaway Jr., or Justin Holiday. But, let’s talk about this scenario anyway because it’s August and the Atlanta Braves have been depressing.

Playing devil’s advocate, this could work if Richardson is completely healthy. He’s a career 37 percent three-point shooter, has a high basketball IQ after a long and successful career, and plays decent defense despite his age. The problem is that there is no counting on him to stay healthy.

The last time he started a significant number of games was in 2011-2012 with the Orlando Magic when he started 54 games. The next season he started 33 games with the Philadelphia 76ers before suffering an injury that would cause him to miss the rest of the season and then the entire 2013-2014 season.

In his return last season he started 15 of 18 games and posted the worst shooting numbers of his career (34.8 percent from the field, 32.3 percent from three-point range). I’d say his starting days are over and that if he’s going to see the court this season it’s going to be off the bench.

Rotation Wing Player Off the Bench

This is a role Richardson has never really occupied. Despite being injury riddled for the last few season, whenever he has been healthy he has been in the starting lineup. He has started 842 of the 857 games he has played in his career. Could he handle coming off the bench?

Sometimes it’s a psychological thing. Some players prefer to come off the bench (think Manu Ginobili), while others feel that they perform better when starting the game. Is that the case with Richardson? I doubt it. With the logjam of playable wing players I’m sure he would be happy just to get regular playing time.

If Sefolosha is starting that leaves Richardson, Bazemore, Hardaway Jr., and Holiday competing for two spots off the bench (backing up Sefolosha and backing up Kyle Korver). The Hawks traded a first round pick for Hardaway Jr., so they clearly believe he will be an important part of the team. That takes away one spot in the rotation Richardson would hope to occupy.

So, then there were three. Kent Bazemore already has experience in Atlanta’s system, plays splendid defense, and proved in the postseason last year that he can be a valuable member of the team. Then there’s Holiday. An unproven low risk, high reward that could blossom into a “three and D” NBA rotation player or could be out of the league in three years. It just seems there is no room for Richardson unless a few guys get injured. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen.

Veteran Leader, Limited Playing Time

While I could be wrong, this still seems like the best case scenario for Richardson. His most valuable role could be helping Tim Hardaway Jr., Justin Holiday, and Kent Bazemore with their development. They have the unenviable task of replacing DeMarre Carroll so any type of advice/mentoring would be beneficial.

For Richardson this is a great opportunity to be around a winning team for one last time. The last time he played in the NBA Playoffs was the 2012 season with the Orlando Magic. That series resulted in a first round loss. The last time he played deep into the postseason was the 2010 season with the Phoenix Suns. Perhaps he doesn’t care about his minutes at all and just wants to be a leader on a team that has a chance to make the NBA Finals.

I’d put money on this being Richardson’s primary role, barring a significant rash of injuries that decimates the wing rotation. I could be wrong, but if Jason Richardson has to play meaningful minutes for the Atlanta Hawks color me worried. Nonetheless, having an experienced NBA veteran on the bench to provide leadership is never a bad thing. On paper this seems like a good fit and a nice addition to the Hawks locker room.

Next: What Were the Top 5 Moments From Last Season?

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