Title: Malachi Richardson a new test for Raptors’ player development incubator
Date: February 13, 2018
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic Toronto, I wrote about deadline acquisition Malachi Richardson and the challenge he presents to the Raptors’ vaunted player development program.
Malachi Richardson was on his way to the gym when he heard the news. About 15 minutes before the trade was official, Richardson’s agent called him and let him know he’d be on the move. Before Richardson arrived at the Sacramento Kings’ facility, Twitter confirmed he’d been dealt to the Raptors for Bruno Caboclo. Before his whirlwind couple of days that saw him make his Raptors and Raptors 905 debuts on back-to-back nights, Richardson only had time for a brief reaction.
“Going to the six,” he says with a smile. “It’s been moving very fast, but I’m happy, I’m excited to be here. Thankful for the great welcoming that the Raptors have had for me. Just trying to get me adjusted, meanwhile still pushing me from the minute I got here. It’s been great.”
And so begins the latest test for the Raptors’ top-notch player development incubator.
The success of that program to date isn’t a secret. They’ve leveraged the G League to help turn Norman Powell, Delon Wright, Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam into legitimate rotation pieces. Add Jakob Poeltl and OG Anunoby to the mix, and the Raptors’ off-season sessions have helped produce the deepest rotation in the NBA, all while filling out a top-heavy roster on the cheap. With the exception of Poeltl, none were lottery picks; Siakam was considered a bit of a surprise at No. 27, Powell on the fringes to be drafted, VanVleet signed as an undrafted free agent.
The common thread with those players, though, is that the Raptors have had them since Day One of their NBA careers. The talent identification has clearly been effective the last three drafts, and the Raptors have done well to help those players maximize their skills. The team saw the curve coming with a collective bargaining agreement that would put a heavier emphasis on player development to sustain competitiveness, and they’ve invested accordingly. This summer, that plan became even more granular and the emphasis grew further.
Richardson stands as a good test for the program, then, as the first outsider.