It’s highly unlikely that the Miami Heat will have an All-Star this year.
But when asked Sunday whom he felt deserved All-Star consideration among his players, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra mentioned Josh Richardson as someone he felt could get the nod in the near future.
“If he started out playing this way, Josh Richardson would definitely be on that list in my mind,” Spoelstra said before the Heat’s game against the Utah Jazz. “He’s going to be considered for that as we move forward. I think that much of him.”
No Heat player cracked the top 10 when the first voting results for this year’s All-Star Game were released earlier this week.
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Spoelstra first mentioned Heat tri-captain Goran Dragic as someone who deserves consideration “year-in and year-out.”
But in only his third NBA season, Richardson’s offensive game has improved noticeably, and coupled with his defensive skill gives him a combination that Spoelstra feels could make him worthy of All-Star recognition eventually.
While the Heat used a collective effort with six players scoring in double figures in Sunday’s win over the Jazz, Richardson delivered in the clutch by making the game-winning layup with 5.1 seconds remaining.
Richardson, who is listed as a frontcourt player, entered Sunday’s game averaging career highs in points (12.8), rebounds (3.2) and steals (1.3) per game while shooting a career-best 46.1 percent from the field and 35.0 percent from three-point range.
He has come on strong on the offensive end since the end of November, averaging 17.2 points per game over the Heat’s 20 games.
But Richardson, who is listed as a frontcourt player for voting purposes, is in a loaded category in which the leading vote-getters so far are Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, Joel Embiid, Kristaps Porzingis, Kevin Love — all of whom entered Sunday’s action averaging 23.6 or more points per game.
Richardson said he didn’t even know at what position he was being listed as in the voting.
“I don’t know,” Richardson said. “I mean I saw it on Instagram the other day and I thought it was cool. But, yeah.
“There’s some great players in this league. It’s not easy to get All-Star consideration and I’m fine with it.”
Richardson said he never had aspirations of being an All-Star when he entered the league as a second-round pick (40th overall) in the 2015 draft out of the University of Tennessee.
“My goal is to get on the court, first of all,” Richardson said. “But I mean, now, yeah your goals get bigger as you get better. So my next goal is to really get us back in the playoffs and we’ll go from there.”
Spoelstra believes Richardson should at least garner recognition for what he brings to the floor on the defensive end.
“I think bigger than that; I think people should hopefully start recognizing Josh Richardson’s impact on the defensive end,” Spoelstra said. “He’s an all-NBA defensive talent. He’s doing it every single night. And now he’s just starting to emerge on the other side of the floor and really gain confidence.”
Richardson said being an All-NBA defender is a list he’d like to make.
“Yeah, I want to be in there, yeah,” Richardson said.
▪ Heat guard Derrick Walton Jr. has rejoined the club’s G League affiliate in Sioux Falls as part of his two-way contract.
Walton has two weeks left in his 45 days allowed with the Heat per his contract. Once a player reaches that limit, he must either be released or converted to a standard contract requiring a spot on the roster or stay in the G League.
Walton, a 22-year-old undrafted rookie out of the University of Michigan, has appeared in 12 games for the Heat this season averaging 1.8 points, 0.7 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 8.8 minutes per game while shooting 33.3 percent (6 of 18) from the field and 45.5 percent (5 of 11) from three-point range.
In eight games played for Sioux Falls, Walton has averaged 14.5 points, 7.5 assists and 3.0 rebounds on 41.2 percent shooting.
The deadline to sign players to two-way contracts is Jan. 15, and teams can have up to two such players, which don’t count against their 15-man roster limit. The Heat recently signed former Suns forward Derrick Jones Jr. to such a contract on Dec. 31.