Josh Richardson is using a new offensive approach this season.
The obvious change is his aggressiveness, with the Heat wing player averaging 24.5 points and 21 shot attempts — both team-highs — over the first two games.
But there’s a more subtle switch he’s made involving his shot selection. Richardson is following the league-wide trend, making a concerted effort to cut down on his mid-range attempts to take more shots from behind the three-point line.
With mid-range shots worth the same amount of points as a layup or dunk, the belief is that paint shots and three-point shots are more efficient options.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
“It’s worth more and it’s only a couple feet back from where a lot of us like to get to on the court,” Richardson said in advance of Saturday’s home opener against the Hornets. “So for myself, Tyler [Johnson], D-Wade, Justise [Winslow], a lot of us like to shoot pull-up twos. So we practiced it over the summer a little bit and wanted to put a little more focus on not settling so much for that.”
It’s a small sample size, but the early numbers are telling. Entering Saturday, the 25-year-old has taken just four mid-range shots, which represents 9.5 percent of the 42 total shots he’s taken this season.
The mid-range shots Richardson is not taking are now coming from three-point range. He’s attempted the fourth-most threes in the NBA with 21 (50 percent of his shots this season) behind Charlotte’s Kemba Walker, Oklahoma City’s Paul George and Utah’s Donovan Mitchell.
And Richardson is still getting plenty of opportunities from inside the paint. He’s averaging the sixth-most drives to the basket in the league with 15.5 per game and has taken 17 shots from the paint area (40.5 percent of his shots this season).
By comparison, Richardson finished last season with a shot distribution breakdown that had 37.6 percent of his shots from inside the paint, 24.4 percent from mid-range and 38 percent from behind the three-point line.
“He’s great at both of those things,” coach Erik Spoelstra said of Richardson’s ability to get to the basket and make threes. “It’s a matter of realizing your strengths, realizing what you’re capable of doing, gaining confidence in all of that.
“I think because of his aggressiveness and his ability to attack off the dribble, you’re seeing more free-throw attempts even through the preseason games. He’s always been one of our best three-point shooters and he’s been able to shoot off the dribble. It’s a matter of having the confidence to shoot them in a game. I would be perfectly happy if he averages over 10 three-point attempts a game. He should, he’s that good of a shooter.”
Heat still shorthanded
The Heat is expected to be without Wayne Ellington (left ankle soreness), Justise Winslow (hamstring tightness), Dion Waiters (left ankle surgery) and James Johnson (sports hernia surgery) for the third consecutive regular-season game Saturday.
Ellington and Winslow are close to returning and participated in Saturday morning’s shootaround, but Spoelstra indicated he would like to get them through a full practice before bringing them back. With a three-day break between Saturday’s game and Wednesday’s matchup against the Knicks, Ellington and Winslow will have a chance to practice over the next few days.