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2022-23 Player Preview: Nick Richards

The third year pro looks to establish himself as a presence in the Hornets rotation.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets-Media Day Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

The Charlotte Hornets have been trying to solidify the center position for years now. Part of their attempts have included devoting numerous low risk assets to the position in the hopes of finding a diamond in the rough. Nick Richards was one of those attempts to find a diamond.

Richards still has a lot to prove. His first season was basically nothing, and his second season saw brief moments in the rotation, but he was never able to hold down a spot for an extended period of time. He enters season number three in a contract year, meaning this is a make or break year for his Hornets future.

New head coach Steve Clifford has spoken highly of the improvements that Richards has made in the summer and named him as the team’s incumbent backup center heading into camp. With the departure of Montrezl Harrell, the only competition for backup center minutes comes from rookie Mark Williams, who will likely need some time to catch up to the NBA game.

Richards is a prototypical rim protecting, lob catching center. He has a decent free throw stroke, but that hasn’t translated into any semblance of a perimeter game within the flow of the offense. However, he’s athletic, making him a good vertical spacer on offense. Defensively, he can protect the rim when he’s positioned well and rebounds pretty well.

He’s had a couple of solid games to start the preseason. He’s been active on the glass, reeling in 14 total rebounds and six offensive boards in 35 minutes between the two games. He’s a good pairing with LaMelo Ball, who’s always looking for lobs in the pick and roll, and we’ve seen that connection a couple times in the first two preseason games.

That’s the Nick Richards the Hornets will want to see in the regular season. New head coach Steve Clifford values rebounding, and he’s said that he wants the team to be top 10 in both defensive rebounding and second chance points. Richards will be a big part of making that happen on a bench unit that is going to depend on scrappiness and athleticism to make an impact.