Toronto Raptors: Should the team pickup Malachi Richardson’s fourth year option

Malachi Richardson has had an underwhelming career. A high draft pick with almost no production during his NBA career. Should Toronto pickup Richardson’s fourth year option?

Malachi Richardson has been a disappointment so far in his NBA career. During his first two seasons, the 22nd overall pick has appeared in just appeared in just 48 games while averaging less than 11 minutes per contest.

Failing to earn minutes in Sacramento the past two seasons, it’s hard to envision him cracking the rotation in Toronto anytime soon. Richardson will likely play for the Raptors 905 this season.

When a first round pick is still in the G-League in his third season, that typically is not a good sign.

Richardson finally showed some life this summer league and looked like he belonged on the NBA stage. However, a third year player doing well in summer league is not exactly an impressive feat.

The decision date

Under the NBA’s current Collective Bargaining Agreement, team’s must decide on both rookie extensions and rookie options approximately one year in advance. The official date for the team to decide is October 31st.

This means Toronto won’t make any major discoveries about Richardson’s game before the decision needs to be made. They can perhaps wait to see how he performs in training camp, but barring something drastic, Richardson’s fate has largely been decided.

The cost of keeping Richardson

Richardson’s 2019-2020 team option is worth approximately $2.6 million. In general, not much more than the league minimum. However, if Toronto is hopefully in the luxury tax once again (If they are Kawhi Leonard has probably re-signed), even Richardson’s $2.6 million contract could be significant.

Richardson is set to receive about $1 million more in 2019-2020 than the minimum level contract. If Toronto’s luxury bill is similar to this year’s that would cost the Raptors approximately $4.25 million. In reality it may end up costing them more than $5 million.

$5 million is not an absurd amount, but would you want to pay $5 million for someone who is more likely to play for the 905 than crack the rotation?

But the most important cost in exercising Richardson’s option is not the additional payroll the team might face for 2019-2020. It’s the opportunity cost of losing a potential roster spot to a player that is unlikely to contribute.

There are young players on the market currently who have shown more talent and upside than Richardson has thus far. Any roster spot the team uses on Richardson, is a spot that could have been used on another, more worthy flyer.

The Verdict

Malachi Richardson has the tools of a modern NBA player. He is 6’6″, athletic, and has shown signs of a competent jump shot.

However, he is not ready to contribute to an NBA team and hasn’t even shown flashes of a competent NBA player. With a crowded rotation, it’s hard to envision Richardson finding the court this season.

Because of those reasons, it’s hard to justify giving a contract above the minimum and  a year in advance, to someone who has proven so little. Ultimately, it would be wise for Toronto to not exercise Richardson’s fourth year option.