Playing 31 minutes per game for Bruce Weber at Illinois, D.J. Richardson was one of the most valuable freshmen in the Big 10 last season. Not a big time scorer, but rather more of an offensive facilitator, defender and shooting specialist, Richardson showed unique poise and maturity considering his young age.
57% of Richardson's shots came from beyond the arc, which tells you quite a bit about his role for Illinois offensively. He made an excellent 39% of those attempts, giving him a nice framework to build off as he moves forward in his career. He does a good job moving off the ball and coming off screens, and is very dangerous when able to get a shot off with his feet set.
Richardson is not a particularly impressive physical specimen, as he's somewhat undersized for a shooting guard at 6-3, and doesn't possess a great frame or overwhelming athleticism to compensate for that. He struggles taking contact around the basket, lacking strength and explosiveness, and is not very efficient at all scoring inside the arc, posting a very poor 41% conversion percentage from 2-point range, and getting to the free throw line at an unimpressive rate.
With that said, Richardson is a very intelligent guard who understands his role offensively and managed to string together a positive assist to turnover ratio as a freshman. He moves the ball around nicely, rarely forces the issue, and seems to be a highly unselfish player who is always willing to make the extra pass.
Richardson is very effective as a spot-up shooter, but he is not quite as effective when forced to create for himself off the bounce. If he wants to show that he's capable of making the transition to playing the combo guard, he'll need to show that he can be a little more effective in pick and roll and one on one situations. Similarly, he could stand to improve his off the dribble jumper.
Defensively, Richardson had some impressive moments as a freshman, showing great smarts and fundamentals staying in front of his matchups, and maintaining a high intensity level on virtually every possession he played.
With that said, he has some limitations, as he often gives a couple of inches in height to wing players he matches up with in the Big 10, and doesn't always have the length, strength or explosiveness to compensate for that. He's a poor rebounder for those exact reasons, pulling down a meager 3.4 rebounds per-40 minutes pace adjusted, playing on a team that was hardly known for its rebounding ability.
Richardson does not project as a high-level NBA prospect at the moment due to the concerns over his limited physical attributes and shot-creating ability and the question marks about his true position. Only a freshman, Richardson still has plenty of time to round out his all-around game and prove his mettle as a terrific role-player who can operate effectively in a system as a rotation piece. It might take him a few years, but there is definitely room at the highest levels of pro basketball for smart, skilled and versatile guards who understand how to play the game, which is exactly what Richardson is.