Malachi Richardson did not really surprise anyone when he declared for the NBA Draft. He showed improvement throughout the season, culminating in a memorable individual performance in the Elite Eight against Virginia. The new draft rules make Richardson able to come back to school, so long as he does not hire an agent. Orange fans are hopeful Richardson would go through the process, learn he is not quite ready to make the leap and come back to school.
However, the latest draft rankings see Malachi Richardson ranked as a late first-round pick. This could be problematic for the Orange. It is widely expected that if Richardson is told that he will not be a first round pick, he will return to school. However, if NBA General Managers and scouts tell him he is ready to be a first round pick, he very well may decide to take the money and go pro.
There is little doubt that Syracuse could really use Richardson next season. While the Orange should be a very capable team even if he does leave, a starting five with Richardson in it makes the Orange a real threat in the ACC. Without him, it is hard to see the Orange being that top-25 team that the “experts” have been talking about.
The NBA Draft process is really still in its infancy. For that reason, Syracuse fans should not hit the panic button yet. The next major step in the NBA Draft process is the Combine. If Richardson does not receive an invite, Orange fans can relax. In that case, he will be coming back. If he does get an invite, he and Syracuse fans will get a much better idea of his real draft stock then.
So, in short, don’t panic just yet Orange Nation. However, Malachi Richardson is the most important player that Syracuse needs to bring in for 2016, so Syracuse fans should keep a close eye on his path through the draft.