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Akeem Richmond Brings Defense To Fast-Paced Bighorns

The Reno Bighorns have become known for their offense that runs at a breakneck speeds, but guard Akeem Richmond is the defensive piece that holds them together.

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Over the last two years, the Reno Bighorns have given the phrase "fast-paced offense" a new definition. While the NBA has shifted into a more guard-centric league that is predicated on ball movement, spacing and pace, the Bighorns have managed to even blow them out of the water.

Currently sporting a Pace Factor (the estimated number of possessions per-48 minutes) of 104.2, the Bighorns rank firmly atop of the league, with the Delaware 87ers coming in a distant second at 101.7. This high rate is actually slowed down a bit from last year, when they were running at a blistering 113.7 pace.

As is natural for a team that plays at such an incredulous rate, the Bighorns allow points more frequently than other teams. Their 123.4 points per game is fantastic, but they're also allowing 116.8 points per game to opposing teams. Even with that, this net positive has been good for their win-loss record as they currently sit atop the NBA D-League Western Conference standings.

Many associate them as being an offensive-focused team, but with the acquisition of Akeem Richmond towards the end of January they took a big step forward on the defensive end. He has had a reputation as a scorer that can light up teams in a hurry, which is evidenced by his 41.7% three-point field goal percentage so far this season, but he's also more than capable of bringing it on defense.

Throughout his stint with Reno this season, he has allowed the lowest opponent field goal percentage from mid-range at 21.1% and on threes at 27.3% among all guards that have played more than 10 games in the D-League this season. He's generously listed at 6'1, but his speed and quickness on the perimeter allow him to keep up with the talented guards of the D-League.

On the ball, he's capable of sticking with players consistently which is a huge benefit to the Bighorns who play in transition so often. He's allowing the lowest number of fast break points per game on the team and it's largely due to the lateral quickness that he possesses, as well as his general sense of defensive awareness.

In addition to his pure skill on the ball, he's also adept at getting around pick and rolls and disrupting opposing offenses. Good pick and roll defense involves communication amongst teammates, but Richmond's knowledge of how to use his size to his advantage in regards to incoming screens is very valuable.

These skills on the perimeter have allowed him to post the second-best Defensive Rating among the guards on Reno (second to only David Stockton), and it has helped the Bighorns allow one point less per game on average in the games that he plays in as opposed to the one's in which he doesn't.

He was rightfully named to the All-Conference USA team during his senior year at East Carolina and it appears that his time with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers last year did him well in terms of his development. While he can occasionally get lost off of the ball, the progression that he has shown defensively is very promising.

His role as a heat-check guy on offense that can hit from deep with regularity is something that will always have value to teams around the league, especially in the context of the Reno offense, but his play on improved play on defense is what could propel him to the next level in his development.