Nick Richards has signed a new deal with the Charlotte Hornets worth $15 million over five years, according to his agent Javon Phillips and Jared Mucha of Excel Basketball.

The Hornets big man, who was drafted out of Kentucky with the 42nd overall pick in the 2020 draft, had a slow start to his career in the big time. In recent weeks, however, he has begun to show signs that his 7’0” frame (and 7’4” wingspan, no less) is more than capable of adding value to an NBA team.

Richards played just 68 games over his first two years in the league, averaging only 3.5 minutes per game in his first year and 7.3 minutes in his second. This year, however, those numbers have received a big boost, and with it his overall production for the Hornets.

Live and breathe the NBA?

🚨 Get viral NBA graphics, memes, rumors and trending news delivered right to your inbox with the Clutch Newsletter.

He’s still not exactly a household name and has come off the bench for much of the season to date. Richards has been a reliable back-up center to Mark Williams, averaging a little under eight points and six boards a night in around 18 minutes. With Williams sidelined through injury, however, Richards has moved into the starting line-up, and in just five games has already shown his value.

In his most recent outing against the Indiana Pacers, Richards scored 14 points and grabbed 17 rebounds (six offensive), while a couple of games earlier he put together a 15-12-4 statline against the Cleveland Cavaliers. He’s also been terrific on the defensive end in that time period, swatting 2.4 shots per game – including five against the Utah Jazz.

In just his third year in the league, Nick Richards remains limited in some ways. A disastrous outing against Joel Embiid showed he’s a long way off matching it with the best. In fairness, he’s not the first nor will he be the last to be dominated by Embiid. A $15 million contract might come as a surprise to many, but Richards has come on in leaps and bounds at both ends of the floor this season, and an extended deal is a just reward.