RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Austin RiversPosted by EJacoby on June 18th, 2012
The 2012 NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 28, in New York City. As we have done for the last several years, RTC’s team of writers (including Andrew Murawa, Kevin Doyle, Evan Jacoby, Matt Patton, and Danny Spewak) will provide comprehensive breakdowns of each of the 35 collegians most likely to hear his name called by David Stern in the first round on draft night. We’ll work backwards, starting with players who are projected near the end of the first round before getting into the lottery as June progresses. As an added bonus, we’ll also bring you a scouting take from NBADraft.net’s Aran Smith at the bottom of each player evaluation.
Note: Click here for all published 2012 NBA Draft profiles.
Player Name: Austin Rivers
Height/Weight: 6’5” / 200 lbs.
NBA Position: Shooting Guard
Projected Draft Range: Late Lottery Pick
Overview: Austin Rivers came into college as perhaps the most hyped freshman in the country; the consensus #2 recruit behind Kentucky’s Anthony Davis. The son of Boston Celtics head coach and former longtime NBA point guard Doc Rivers, Austin has been in the spotlight for many years now. His one-year “career” at Duke produced mixed results, as he was a very effective offensive player from day one but also struggled to play within the team concept. Without Rivers, Duke would never have come close to receiving a #2 NCAA Tournament seed. But with him, the Blue Devils couldn’t even defeat Lehigh in the first round. Rivers hurt the team as much as he helped it during certain stretches of games. But overall, there’s no denying his explosive scoring ability. He averaged 15.5 PPG as a consistent producer, reaching double figures in 30 of his 34 games and was capable of going for 20-plus in any game. He put up 29 points on the road at North Carolina, including the game-winning buzzer beater that was one of 2011-12’s greatest moments. That’s the kind of player Rivers is; he has the utmost confidence in his ability and wants to take all the big shots. He has a killer crossover and lightning-quick first step as well as unlimited range on his jumper. But he was not a very efficient player as a frosh – shooting percentages of 43.3% (FG), 36.5% (3FG), and 65.8% (FT) all need improvement. The former two numbers show evidence of his questionable shot selection, and the third was unfortunately low for a player that got to the line with regularity. He averaged more turnovers (2.3) per game than assists (2.1) and doesn’t look like he can play NBA point guard. Rivers remains an elite scoring prospect as an undersized two, but needs work on his decision-making and defensive work ethic.
Will Translate to the NBA: Rivers’ game seems better suited for the NBA than college, as he likes to initiate offense early in the shot clock and often takes several possessions before he gets going. He has legitimate pro moves in the form of a nasty crossover, unpredictable hesitation dribbles, and an explosive first step. Rivers measured out well at 6’5” in shoes with a 6’7.25” wingspan. He has NBA range with his jump shot. His offense thrives in the pick-and-roll game, capable of rising up from deep or driving hard to the basket. But he also doesn’t need a pick to get open and can create easy offense in isolation. Rivers plays with no fear but is also an intelligent player, and he won’t back down from anyone in the league. He’s great at getting to the foul line and finds creative ways to score in the paint.
Needs Work: Rivers must improve significantly with his off-the-ball movement in the half court, as he has always been primarily used as a ball-handling creator. He must improve his shot selection, as he chose to fire too many long contested threes and difficult shots in the paint. He also constantly looked off open teammates, which not only resulted in less efficient team possessions but also lowered others’ offensive confidence. He was good for at least one offensive foul per game resulting from out-of-control drives. He also must improve the image of an uninterested defender for much of the game, as he can be much better on that end. He still needs to put on some more muscle as well.
Comparison Players: Rivers draws several different NBA comparisons, but one that really fits his skill set is Jamal Crawford. Crawford has thrived in the NBA as an instant offense sixth man, playing shooting guard but usually having the ball in his hands to create. He’s scored 50 points multiple times in his career, capable of going off at any moment but also showing some undisciplined shot selection. Both players are about 6’5”, 200 pounds, and although Rivers projects as a potentially better defender and big-game player, there are many similarities there.
Best Case Scenario: Rivers can get a step on nearly any defender, but it’s what he does with that half-step that will likely determine how good he’ll be in the league. If he can improve his decision-making and passing, he’ll be a versatile threat to create plays for others as well as himself. Better shot selection will help improve his shooting percentages, though he must work on the jump shot as well. If he can shore up these issues, Rivers can become a 20 point-per-game scorer in the league. Undersized for his position without elite athleticism, success won’t come easy against pro defenders, but Rivers has special talent as a scorer. Improved strength and defensive attention could lead to becoming a complete game-changer, though he may find himself in a sixth man role to match his skill set.
Best NBA Fit: Nearly any NBA team could use Rivers for instant offense off the bench. But teams that lack scoring from the guard position are the best long term landing spots for Rivers. He’s likely to find himself in the lottery somewhere between #10 and #14. The Phoenix Suns at #13 seems like a perfect fit, through New Orleans at #10 is another logical landing spot if the Hornets are unable to bring back restricted free agent Eric Gordon. Teaming Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers is a very intriguing possibility for New Orleans.
Scout’s Take (from NBADraft.net): “Showed what a clutch performer he is with his game winner to beat UNC. He lacks PG skills and gets tunnel vision at times, but he’s so quick off the dribble that few players on the next level will be able to stay in front of him.”
*This post was contributed by RTC’s Evan Jacoby. He can be found on Twitter @evanJacoby.