Mar 16, 2012; Greensboro, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils guard Austin Rivers (0) with the ball as Lehigh Mountain Hawks guards C.J. McCollum (3) and Mackey McKnight (11) defend in the second half. The Mountain Hawks defeated the Blue Devils 75-70 in the second round of the 2012 NCAA men

Draft Watch: Austin Rivers

Yesterday’s article highlighted Minnesota’s need for a dynamic shooting guard.  One with unlimited range, good athleticism, and a great basketball I.Q.   Minnesota attempted to solve this issue two years ago with the drafting of Wesley Johnson with the fourth overall pick in the 2010 draft, but as most people know that is not working out so well.  This leads David Kahn and his front office back to the drawing board in search of the next great shooting guard.

Duke University is well known for it’s college basketball dynasty, but players who make the leap from Duke to the NBA typically don’t experience the amount of success that other powerhouse schools like North Carolina (Jordan, Worthy), UCLA (too many to name),  and Connecticut (Ray Allen, Rudy Gay) do.  While Duke has had some good NBA players like Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, Kyrie Irving, Grant Hill, and Shane Battier, there have also been a lot more players who lost relevancy in the NBA.  There also happens to be Shelden Williams, William Avery, Christian Laettner, etc.  This year shooting guard Austin Rivers hopes to break the Duke ‘curse’ and build a successful NBA career.  I say curse lightly because although Duke is a great school, most of the NBA greats rarely hail from the Durham, NC institution.

Austin Rivers was one of the more highly touted freshman in recent memory.  The son of Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers arrived with high expectations of leading the team to a national championship. Rivers is a little short for a shooting guard at 6′ 4″, but he makes up for the lack of size with a 6′ 7″ wingspan.  Also, it’s not like being too short ever stopped some great NBA players in the past (Steve Francis, Allen Iverson, Eric Gordon to name a few).  Like most freshman, Rivers had an up and down season for his team.  While Rivers posted respectable stats, most scouts harked on more mental aspects of his game.  Much of the time he looked uncomfortable on offense, and this was demonstrated with a modest shooting percentage (43.3%, 36.5% from three, 65.8% free throws) and a pretty low assist/turnover ratio (.91). Rivers also averaged 1.0 spg and got to the free throw line 5.4 times per game.

There were, at times, flashes of the flashy dominant scorer people thought Rivers would be.  The best example is the North Carolina game, scoring 29 points in addition to hitting the game winning three pointer (one of his six 3-pointers) as time expired.  Two other factors to consider are that 1) This game was nationally televised on ESPN, and 2) He did this on the road in Chapel Hill.

Yes, I realize that one game is not statistically significant enough, but it’s a great example of how he can handle pressure at the most intense moments of the game.  The Timberwolves need a player like this, and while they won’t ask him to be Kobe or Durant, it would be reasonable to expect him to piece together a solid rookie season if the Wolves landed him with the 18th pick.  If Rivers can work on his shooting struggles he can more than make up for the disappointing Johnson pick.  He is a player who is able (and willing) to create his own offense, and he can get to the line with ease due to his knack for driving to the basket.

While he may or may not be there with the 18th pick, Minnesota should definitely consider picking Rivers.  He is personally my #1 choice with that pick, and while many may disagree, I see the potential he has to be great.


Next up: Dion Waiters, Syracuse

  • HotFiyaStarter

    1. Rudy Gay has never been an all-star, like Brand, Boozer, Hill and Deng have. 2. Jordan and Worthy came out of UNC nearly 30 years ago…have you noticed what they produce NOW? Ellington, Davis, May, Williams, Wright, etc. 3. Kyrie will give Duke 3 ROYs in the last 20 years, the most of any school. 4. UCONN isn’t producing great pros anymore…they had a nice run.

    Last thing…I hope when you break down Waiters you tell us all about the Syracuse “curse” because their All-Americans usually suck…from Wesley to Flynn to Seikely to Owens to Moten to Wallace to Pearl to Johnson and on and on.

  • SamLofquist

    1. Rudy Gay is an all-star caliber player.  He has the task of wrangling votes away from Kevin Durant and other big time forwards in bigger markets… this includes power forwards (Blake Griffin, K-Love, Aldridge, etc.) as well since the NBA doesn’t specify SF or PF on the ballot. 
    2.  UNC has more than just those guys you mentioned.  Vince Carter, Antawn Jamison, Brendan Haywood, Rasheed Wallace, Jerry Stackhouse.  Of the Big-4 lottery picks, only Raymond Felton (slowly but surely) as been able to prove to be a consistent player. Marvin Williams has begun to put together a solid, but not great, career.  Certainly not for a #2 overall pick. This year Harrison Barnes, John Henson, Tyler Zeller, and Kendall Marshall will all end up being drafted and could have some good careers.  Danny Green has been coached very well in San Antonio.
    3. Kyrie will actually be first sole winner of the ROY this year.  Grant Hill shared it with Jason Kidd while Elton Brand and Steve Francis split the vote as well.
    4.  UConn can still produce nice pros.  Gay, Ben Gordon, and Emeka Okafor are nice examples.  Kemba Walker got the misfortune of playing for the Bobcats.  It’ll be interesting to see how Andre Drummond and Jeremy Lamb pan out, but UConn can still produce good players.
    5. Seikely averaged 14.7ppg, 9.5rpg, and 1.3bpg in 678 career games.  Nicknamed “The Spin Doctor” because of his good post moves.  Not bad for the #9 overall pick.  Owens was mildly disappointing with just 11.7ppg, 6.7rpg for a #3 overall, but the 2.8apg are nice and show his passing ability.  Wesley and Flynn still have plenty of time to turn the clock back and play like they should be.  I won’t be able to successfully defend all of the players, but there is no Syracuse “curse.”  Just ask a guy by the name of Carmelo Anthony.

  • yung_moe

    austin rivers or terrance ross would be a best case scenario for the wolves…terrance ross looks like he would fit better because of his size and defense… but i think austiin rivers has the potential to be one of the best shooting guards in the league… he has the killer instinct and drive to improve.. which is something wes will never have