Detroit Pistons #DraftDreams: Austin Rivers

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  • Measurables: 6-foot-4, 200 pounds, freshman guard from Duke
  • Key Stats: 15.4 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.0 steals per game, 43 percent shooting, 37 percent 3-point shooting
  • Projected: Top 15
  • Hickory High Similarity Score

Why I’m intrigued by this guy

Rivers, the son of Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers, had an incredible amount of hype coming out of high school. In fact, many scouts projected that he could be the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft before he’d even played a college game. Things obviously didn’t materialize that way. Rivers didn’t have a bad season by any stretch, but he also wasn’t the game-changing force his hype suggested he would be.

Still, I’m not sure there is a player who will be available towards the bottom of the lottery with more upside.

Pros for the Pistons

Like other wing players I’ve profiled, Rivers wouldn’t be in play for the Pistons unless there is a run on big men early and a shooting guard is clearly a far superior player than whatever frontcourt players are left. I think it’s an unlikely scenario, but it could happen nonetheless. And in this case, I would be fairly excited if the Pistons end up with Rivers.

If they end up picking ninth, chances are they will select from a crop of players who have the potential to be solid, if unspectacular, starters and rotation players in the league. That’s not bad. Rivers, on the other hand, should at least be a rotation player, but he’s still a phenomenal talent and one slightly underwhelming college season doesn’t change that. If the Pistons took Rivers and he flopped, it’s a failed pick. But there’s also the slight possibility you take him in the late lottery and he develops into the star player just about anyone who watched him closely in high school thought he would become. That’s a pretty enticing gamble, even if it’s probably not the most practical move the Pistons could make.

As far as on the court, Rivers is a good perimeter shooter, he was one of the quickest shooting guards in the country off the dribble and, for a freshman, he’s already good at drawing contact and getting to the free throw line.

Cons for the Pistons

The con, obviously, is that Rivers doesn’t address the frontcourt deficiencies. I would counter that by saying that, if the Pistons do believe he’s best available when they draft, two of their three most valuable trade assets are in the backcourt — Brandon Knight and Rodney Stuckey. If you believe Rivers is better than one or both of those guys from the team’s perspective, you take him and you move either Knight or Stuckey, since both should be able to bring a reasonable return at the moment.

But that’s really the only way taking Rivers would make sense, if it were the first of two moves, the second being a trade that sends out one of their guards for a capable forward or center.

Oh, and as Chad Ford notes, Rivers has molded both his game and demeanor after Kobe Bryant. That could be a positive or negative depending on your stance on Kobe. I’ll just leave it at that.

What others are saying

Chad Ford:

For Rivers to have a really successful NBA career, he’s going to have to drop the Kobe act and become a better shooter and really work on that floater.

If he does that he’ll be really effective. But I’m not sure he knows what he is and that has been, time and time again, a problem for players as they make the leap to the next level.


A crafty ball-handler with no shortage of shifty hesitation moves or blistering cross-overs, Rivers showed the ability to create separation from his defender in one-on-one situations and turn the corner to get into the paint on the pick and roll, even splitting the defense in impressive fashion on occasion. Extremely confident and aggressive, River’s decision-making once he got into the paint and drew additional defenders quickly became a point of interest for scouts, as the young guard struggled with aspects of his dribble-drive game throughout the season.

Rivers is a talented scoring guard will be able to put points on the board at any level … His jumper is strong, his ability to operate off the dribble is very good, he has the bloodlines, and he can’t be accused of not being aggressive … He needs to get more mature, continue to get stronger, be less selfish, and work on his D though … He’s still a likely eventual lotto pick, his offensive skills are just too good to be ignored.

Charlotte News Observer:

Duke freshman Austin Rivers might not be a true point guard and is small for an NBA shooting guard, but he sure is hard to guard. That’s why I think he’d actually be a better fit in the NBA than in the college game.

Rivers has this herky-jerky dribble-penetration game that consistently gets him to the rim. With the NBA strictly enforcing the no-hand check rule, it will be easier for him to excel at this than under college rules.

What is the best thing Austin Rivers does for his team?

Chad Lykins (follow him on Twitter) covers Duke basketball for Duke Hoop Blog:

When you think of a guy like Austin Rivers, the first few things that enter your mind is: fearless, self-confident, and the ability to score the basketball. Rivers has had an NBA-ready game since his junior year of high school. As a freshman at Duke, the Duke offense ran through Rivers, as he led the team in scoring with 15.5 points per game. He is lethal from anywhere on the floor and can catch instant fire quickly. Rivers is exceptional at attacking the basket, as he found himself at the free throw line a team-high 184 times. He is at his best in isolations. He possesses a deadly first step and crossover dribble that would leave some of the top NBA defenders shaken. Through his one and only year Duke, he has learned to be more in control of his play.  He also excels in an up-tempo environment. If selected by Detroit, his game would thrive with the Pistons style of play (Detroit ranked among the top half of teams in the NBA in fastbreak points per game). He is instant offense wherever he may land in the league and within a few years will be considered with among the top scoring guards in the NBA.



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