Knicks Trade Rumors: Pros And Cons Of Trading For Austin Rivers

The New York Knicks and Los Angeles Clippers have engaged in trade talks. What would the pros and cons be of New York acquiring Austin Rivers?


The New York Knicks are inching closer to the 2017 NBA Trade Deadline. As that fateful date nears, the possibility of Carmelo Anthony being traded appears to be as real and threatening as ever before.

Though the trade rumors have yet to come to fruition, there’s a growing belief that Anthony will be dealt to the Los Angeles Clippers.

Anthony would be joining a Clippers team that includes Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and Chris Paul. In order to make that happen, however, the Clippers will have to navigate a complicated trade process.

According to Ramona Shelburne and Marc Stein of ESPN, the Knicks aren’t interested in Jamal Crawford’s contract and the Clippers don’t want to part ways with J.J. Redick.

Sources said the Knicks ‎are reluctant to absorb the three years and $42 million left on Crawford’s contract after this season, which has led to the hunt for a third team that might be interested in Crawford. The Clippers, meanwhile, are hesitant to surrender the sharpshooting Redick even if they were at full strength in the backcourt, sources said.

If New York doesn’t want Crawford, and Los Angeles refuses to give up Redick, then Austin Rivers would be the only guard included in a trade package.

It should be noted that the trade wouldn’t simply be Anthony being dealt for Rivers straight up. Instead, it would include Rivers and would likely require a third team to get involved to improve the package being sent to New York.

The question is: what would the pros and cons be of the New York Knicks acquiring Austin Rivers from the Los Angeles Clippers?

Jan 27, 2017; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks power forward Kristaps Porzingis (6) celebrates after a dunk against the Charlotte Hornets with New York Knicks center Willy Hernangomez (14) during the second quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 27, 2017; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks power forward Kristaps Porzingis (6) celebrates after a dunk against the Charlotte Hornets with New York Knicks center Willy Hernangomez (14) during the second quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Pro: Fitting The Timeline

The New York Knicks have a pair of promising young big men in Kristaps Porzingis and Willy Hernangomez. Beyond that duo, however, are a group of veterans who are expectedly focused more on winning than developing the stars of tomorrow.

That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but New York needs a guard who will receive a high number of minutes and develop along the same timeline as Porzingis and Hernangomez.

Hernangomez is 22 years of age, Porzingis in 21, and Rivers is still just 24 years of age in his fifth NBA season. Those ages line up well enough for the Knicks to have three legitimate building blocks to secure the future with.

Whether Rivers is a starter or the sixth man, he’s a young player with upside and a favorable contract under the rising salary cap.

Rivers is in the first season of a three-year deal worth $35,745,000. He’s due to make $11,825,000 in 2017-18 and has a player option worth $12,650,000 in 2018-19—two affordable numbers that would enable long-term financial flexibility.

Both Derrick Rose and Brandon Jennings could command a salary above $12 million per year, which makes landing Rivers on a multi-year deal an ideal scenario.

December 25, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Austin Rivers (25) reaches for the ball ahead of Los Angeles Lakers forward Thomas Robinson (15) during the second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

December 25, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Austin Rivers (25) reaches for the ball ahead of Los Angeles Lakers forward Thomas Robinson (15) during the second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Con: Defensive Inconsistency

When healthy, the Los Angeles Clippers are a legitimately elite team with the uncanny ability to dominate on both ends of the floor. Unfortunately, health issues have exposed role players by shining a light on the areas in which they struggle individually.

Austin Rivers has shown some signs of individual development on the defensive end of the floor, but he remains inconsistent in that regard.

Rivers has a Defensive Real Plus-Minus in the negative at -2.24 through 50 appearances. Los Angeles is allowing 108.7 points per 100 possessions with Rivers on the court and a team-best 101.8 when he isn’t.

For the New York Knicks, adding a player who can’t provide a positive impact on defense would be tough to justify.

New York is allowing 108.1 points per 100 possessions in 2016-17, which ranks No. 23 in the Association. Thus, if there’s anything that the Knicks need, it’s to improve on the defensive end of the floor.

Rivers has shown signs of improved individual defense, but it’s fair to question if he would be the answer to the Knicks’ perimeter woes.

Feb 6, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Los Angeles Clippers guard Austin Rivers (25) prepares to shoot the ball between Toronto Raptors guard Terrence Ross (31) and forward Pascal Siakam (43) in the first quarter at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Feb 6, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Los Angeles Clippers guard Austin Rivers (25) prepares to shoot the ball between Toronto Raptors guard Terrence Ross (31) and forward Pascal Siakam (43) in the first quarter at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Pro: Scoring Instincts

Austin Rivers has yet to find his niche as an NBA player, but he’s consistently proven to have intriguing instincts as a scorer. Polishing his skill set is another story altogether, but Rivers seems to have a strong understanding of how to put points on the board.

One could debate whether or not he’s built to be a starter, but Rivers has the perfect skill set to secure a permanent place as a Sixth Man of the Year candidate.

Rivers could play the Goran Dragic role in Jeff Hornacek’s offensive system. He can play without the ball and spot up for 3-point field goals, and has the handles to create penetration and collapse opposing defenses around him.

If Rivers learns to better recognize his surroundings and options as a facilitator, he could succeed in the playmaking role that Hornacek helped Dragic thrive in.

It’s worth noting that Rivers is shooting 43.0 percent on catch and shoot 3-point field goals in 2016-17. He’s a below average finisher and midrange shooter, however, although those numbers are skewed by the fact that he only recently received the opportunity to learn by fire.

For what it’s worth, Rivers is averaging 16.9 points in 35.4 minutes per game on a quality slash line of .449/.377/.708 in 15 appearances since Jan. 1.

Jan 21, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Austin Rivers (25) dribbles the ball up court in the third quarter against the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center. The Nuggets won 123-98. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 21, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Austin Rivers (25) dribbles the ball up court in the third quarter against the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center. The Nuggets won 123-98. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Con: Positional Ambiguity

Whether it’s at small forward or in the backcourt, the New York Knicks need help along the perimeter. The interior has depth and star potential, but the perimeter is flush with solid players who just can’t seem to mesh as a unit.

Unfortunately, while Austin Rivers could help the Knicks at either guard position, his biggest knock at this current juncture is that he’s positionally ambiguous.

Rivers has flashed the ability to facilitate, but he’s done so with inconsistency. Part of that can be chalked up to playing in a deep backcourt that includes Jamal Crawford, Chris Paul, and J.J. Redick, but Rivers has even been unpredictable as a starter in Paul’s absence.

Rivers has the handles and body control to create penetration, but his inconsistency as a finisher and erratic nature as a facilitator call his true position into question.

It helps that Rivers has become an above-average 3-point shooter during the 2016-17 NBA regular season. It doesn’t necessarily help that he’s still a tweener who isn’t guaranteed to be able to run an offense.

There’s risk involved in every trade, and Jeff Hornacek’s system helps tweeners find their place, but Rivers’ positional ambiguity is a concern.

The question is: should the New York Knicks include Austin Rivers in a potential Carmelo Anthony trade? Hit the comments section and let us know!

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