NBA Draft: Doubts and hopes surround Rivers
Editor's note: This is the 12th in a series examining top prospects in the NBA Draft. Profiles are based on conversations with NBA general managers and scouts.
Last time the son of an NBA coach entered the draft out of Duke, his name was Mike Dunleavy. He was viewed as a good shooter, decent athlete, strong ball-handler and capable passer.
Now comes Austin Rivers. He's the son of former NBA point guard and current Celtics coach Doc Rivers. The younger Rivers is viewed as a good shooter, decent athlete, strong ball-handler and capable passer.
But that's about where the similarities between Rivers and Dunleavy end. Rivers is supposedly a "combo guard, a perimeter shooter who has the skills to slide over and run the point. Question is, can he do either well enough to be a standout NBA player?
"Well, he is good enough at both to at least be a good NBA player, I'd think," said a Western Conference scout. "But I haven't seen enough to guarantee he'll be a future All-Star or anything like that."
That's probably because, as talented as Rivers was at Duke, he failed to play with much consistency. There are no doubts about his ability to shake defenders off the dribble and score in one-on-one situations.
Nor does anyone feel the need to cringe when he shoots 12 feet from the basket and beyond. But he was a little streaky and his decision-making abilities a little questionable. Not always, but enough to cause some hesitation among GMs and scouts.
"He pressed a little, maybe forced some things from time to time," said an Eastern Conference scout. "He could take over, but in my mind, didn't do it quite enough."
The scout quickly added, "At the same time, there was nothing overly concerning about his game at the offensive end. We're always looking for flaws, and with him there's really nothing troubling. There's just nothing that knocks your socks off, but that's OK."
Also on the bright side, Rivers measured at 6-foot-5 at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago – giving GMs the confidence he has the size to play shooting guard in the NBA. It would also make him one of the taller point guards. That is, if he can truly play the point.
"He reminds me of (Grizzlies guard) O.J. Mayo, with a better handle," said one team executive. "I'd be OK with a guy like that on my team."
Defensively, Rivers had an up-and-down freshman year, with some questioning whether he always made a full effort.
"Rivers was not an impact player," according to scouting website DraftExpress.com. "Playing with an inconsistent energy level, Rivers did a respectable job staying in front of his man when dialed in, but sometimes gave up penetration to more explosive players or was too aggressive stepping up to meet a ball-handler with a head of steam."
Rivers' status is one of the draft's biggest mysteries – as he's penciled in anywhere from 10th to 20th in mock drafts, as well as GM player rankings.
"But whoever gets him is likely getting, at worst, a solid contributor at guard," said the East scout. "If all goes well, he could be more than that. He is, after all, a coach's son. That can help a lot with his transition to the pros, and play a big role in his improvement."
Austin Rivers File
Weight: 205 pounds
Date of birth: 8-1-1992 (19 years old)
Hometown: Winter Park, Fla.
High School: Winter Park HS
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