NBA Draft 2012: Austin Rivers Must Improve Ball-Handling Skills to Be Successful

Ryan Phillips@@RumorsandRantsContributor IIIMay 29, 2012

GREENSBORO, NC - MARCH 16:  Austin Rivers #0 of the Duke Blue Devils goes up for a shot over C.J. McCollum #3 of the Lehigh Mountain Hawks in the second half during the second round of the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Greensboro Coliseum on March 16, 2012 in Greensboro, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Austin Rivers was one of the top high school players in the country when he landed at Duke last fall. While he had a decent freshman season, Doc Rivers' son has a lot to improve on as he heads into the 2012 NBA Draft.

At 6'4" and around 200 pounds, Rivers currently projects as a shooting guard. But in that capacity he's undersized and ranks fifth on my board at the position. The way for him to improve his stock is to show he can handle the point. 

Rivers is a very confident player and is also an excellent shooter with range beyond the three-point line. He hit 36.5 percent from beyond the arc and he will improve from there with time. He is very quick and can get to the hole with regularity, but I'm not a huge fan of his ball-handling skills. 

During his freshman season Rivers did much of the ball-handling for Duke, but averaged just 2.1 assists against 2.3 turnovers.

That's a horrible ratio. 

With his size and shooting ability, Rivers could turn into a really good point guard. But to do that he needs to develop his left hand more as he was incredibly reliant on his right during his only collegiate season.

He also needs to improve his basketball IQ. He took a lot of bad shots and often gambled needlessly on defense.

Most of all though, Rivers needs to learn to not be selfish in his team's offense. At the NBA level, he will certainly have other skilled players around himself, and he must learn to utilize those guys and not force shots. 

If Rivers can improve his ball-handling, learn to pass up bad shots and work to get others open, he could turn out to be a steal in the middle of the first round. If not, he will end up being a middling shooting guard and will waste what is a lot of natural talent.