Austin Rivers: Why Top Prospect Should Have Stayed at Duke
Looking at Austin Rivers’ statistics from his freshman year, it’s obvious that he is barely in the top 1.2 percent of NCAA basketball players. He should have stayed at Duke until he proved he is ready for the NBA.
Rivers averaged 15.5 points per game last season and shot .433 from the field and .365 from 3-point territory. None of these numbers are in the top 100 in Division I.
By contrast, Kyrie Irving, who was a Duke freshman two seasons ago and went as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, averaged 17.5 points per game and shot .529 from the field.
The difference is stark.
Irving went on to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers in scoring this season (18.5 points per game), but Rivers doesn’t look ready to have that sort of success.
Even one more season of college basketball would have served Rivers well in furthering his development as a player. His shooting percentages—especially an abysmal .658 from the free-throw line—suggest his biggest problem is a lack of consistency.
It’s a lot harder for a player to get consistent when he isn’t starting and playing every game, which Rivers won’t in his rookie NBA season. The experience of starting every game, especially for a college basketball powerhouse such as Duke, would be more beneficial than practicing with seasoned professionals.
The gap between college and professional sports—in all sports—is larger than most people realize.
This isn’t to say that Rivers won’t go high in the draft. He’ll go in the first round, probably in the top 10.
His future as a professional will depend a lot on the team that picks him and how seriously it takes Rivers’ development. He is going to need some time to grow into the league.
This transition would have been much easier had he stayed at least one more season at Duke before jumping ship and declaring for the NBA Draft.
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