NBA Draft Rumors: Breaking Down Why Austin Rivers' Stock Is on the Rise

Jay Wierenga@@JayWierengaCorrespondent IJune 25, 2012

GREENSBORO, NC - MARCH 16:  Austin Rivers #0 of the Duke Blue Devils goes up for a shot against B.J. Bailey #32 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 Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

It seems as though it was just yesterday that people were wondering if Duke's Austin Rivers would fall all the way to his father's Boston Celtics in the late first round.

There were concerns about his attitude, his frame and even his scoring.

Some basketball people thought that he had a high-bust potential given all of these issues.

My oh my, how things have changed.

According to's Sam Amick, Rivers' stock is on the rise.

Rivers continues to do well for himself, too. He entered this draft process with many teams wary of his occasionally cocky personality, but some executives are drooling over a confidence that one personnel man compared to that of Kobe Bryant. The armchair sports psychologist in me thinks it has a lot to do with the familiar vibe he projects. Rivers, the son of Celtics coach Doc Rivers, grew up around the NBA and acts as if he always saw himself getting to this point -- and much farther.


The Case for Rivers

Conventional wisdom used to be that guards needed a lot of time to mature physically, and therefore represented too much of a risk when it came to drafting them young.

During the trend of high school players jumping to the NBA in the 1990's and 2000's, the vast majority were big men.

Kevin Garnett, Jermaine O'Neal and Dwight Howard were all seen as better bets than their smaller counterparts.

There were a few exceptions, most notably Kobe Bryant, who was the first genuine guard to be drafted straight out of high school.

Rivers, as Amick points out, compares similarly to Bryant. He was born to an ex-NBA father, he spent his childhood around pro players and he doesn't lack for confidence.

But Bryant, though younger, was already more physically mature than Rivers, not to mention a couple inches taller.

But Bryant alone isn't the only reason that Rivers should be taken seriously.

Over the last decade, we have seen more and more somewhat physically diminutive guards make an impact right away.

Stephen Curry jumped right into the mix in Golden State and averaged close to 18 points per game as a rookie.

Kyrie Irving is far from physically imposing, yet at the tender age of 19, was already exhibiting the ability to overwhelm players much larger and older.

Even Detroit's Brandon Knight showed flashes of brilliance this year despite looking smaller than Rivers.

Today's NBA is dominated by guards that an get to the hoop, and the league protects them with enhanced rules to limit physicality, especially on the perimeter.

Some might say that when the NBA eliminated hand-checks, they eliminated the reason for strength on the perimeter, and gave the game over to the swift footed.

Today's NBA is tailor-made for Rivers, who can gamble as a defender and can score from anywhere on the court.


Where He Could Land

While the projections of a late first-round pick have certainly been debunked, it is truly difficult to tell where he could land.

Top five would be a stretch, but after that, it could be anyone's guess. 

Portland needs a shooting guard that can get their fans excited, and they possess the sixth and 11th picks.

Golden State probably is out of the question given its selection of Klay Thompson last year, but who knows given how crazy that front office can be.

Toronto could be in play at eight as could New Orleans at 10, especially if it thinks it can't re-sign Eric Gordon.

But the smart money is that he won't slip past Phoenix at No. 13.

This kid could be magical at the next level.


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