Summer League 2012: Why Hornets Fans Should Not Worry About Austin Rivers' Start

Will Osgood@@BRwillosgoodAnalyst IJuly 18, 2012

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JUNE 29:  Tenth pick overall in the 2012 NBA draft by the New Orleans Hornets, Austin Rivers talks to the media at the New Orleans Arena on June 29, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The following is the stat line for Austin Rivers, the New Orleans Hornets No. 10 pick and presumably  starting point guard for the team in 2012-13 and well beyond. 

Game One (Vs. Blazers): 3-13 FG, 1-8 (3-pt), 7-10 FT, 14 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 turnovers, 3 steals 

Game Two (Vs. Bucks): 1-6 FG, 0-0 (3-pt), 4-8 FT, 6 points, 2 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 turnovers, 1 steal.

That very stat line had many Hornets fans ready to take back their season ticket package purchases and panic at the thought of a point guard who really isn't a point guard, playing point guard for a team with a variety of odd fits on the roster. 

While it is odd to think Ryan Anderson and Anthony Davis will likely combine to fill the power forward-center void on this particular team, the fit at point guard is better than two summer league games would have you believe. 

Just looking at the stat line alone there is a lot to be encouraged by. First, Rivers showed an exceptional ability to get to the foul line. With Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson playing the four and five, and Eric Gordon the two, the Hornets figure to live at the foul line in 2012-13 and beyond. 

Rivers will lead that charge and aide the rest of his teammates in getting there early and often. His ability to get to the rim will open things up for the rest of the team inside and from deep. Sure, Rivers' percentage wasn't high in the two games, but you have to think in the heat of the moment Rivers will make the ones that count. 

Then you realize Rivers is a decent rebounder for a point guard. For a team that struggled in that area, it is a nice benefit to have a point guard capable of rebounding at opportune times. 

Perhaps most importantly, Rivers improved from game one to two in the most important area—assist-to-turnover ratio. In game one it was awful. In game two, it was five-to-two. It's still not Chris Paul-esque, but it's an obvious improvement. 

For a player who is a score-first guard, five assists in a Summer League game is something to celebrate. That he limited his turnovers to two is reason to throw a Mardi Gras-type party. 

As reported by the Times-Picayune's John Reid, Rivers has admitted the transition to point guard at the pro game is one he anticipates being a tough one. But as Summer League head coach James Borrago mentioned, "there are point guards in this league you see develop with that mentality". 

In other words, Rivers knows he has a challenge, but it's one he is willing to take on head first. And though he may never have played a true point guard at Duke, he was regularly the playmaker in the offense. 

Add to that the fact that Eric Gordon is a great dribble drive guy who can also set up teammates. That will take some pressure off Rivers. And Greivis Vasquez is a great passer as the second point guard. 

All those factors will allow Rivers to ease into his role as point guard for the Hornets. 

Finally, remember this is Summer League. Players are supposed to make mistakes. And this is the best time for them to do so. I'd rather Rivers struggle now than in November or December. 

Even then, Rivers will probably struggle. But he's a 19-year old rookie. It's okay to struggle then even. As long as he shows progress from now till then, the Hornets will be happy. 

There's no doubt the talent is there. Rivers will get his opportunities. The more experience he gets the more likely he is to develop into the player Dell Demps and Monty Williams believe he can be.