Obviously, Austin Rivers has suffered from a severe NBA learning curve. The problem is, we're seeing all the same problems we saw while he was at Duke; they're just more magnified now because of better competition in the pro game.
He always struggled to create for others while playing for the Blue Devils, and at times, he even struggled to create for himself. His shooting splits were mediocre (43 percent field goal, 37 percent three-pointers, 66 percent free throw), and considering he only averaged two assists per game, it's hard to see why the Hornets thought he would be an effective point guard at the NBA level.
When Rivers got to college, everyone was bigger, faster and stronger, so he wasn't as effective. Now, in the NBA, we're seeing him attempt to make an even bigger jump, and the results have been disastrous.
So far, Rivers is averaging just six points, three assists and three rebounds per game in 27 minutes. These stats don't seem so bad for a rookie, until we realize he's sixth on the team in minutes per game and his shooting splits are 30/21/68.
This nightmarish per-minute production has drowned his player efficiency rating (PER), which currently sits at almost 5.7. To put that in perspective, that would have been the seventh-worst PER among qualified players last year, putting him between Shawne Williams and Matt Carroll.
When Rivers plays point guard, the position he was drafted to play, his production gets even worse. His PER as a point guard is 4.0, which would have put him last among qualified players last season.
Rivers has also been a liability defensively. The Hornets are three points per possession worse defensively with Rivers on the floor. Considering his competition is Roger Mason Jr. and Brian Roberts, the bar is set pretty low.
Fortunately for Rivers, there's still time for him to pick it up. He has talent, and his competitive fire should kick in at some points.
I'm not writing off Rivers as a bust yet, but so far, there's not a lot of evidence going against that classification.