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New Orleans Hornets: Assessing Austin Rivers' Improvement

BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 16: Austin Rivers #25 of the New Orleans Hornets carries the ball down the court against the Boston Celtics during the game on January 16, 2013 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
Joshua J VannucciniSenior Analyst IIIFebruary 23, 2013

At the beginning of the season, the New Orleans Hornets duo of Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers were the talk of the league. It would be an understatement to say the hype surrounding the latter has died down.

Many are ready to call Rivers a bust, and rightly so as he has not played up to expectations. However, such a label is premature as the rookie has already begun to show improvement.

For his first year in the NBA, Rivers is averaging 6.0 points and 2.1 assists on 35.1 percent shooting. Any conversion rate below 40 is always alarming, yet the 6'4" guard gets the benefit of the doubt being a rook. 

He had a disaster of a month through January, knocking down a miserable 28.4 percent of his shots. From beyond the arc, his 15.8 clip was absolutely abysmal. Nevertheless, Rivers has turned the corner in February.

This month he is shooting 43.9 and 42.9 percent from the field and from three-point range respectively. Rivers has bumped his scoring average of 3.1 through January up to 6.1 so far in February. He's shown flashes of promise, only to be burdened by inconsistency. 

Rivers had a fantastic 27-point game against Minnesota on December 14, shooting 9-of-14 and 5-of-6 from three. He then ended the month averaging 6.5 points on 34.3 percent, turning away all hope that he was finally breaking out.

Head coach Monty Williams is trusting Rivers more this month, allowing him to play an increased role of 22.8 minutes per game. While it was mostly attributed to his offensive struggles, the rookie got just 14.7 minutes of action across January.

While Rivers' contributions are most certainly welcome, they have not come in regular fashion. He has drastically improved as of late, and Hornets fans can only hope it becomes a trend.

Rivers shouldn't be judged too harshly, as he played just one year of college ball at Duke. He is most likely in a steep transition period, as he learns the ropes of the NBA. Rivers will fulfil his potential down the track, just don't expect it just yet. 

All statistics courtesy of espn.com/nba/statistics

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