NBA Scout Focus: Breaking Down Duke Prospect Austin Rivers

Paul Grossinger@@pgrossingerAnalyst IIApril 23, 2012

NBA Scout Focus: Breaking Down Duke Prospect Austin Rivers

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    Austin Rivers is a special NBA prospect!

    The former Duke Blue Devils shooting guard was the best scorer on his team and a true offensive force. Rivers is also one of the most gifted players in the draft. He should be a first round draft pick and a force in the NBA.

    But will he become an NBA superstar?

Austin Rivers' Intangibles

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    Rivers has excellent NBA bloodlines and a good feel for basketball. He is the son of Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers and has never had any off-court issues. 

    However, Rivers is an offense-first player who sometimes struggles with the nuances of the game; proper placement on the court, moving without the ball, and creating offense.  He also often seemed to play slightly under his skill level for much of the season, almost seeming to coast by on his talent. 

    Rivers would have benefited from another year at Duke, which would have given him the chance to hone those skills and become the leader of a Blue Devils team capable of an NCAA tournament run.

    But, let’s not nitpick: Rivers is a character player with good on-court body language and a competitive will to win.  He will be an asset to the team that drafts him.

Austin Rivers' Scoring and Shooting

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    This is where Rivers will earn his pay!  He is a scorer through and through.  Rivers has excellent fundamental offensive skills and a very smooth scorer’s game.  He combines that with a very smooth shooting stroke and long, long range on his three point shot. 

    If anything, Rivers coasted a bit in his freshman season.  But he still posted a seemingly effortless 15 points per game with a decent conversion percentage on threes.  So, Rivers has the offensive skills to star at the shooting guard position for many years.  

Austin Rivers' Defense and Rebounding

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    Rivers really needs to work on his defense.  Like many young basketball stars, he focused on flashy offense first and continues to put more effort in on that end of the floor.  He sometimes lags on defense and will need to be willing to learn to guard his position more consistently.  His three rebounds per game were nothing to write home about either. 

    Nonetheless, Rivers does have sound defensive fundamentals.  As the son of defense-first coach Doc Rivers, it was almost a prerequisite.  So, Rivers needs to perform better on defense, but the technical foundation is there for him to become a sound defensive player.  

Austin Rivers Athleticism and Tools

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    Rivers is a good,  not great, athlete with the tools to be an NBA starter.  He is 6’4”, which is slightly undersized for a 2-guard, and has a decent wingspan.  His lateral quickness, agility, and athleticism in the lane are all good enough to succeed at the professional level.  But make no mistake: Rivers is a skills player and he will only thrive in the NBA if he invests the time to take his offensive technique to another level, become a deft offensive creator capable of spending time at the point, and develop into a sound defender.  He is definitely not a tools first player.

Austin Rivers Ball Handling and Passing

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    Rivers has the skills to be a combo guard type who spends most of his time starting at the 2-spot, but can shift to play the point when needed.  He has a smooth game, which is complete with passing ability and excellent ball-handling.  With a guard glut at Duke in his freshman season, Rivers did not get many chances to direct the offense, serving instead as a spot-up shooter.  But, in the NBA, he will need to hone these skills further to reach his star ceiling. 

Austin Rivers' Team Fits and NBA Player Comparison

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    Rivers is a shooting guard who could develop into a Rip Hamilton type of player.  He fits best with teams that have needs in that spot.  He is a top-10 talent, but he could fall because he stayed only one year at Duke and is not a finished product.  Detroit looks like a good fit, since pairing him with young point guard Brandon Knight and emerging center Greg Monroe would create a good future core.  Phoenix would also be a good fit.  And watch out for the Chicago Bulls: he is the perfect fit for their 2-guard hole and they will have their own pick and a future pick from Charlotte to dangle in a trade to move up. 


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