And with no further ado, FanIQ Productions presents:
1. THE DUEL-THREAT
Rivers is such a difficult matchup because he’s got an incredibly quick first step and he can shoot the lights out from outside. It’s a pretty rare package, and what makes it even more enticing is the fact that Rivers is tall enough to fit into the shooting guard position perfectly at around 6’5”. Amongst other shooting guards who have gone in the lottery in the past five years or so, Rivers reminds me the most of Eric Gordon and Stephon Curry. He doesn’t have the same explosiveness at the rim as Gordon or as consistently reliable a shot as Curry, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see him averaging 20 points per game in just a couple years like both Gordon and Curry were able to do early in their careers.
2. MISTAKEN IDENTITY
The Duke Basketball program has bred a collection of elite NBA players from Elton Brand to Kyrie Irving, but while Brand and Irving were able to convince NBA scouts they were the consensus number one overall picks, Rivers is predicted to go anywhere between about fifth and fifteenth overall.
The reason? Rivers was a bit out of sync with his Duke teammates on some occasions and despite having an extremely talented team, the Blue Devils were ousted in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Irving’s team didn’t have much more success and he played only a couple games in Duke blue, but reliable point guards are such a commodity and Irving is such a special talent that he was able to secure his spot as the #1 pick during the pre-draft workouts.
Coach K’s program relies greatly on ball movement and unselfishness and while I wouldn’t want to call Rivers a selfish player, he definitely needs the ball in his hands for a solid bulk of the game to maximize his effectiveness. In my mind, it’s sort of similar to the way Kobe needs to get his 20 shots a night in order for his team to have the most success. Rivers sort of struggled to assert himself at Duke, but I think on the right team, if he gets the green light, he could be a dynamic scorer, maybe in the Allen Iverson mold.
3. THE BASKETBALL UPBRINGING
Rivers has been around basketball his entire life, with one of today’s better basketball minds as his guiding arm. But while Doc was more of a defensive-minded player and played point guard, Rivers is more of an offensive talent and a shooting guard primarily. Just like with Kobe Bryant and Stephon Curry, there’s no question about the basketball IQ and the ability to play under the spotlight, with all three players having grown up with a father that played professional ball. Austin isn’t someone who is just going to quit if he’s not given a starting role right off the bat. He’s going to continue to pursue his goal to be the best player he can possibly be and I think this devotion to the game goes a long ways.
4. GO-TO SCORER ABILITY
So many teams today are able to hang with some of the league’s top powers for about 35 minutes, but when it comes down to the waning minutes of a game, they struggle to find a go-to scorer to counter a LeBron or Durant or Bryant. Well, Rivers has all the tools to be that go-to guy in the clutch. We saw it on full display during his buzzer-beater against rival UNC. Because of his duel-threat ability, the opposing defender has to respect both the penetration and the jumper almost equally and that makes him a coach’s dream in the clutch.
When I’m looking over the projected top 15-20 players in this year’s draft, Davis and Rivers are the only two guys who really strike me as potential stars, the types of players that you could really build a franchise around. Sometimes role players and glue guys are what works best for a team, but if you’re looking for highest upside beyond the top spot in the draft, look no further than Austin.