Tenth Pick Tournament Round Two: Austin Rivers vs. Terrence Ross

Published: June 15, 2012

McNamara hates Ross and Schwan hates Rivers. This should be fun…

The Case for Austin Rivers

(By Michael McNamara)

No need to wait for my opponents argument to respond because I already know what’s coming. He is going to show you a bunch of stats and whine about how inefficient Austin Rivers is, despite the fact that I doubt he watched him play for even five minutes this year. Then he’ll talk about how Ross scored more points per 40 minutes or some other stat that he pulled from some database and that will be the summation of his argument. Well, you know what, I got stats too- but beyond that I actually watched these two guys play and if you do that it is clear as day that only one of these young men is truly gifted and unique, with the potential to be transcendent.

Is Terrence Ross horrible? Far from it, and I actually wouldn’t mind grabbing him if we picked up another pick close to twenty, but there is no way I am taking him over Austin Rivers if both are available at ten. Terrence Ross can shoot, slash, and is a willing defender. He’s a guy that a coach will love, that won’t get in trouble off the court, and will work hard every day to improve. But to be honest, those guys aren’t that rare. In fact, that guys’ name is Courtney Lee. It’s Gordon Hayward, it’s Wesley Matthews. All good players, but all replaceable, none of them true difference makers.

Rivers is a go big or go home type of guy. Is there a chance that his borderline cockiness could rub some of his coaches or teammates the wrong way? I suppose so. Will it take him a few years to learn how to be more of a team player and lose that tunnel vision? Yeah, probably. But is it really all that surprising that a guy who has been head and shoulders better than his teammates all his life is so self-confident and has the tendency to trust himself more than others? I’m not surprised by it, and to be honest, a lot of the great scorers in the history of this league have had that same problem. You know who can change that? No, not just Monty Williams- but Anthony Davis too.

Rivers was the most sought after recruit in his class for nearly two years before Anthony Davis seemingly came out of nowhere and took his crown. According to an ESPN Rise article (not available online), Rivers went to a camp looking to show Davis up and take his title back. Instead, the story said, he called his father up after the camp and said,”This guy’s the real deal. He’s going to be special.” Obviously, Rivers looks up to Davis and knows he doesn’t have to be the only guy on this Hornets team, and because of that I expect his playing style to evolve quite a bit if the Hornets make the right choice on June 28th.

As for his “inefficiency”, I won’t even get into the fact that it was a small sample size. I mean, how can we say on one hand that 35 games means nothing in the NBA and then turn around and act as if those same number of games should dictate who Rivers is going to be over the next 15 years? Rather than sample size, however, I would like to argue that Duke was simply the wrong fit for Rivers in the same way that UCLA was a horrible fit for Russell Westbrook. In fact, since I have limited column space, I will just let you watch this two minute video of two guys (love them or hate them) who know their basketball.

I know the “bad fit” argument is an overused one when it comes to prospects, but I believe that this is one of the times it applies. What is the old saying- “Who is the only guy that could hold Michael Jordan to under 20 points? Dean Smith.” Now please don’t think I am comparing Rivers to Jordan, I am just simply saying that there are times when a player’s strengths and a coaches system don’t blend perfectly, and this happens to have been one of the cases.

Terrence Ross got a pass of sorts here because I just love talking about Rivers, and I already destroyed him last week. Unfortunately, I was forced to battle him with a weak-minded shooting guard that looks like Bubbs from The Wire. This week, I got the exact opposite; a cold-blodded killer, an assassin, a difference-maker, a guy with… well, I’ll just let Kobe say it. 

Ross is just another guy, while Rivers has the potential to be one of the guys in this league. You don’t pass on that to take another Courtney Lee.

The Case for Terrence Ross

(By: Ryan Schwan)

Again, Terrence Ross gets to do battle against not a player, but a Name.  Austin Rivers went to Duke.  He’s the son of Doc Rivers.  He was rated one of the top 10 high school recruits in the country.  He’s a BIG PROSPECT.

Right.  Capital letters.

Terrence Ross went to Washington.  He was “only” a top 35 recruit out of high school.  He’s not related to anyone of note.  He didn’t hit a three pointer to beat North Carolina in a BIG GAME this season.

Of course, Terrence Ross also didn’t shoot 17% from deep and 57% from the free throw line against that same North Carolina team in an 18 point loss three weeks later.  That was also Austin Rivers.  Terrence Ross didn’t shoot 35.7% in the first round of the tournament against 15th-seeded LeHigh.  That was Austin Rivers.  Oh, and Terrence Ross didn’t let CJ McCollum, the SG of LeHigh, go for 30, 6, and 6 against him either.  That was Austin Rivers.

You see there’s a huge discrepancy between Austin Rivers the Name and Austin Rivers the basketball player.  If you read ESPN’s notes on him there’s this gem of a line that is symptomatic of the real issue:  “GMs seem to think we have Austin Rivers too low. While scouts have generally been down on him all year, a number of NBA GMs told me they had him ranked considerably higher on their boards.”

So the scouts – the guys paid to watch these players and pick them apart, are not impressed by Rivers, while the GMs, who spend less time watching college basketball than you’d think, rank him higher.  Austin Rivers the Name vs. Austin Rivers the Player.

Now, I could bombard you with college stats.  I could do the same thing I did with Lamb, put their two stat-lines next to each other, and point out that Terrence Ross has the advantage in every single category but free throws attempted, and that Austin Rivers’ PER was terrible.  I’m not going to focus on that.  Instead I’m going to focus instead on his potential as an NBA player.

You see, College stats don’t always translate.  That should be no surprise.  There are, however, a few stats that are indicators of success in the NBA, and can translate based on various comparison studies.  Those stats are:

  • Rebounding rates
  • Steal and Blocks numbers(and are a great indication of a players athletic gifts)
  • Free Throw percentage(it also has a moderate correspondence to overall Pro shooting prowess)

Now, after bringing up those three categories, I almost feel bad about what I’m about to do.  It does so happen that Rivers is awful in every one of these.  Still, it needs to be done:

Austin Rivers managed 3.4 rebounds a game.  That’s tied for fourth from the bottom in this year’s SG crop.  No help here.

Steals and Blocks
Austin Rivers averaged a steal per game this year.  As a guard, you should trip over one steal a game, but that’s not even the worst part of this category.  6’5″ Austin Rivers blocked one shot this year.  No, not one shot a game. One shot all year.

Free Throw %
This isn’t the only shooting percentage Rivers was bad at, but it’s the only one that translates consistently.  Rivers shot 65.3%.  In high school he shot 70%.  Good shooters in the NBA post Free Throw % of around 80% in college.  Yes, players can improve their shooting, but why take a crappy guy and hope he becomes solid?  I’d take the solid guy and hope he becomes good.

So Rivers isn’t a shooter.  He isn’t a defender.  He isn’t a rebounder.  Do I need to mention that Terrence Ross was only surpassed by Bradley Beal as a rebounding guard and averaged twice what Rivers did?  That he averaged the highest guard block rate in the country and 50% more steals than Rivers?  That he shot better than Rivers from the stripe?  No, I think you see the pattern here.

Lastly, we get to what I’m sure my opponent will trumpet to the heavens.  Austin Rivers has confidence.  Austin Rivers wants the ball in his hands.  Austin Rivers is a coach’s kid and knows how to play.

Please.  Terrence Ross averaged a higher usage rate than Austin Rivers.  He wanted the ball in his hands just as much and played with just as much confidence.  The difference?  He actually MADE SHOTS.  Oh, and if being the son of a coach is such a huge bonus, then why does Austin Rivers have such a crappy shot selection, play such lame defense, and make so few passes for assists?     If anything, this should be a red flag.  If your Point Guard/Championship Coach father can’t teach you the right way to play, then what chance does anyone else?

So please, don’t pick the Name, pick the Player.  Vote Terrence Ross.


  1. Mason Ginsberg

    June 15, 2012 at 8:22 am

    Great Anti-Rivers case made by Ryan here. A 6’5″ shooting guard in college only having one block all season is unfathomable, and only one steal per game isn’t much better. In terms of raw talent, Rivers may have a slight edge, but Terrence Ross just seems much more put together, IMO.

    Despite my hatred of Rivers, I realize that this will likely inevitably come down to him vs. Lillard next round, and I welcome the challenge. However, here’s to hoping that the readers take Ryan’s case to heart before then and realize that Rivers is living more off of his name than Anthony Davis is on his unibrow.

  2. Soundwave

    June 15, 2012 at 8:57 am

    Shame on both of you for mentioning FT percentage without mentioning FT attempted.

    I will gladly take a player that shoots 67-70% while attempting 6 FT per game than a guy that shoots 77% while attempting only 2 FT per game.

    The player that gets to the line more often creates so many more problems for his opponent. Not to mention that Rivers will be able to fill in at the point as well as back up Gordon.

    • Ryan Schwan

      June 15, 2012 at 11:29 am

      I’m not allowed to add to my argument, but I must point out I DID mention free throw rate.

      • Jason Calmes

        June 15, 2012 at 11:48 am

        I got knocked similarly.

        Read, people. Please.

      • Michael McNamara

        June 15, 2012 at 12:46 pm

        And I did go in depth on Ross FT attempts in the last round, which is linked to in this piece

      • Soundwave

        June 15, 2012 at 1:16 pm

        Very briefly, ” I could do the same thing I did with Lamb, put their two stat-lines next to each other, and point out that Terrence Ross has the advantage in every single category but free throws attempted, and that Austin Rivers’ PER was terrible. ”

        Yes, you “mentioned it” but blew over the huge discrepancy between the two. In fairness, I understand it would have only hurt you argument. So you did your job, which brings me to Michael………

      • Soundwave

        June 15, 2012 at 1:28 pm

        The post above was for Ryan.

        You did such an excellent job in round one of pointing out that specific stat that I am totally surprised you didn’t add it to this article instead of linking it. IMO, adding that here, instead of linking it (yes I read the original link but I’m looking at this bracket as a brand new argument instead of a compilation), would have been a KO punch. Just for that I think Ryan wins the argument, but I still like Rivers better.

        And maybe I should be looking at this as a total work instead of a new series, but I like to think each round is different and new.

      • Michael McNamara

        June 15, 2012 at 3:32 pm

        Our hope (well mine at least) is that our readers take the time to read all of these debates and learn about all the prospects and retain that knowledge. With that being the case, I find it redundant to keep repeating the same information.

        Imagine these as Monty and Dell sitting down to play Devil’s advocate. One day they discuss Lamb vs. Ross, and then another day Rivers vs. Ross. No need to repeat info that the other guy already knows.

      • Jason Calmes

        June 15, 2012 at 4:08 pm

        Plus, linking skirts our length limits which may or may not be followed.

        No one wondered why my pitches weren’t 3000 words?

  3. kempleton

    June 15, 2012 at 9:18 am

    This is a hard one too. Because, I am not on the Rivers bandwagon. 🙂

    I never watched Terrence Ross. But, looking at play-by-play’s of Huskies close games, I can see that he was used at a high rate for late-game plays and he succeeded in most of them scoring his teams most crucial points. So, Austin Rivers may have scored that buzzer beating 3 pointer against NC State but Ross looks capable of doing the same.

    Now, I think I heard that at least two other prospects NAMED Ross as the SLEEPER of this draft class. That is impressive! The guy must be special to earn that recognition by his competition.

    Monty Williams said Rivers has good command of the ball. That’s impressive too.

    Nothing against Ross but Quincy Pondexter played for the Huskies as well and his stats in his last season with them was: 19.3 Pt, 7.4 reb, 1.8 ast, 1.3 stl, %53FG, %35 3-pt, %82FT. Now, compare those with the stats of Ross. Any similarities? 🙂 Go figure.

    Stats are not everything. In the end, player X might have looked better and played better than player Y before coming to NBA. However, who knows if player X becomes Kwame Brown and player Y becomes Tyson Chandler in the NBA level! 🙂

    • Ian H

      June 15, 2012 at 9:31 am

      You took my exact thought. Terrance Ross is Quincy Pondexter exactly. Similar type player extremely talented and effective level but I can’t imagine them more than a 7th guy on a contending team. I can’t say I’m a big fan of Rivers’ game but it’s more NBA ready rather it’s the pick and roll or the ultra inefficient ISO. People questioned Kobe’s offensive decision making first 2/3 years then he got it or became such a great scorer that it didn’t matter. I say Rivers just cuz I could see him as a top 3/4 guy on a contending team. Bigger Jason Terry.

      • Al

        June 15, 2012 at 2:37 pm

        100% agreed!! Ross is Quincy Pondexter 2.0. This was basically no more than an anti-Rivers rant, without much praise for Ross besides the fact that he didn’t miss the shots that Rivers missed.

    • nola hustle

      June 15, 2012 at 11:43 am

      haven’t had a chance to see much of him, can anyone make an argument why he should be better than q-pon?

  4. ADubs

    June 15, 2012 at 9:40 am

    I was leaning heavily toward Rivers before this article, but now I see the race much closer between these two. Rivers has the potential to be very special, but here’s a comparison I haven’t seen yet on him… Eric Gordon. Both players were one and done in college, and highly sought after Top 10 SGs out of high school. Both went to elite programs and played on solid but not spectacular teams for their one season, and both were the go-to guys for those teams. Their numbers are fairly similar except a couple of key areas…

    PPG – 20.9 vs 15.5, Gordon wins
    FT% – 83.4 vs 65.8, Gordon wins
    3PT% – 33.7 vs 36.5, Rivers wins, but Gordon made more than 1 3Pt shot per game more than Rivers
    BPG – 0.6 vs 0.0, Gordon wins by a landslide

    I found this interesting, because to me the only glaring stats Rivers needs to work on are FT% and defense (specifically blocking, but the steals could improve too), and he could put up Gordon-esque numbers.

    I think I might stick with Rivers on this one, for the potential alone.

  5. Ian H

    June 15, 2012 at 9:40 am

    To think the Hornets could make it with the 2 top recruits from one year ago both at 19 years old with a 23 yr old Eric Gordon and 22 yr old potential lockdown defender in Aminu, all lottery picks by the way” due to the Chris Paul trade makes this possibly one of the greatest hauls ever for a 26 yr old PG with a bad knee who may even possibily come back in a year is just amazing.

  6. Josh

    June 15, 2012 at 10:32 am

    I’m not a fan of either of them, but this would be a tough decision. Terrence Ross wins in the size category because he’s 6’7 197, and Rivers is 6’5 203. Offensively, Rivers is much better at getting to the basket and can shoot from outside but is inconsistent. Ross had better shooting field goal, three point, and free throw percentages; but he only averaged 2.7 free throw attempts/game (Rivers-5.4). Ross is a much better rebounder and averaged 1.3 steals and 0.9 blocks/game, but Rivers averaged 1.0 steals and 0.0 blocks/game. The numbers say Ross without a doubt. But many people like to compare players’ numbers in the sam class/grade they were in. When Ross was a freshman, he only averaged 8.0 points and 2.8 rebouns/game. Rivers is younger by 18 months. I would still probably take Rivers because he can create his own shot very well and can provide “instant scoring” off the bench. Terrence Ross played in a weak Pac-12 on probably the best or second-best team in the conference with a great pass-first point guard (Tony Wroten Jr.) dishing to him. Ross does not attack the basket, which is not a good thing for a shooting guard/small forward. Rivers attacks it very well. Even though the stats (for this year) say Ross, I say Rivers.

  7. JamD

    June 15, 2012 at 11:18 am

    I picked the name. Sorry Ryan but Rivers is not a shooter in the same wai iverson, LeBron, and Wade aren’t shooters. He’s scorer, he’ll improve his free throws and he will get to the cup in the NBA because hie game is much more suited to the NBA. I remember the first time I saw him play for Duke he jumped off the screen and the first thing I thought was why would he choose Duke ? Thats for marginal talents that can play a role extremely well. A place like Carolina or Louisville would have been much better fits. This dude is gonna be a flat out scorer in the league Ross will be the corner three defense guy. Nice player but no “big cojones”. Kobe’s words not mine.

  8. JamD

    June 15, 2012 at 11:21 am

    Ryan, why don’t we just take another great defender. We know you drool over the PJ III, Davis, Henson, Rondo line up. However some of us would actually like an exciting team and Austin “Microwave” Rivers coming off our bench would suit most just fine. Not to mention we need someone to replace Gordon on his annual 20-30 game hiatus.

  9. Jordan J.

    June 15, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    Thought I was voting for Rivers, changed my mind. Wow.

  10. Zombian

    June 15, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    Good arguments! I would have loved if you had swapped players here. I want to hear Ryan praise Rivers and Mcnamara vilify him.
    I’m a supporter of Rivers and drool at the prospect of having Gordon, Jack, and Rivers scoring from the back court, with a tough rebounding inside presence. I came into this assuming to vote for Rivers and Ryan did an amazing job dissuading me. Shot selection is clearly a problem but if Rivers hits his potential as Monte Ellis then we have that back court of my dreams. I know that players don’t magically learn defense but I think that Rivers under Monty will learn if he wants to take shots then he’d better play on both sides of the court.

    • Zombian

      June 15, 2012 at 1:27 pm

      And Michael, please don’t make me have to look at/listen to Skip Bayless again.

  11. tmb1978

    June 15, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    I’m wondering how this gets to be a competetion. A lead guard like Rivers, although young, is a better fit than Terrence Ross. Rivers can be a 6th man OR a SG if Gordon leaves. Ross is a perimeter defender at best.

  12. David

    June 15, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    I like Ross. He doesn’t get to the rim consistently and doesn’t get to the free throw line. We need a guy who gets to the line, we were 26th in FTA last season. We need a guy who has what Gerry V calls the “escape game,” meaning when the offense breaks down he can escape from his guy and create a shot. That ain’t Terrance Ross.

  13. Soundwave

    June 15, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    A quote from @hornets247 own twitter timeline……

    “These two teams are in the Finals b/c their perimeter players live at the line. If the Hornets take a perimeter guy at #10, he better be a guy who attacks the basket and gets free points and/or helps get the team in the bonus early. Basically, Lillard or Rivers. Those two get to the line. Lamb, Marshall, and Ross do a horrible job of getting there.”

    This is exactly what I had in mind when I read the arguments and voted. Took me a while to find it, had to go back a few days.

  14. mojart

    June 15, 2012 at 10:12 pm

    Im with michael here……with the 10th pick in the nba draft the new orleans hornets select either damian lillard or austin rivers

  15. mazonmafia

    June 16, 2012 at 7:05 pm

    Time for Lillard to blow them both out of the water!

  16. nikkoewan

    June 17, 2012 at 5:51 pm

    I’m a big believer in advanced statistics, but I voted for Rivers. Why? Because I’m tired of players in those mold – primarily and secondarily shooters. I believe its what brought broke the 200708 team down – too little offensive creativity. Depended too much on CP3 PnRs and DWest postups. Its fine living off just 2 offensive sets if your team can “take what the defense is giving them”, problem was, they couldn’t. Whenever CP3 got trapped up top or DWest got doubled down low, and the defense has to contest hard on our wings (at that time) – Peterson and Peja – neither had the capabilities to at least give a decent dribble drive motion and neither had the capabilities to play outside of their jumpers.

    If I want anybody to play beside Gordon, I want it to be AT LEAST more than average on dribble drives and can AT LEAST go to the FT line a good amount of time. Rivers can do that, plus be a decent enough shooter to keep them honest and pay if they don’t close hard.

    Rivers wins just because I hate players just like Ross, offensive players who depend too much on their jumper and nothing else.

  17. Ortiz

    July 12, 2012 at 11:21 am

    Personal i think Austin is a great player and is going places with his NBA carrear

    • Ortiz

      July 12, 2012 at 11:22 am

      spell check sorry guys.

  18. Ortiz

    July 12, 2012 at 11:24 am

    what college player doesnt have bad stats. NBA will teach Rivers to become a better player and learn from his team mates, yes Rivers does not have the best stats but hes a special kind of player that isnt easy to find.

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