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.
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