Tenth Pick Tournament Semi-Finals: Austin Rivers vs. Damian Lillard

In our first semifinals matchup, the two remaining guards face off as shooting guard Austin Rivers takes on point guard Damian Lillard.

The Case for Austin Rivers

(By: Michael McNamara)

If Lillard and Rivers slide by Portland and Toronto, there is a very good chance that Monty and Dell could be having this debate as the clock winds down. Frankly, I don’t think they could go wrong with either guy and they should be happy that they have the opportunity to choose between the two. I understand that it is easier to say Lillard because Eric Gordon is listed on your program as a shooting guard and Damian Lillard is listed as a point guard, but if it were up to me, I would take Rivers and wouldn’t think twice about it.

For me it comes down to which one I think has a better chance of becoming a star- not a good player who fills a position of need, but a star. I look around the NBA and I start to list the guys who are considered stars, superstars, etc. and almost every single one of them has the pedigree. They were McDonald’s All-Americans, top-five recruits coming out of high school, went to major universities, and/or elite foreign prospects. Seriously, look at the superstars in the league and tell me who doesn’t fit that criteria.

Should Damian Lillard be penalized because four years ago he was the 42nd ranked point guard in his high school class (42nd point guard, not 42nd player mind you)? Of course not. In fact, I commend him for working so hard to prove the naysayers wrong and for having a sensational college career. Again, I think he will be solid and envision Jameer Nelson type of numbers when he reaches his peak. But, I can’t see any way he can reach star or superstar status. If he does, he will have broken the mold and reached star status in a way that nobody else in this generation has up until this point. I just don’t bet on things like that.

Conversely, Rivers was at the top of his class. Does this mean he is a lock to be a star? Of course not. All bachelors are male, but not all males are bachlelors. In other words, he has one of the seemingly necessary criteria, but that doesn’t mean he has the rest of the components needed. Necessary, but not sufficient. For every Kobe Bryant that lives up to the hype, there is a Felipe Lopez. Who? Exactly!

But I am admitting that I am ready to go for the home run here. And if I haven’t lost you already with this obscure argument, then I am going to right now and I am fine with that. Here goes. I don’t care how he fits with Eric Gordon long term, because I don’t want Eric Gordon here long term. That’s right, I said it! When have we ever seen it work out when there is a question about whether a guy is a max guy or not, then some team gives him the max and is happy 2-3 years down the road? Rudy Gay? Joe Johnson? Amare Stoudamire? Nene? Time and time again we see this debate where fans go: “Should we pay Player X max money? I know he isn’t worth it, but I don’t want to lose him for nothing!”

Don’t you think the Hawks and Knicks would prefer “nothing” right now? Wouldn’t Memphis love 17 million a year that they could spend somewhere else? Didn’t Denver trade Nene just three months after giving him max money? Gordon isn’t worth it, and at #10 we can get a guy who can be just as dynamic of a scorer in three years at 20% the price if we give him the reps he needs to expand his game and reach his potential. Sign and trade Gordon for some pieces to put around these guys and/or picks and let’s start this process with AD and Rivers as the building blocks from day one plus TONS of flexibility to get them the support they need.

I know this won’t appeal to the majority of you, but let’s be honest, nearly 70% voted for Lillard over Marshall last week despite never watching the man play. He is the Cinderella story this year, and everybody else has had the spotlight on them so long that their weaknesses are being overexposed. Not Lillard. The backlash hasn’t started yet. He’s the Ryan Leaf and RGIII of this draft. The known products get bashed because it’s not fun to talk about what they do well anymore. And this is why people get tempted to take Ryan Leaf over Peyton Manning.

But eventually people come to their senses and remember why one guy was a super elite recruit coming into this process and the other was just another guy. The super elite prospect is the safer bet to be the super elite pro, but he’s not as trendy as the new guy- I get it. I just gotta hope we have finally reached the point where the Lillard backlash begins.

The Case for Damian Lillard

(By Mason Ginsberg)

We’re into the semifinals, where the top-ranked point guard in the 2012 draft class, Damian Lillard, takes on Duke shooting guard Austin Rivers. In the first round, I discussed Lillard’s skill set on both sides of the ball and the glowing reviews of his NBA potential from some of the top draft analysts. Last round, I dove into Damian’s impressive advanced statistics in college and compared those numbers to other college players who project to have fantastic NBA careers. If you want to refresh your memory on everything Lillard brings to the table in any of those areas, go ahead and click back to those earlier matchups before reading on. As for this face-off today, I have saved the most relevant and significant part of Lillard’s game until now – his unique and ideal fit with the New Orleans Hornets.

On offense, Lillard is the perfect third young piece to combine with both Eric Gordon and Anthony Davis. One of the main weaknesses of last season’s Hornets team with Gordon on the court was the lack of another perimeter scoring threat to take some of the pressure off of him. With Lillard as Gordon’s backcourt mate, that concern would be all but alleviated. Lillard made 41% of his three-point attempts in college, and projects to be a solid shooter in the pros (his 88.7% free throw percentage is a good indication of this as well). With he and Gordon both on the court, opponents would have their hands full guarding two guards who have the ability to score in so many ways. I get excited just thinking about the offensive potential of those two playing together.

To be honest, when thinking about Lillard playing for the Hornets, there’s only one thing that gets me more excited than an offensive attack led by he and Gordon – the thought of a Lillard and Anthony Davis pick and roll. Seriously, the talents of those two were made for each other. Walker Beeken from Draft Express said it best:

“The large emphasis of the pick-and-roll game in today’s NBA bodes well for Lillard, as he’s shown to be very effective as the ball-handler in pick-and-roll situations. His ability to smoothly pull up off the dribble from deep range makes it difficult for his defenders to go underneath the screen, while his burst off the dribble allows him to turn the corner quickly and get into the paint.”

Now, take that wonderful imagery and add in Anthony Davis and his ridiculous wingspan setting the screen and rolling to the basket. How on Earth do you stop that? I have two words for opponents trying to figure out how – good luck.

Compare what you just read to what the Hornets would be like if they drafted Austin Rivers. If you just got really sad, I don’t blame you one bit, because I did too. Rivers is not and never will be a point guard, so don’t even get caught up in the idea of him playing alongside Gordon. It may happen from every now and then, but Gordon isn’t a pure point guard, so it simply isn’t a sustainable combination for extended periods of time. The best Austin Rivers could ever be for this Hornets team (or any team, in my opinion) is an OJ Mayo-esque sixth man. I’ll save the rest of my anti-Rivers sentiments for tomorrow’s rebuttals, but for now, know that New Orleans can do much, much better than him, and the name of that alternative is quite clearly Damian Lillard.

Each Writer will present their counterarguments to their opponents claims tomorrow, and on that piece you will cast your vote.

44 responses to “Tenth Pick Tournament Semi-Finals: Austin Rivers vs. Damian Lillard”

  1. MM speaks blasphemously!!! Personally, I think EG is worth the max, so there’s that.

    secondly, I do think a Jameer Nelson type career beside Eric Gordon and Anthony Davis WILL be a good match (plus Lillard has a LONG wingspan which will help him a lot on defense).

    Lillard wins for me..

    • amen on the eg, a 23 year old who is a top 5 sg on the league, and we…………. let him walk and just hope to find someone to replace him, the only one our team who can with a good success rate create their shot?!?!?

      I understand the need for change and improvement, that will come when oak, jacks contracts come off the books, but to keep suggesting we dump our better players and start fresh over and over, who exactly are we signing to replace these guys? rivers is not by any means a replacement for ej. if you listen to dell he talks about finding the middle ground between okc model and go for it now model, this team wants to win some games this year, and after last year who blames them? we need a winning culture and there’s no reason that rebuilding has to be done at a snail’s pace

      the lillard nelson comparison is tempting due to their parallel college careers, but nelson’s knocks were that he was neither quick or athletic enough to moderate his lack of size. hopefully lillard is ahead of him in those departments (obviously scouts think so because lillard is a top 10 lock in a deep draft while jameer couldn’t crack the top 20 due to those concerns)

    • EG worth the MAX?? Who wants to offer the MAX to a guy who is injured more often than not. Would Grant Hill back in the day get a MAX?
      If EG is given any more than $60mil/5years it is a total waste!
      At least when he gets injured again the contract isnt one that is near imposible to be traded.

  2. MM i agree with you 100% i think if we pay Eric Gordon a max deal he will turn out to be another peja sitting on the bench (due to injury) collecting a big check and taking up lots of our cap room . I say get rivers and clear some cap for next year.

  3. I say sign Rivers and keep Gordon. Look at what Golden State was trying to do with Ellis and Curry…….the only reason it didn’t work is cause they weren’t a defensive minded team with a defensive minded coach. I know that Curry is better than Rivers but I feel that Rivers and Gordon would be a SMARTER backcourt. Then you add Davis, J Smitty, Ariza and the mentality of Coach Williams and it will work. And if it takes a while to build the chemistry…….you still have Vasquez that is very capable of running the floor with Gordon and Rivers backing them up.

  4. We already know that Gordon is coming back because we heard Monty and Dell talk about how he is and will be the best player and the guy that they are building around. As for the prospects, I would take Rivers because he was an elite scorer in an elite conference. Pollard was an elite scorer in a conference with no NBA prospects.

  5. It would be nice to draft someone to play alongside Gordon, but it would also be nice to draft someone who could back up Gordon as well as play alongside him in spurts due to his injury history.

    Bottom line, Gordon really shouldn’t factor into this battle because we need BPA regardless. Unfortunately the way the NBA is set up, we might even lose Gordon after the draft making drafting for need a dangerous proposition.

    If I had to chose at the moment I would pick Lillard because I think he can do a bit more than Rivers and is the better player right now. But I seriously doubt he will even be available at 10 anymore.

    • yes it is just wishful thinking with lilllard at 10, but the possibilty exists if drummond drops to portland @ 6 and toronto goes for wing like waiters @ 8 he could fall so it’s worth thinking about

      • No doubt, everything is worth thinking about.

        That’s pretty much what my post was about, planning for everything.

  6. What was the argument why I should vote for rivers?? Because ej is not worth max money?

    I guess I’m voting for lillard

  7. my top scenario

    draft lillard @ 10 and trade him down for marshall and another asset, ideally say to houston for marshall at 14 and the best big left on the board (zeller, moultrie, etc.) at 16

    second best draft lillard @ 10 and keep him

    • Trading #10 for #14 & 16 is wicked.
      Marshall and Moultrie would be a great combination.
      Marshall – Gordon – Aminu – Moultrie – Davis
      Jack – Belli – Henry – J. Smith – Plumlee?
      It isnt a roster to sneeze at. Especially when players like Josh Smith and Chris Paul come off contract.

  8. Agree with MM 100%. We need to plan for 2018, not 2013. Rivers all the way.

    Sign and trade Gordon for youth and future draft picks. Can we work something out with Cleveland? They’ve got both.

  9. Completely agree with MM…I like Gordon, but he’s an undersized shooting guard who ALWAYS GETS INJURED. He missed basically the entire season last year. Really, couldn’t we get 80% of what Gordon gives us by signing OJ Mayo for half the price?

    And the “fit” with this team isn’t an argument I can get behind, because we aren’t trying to slide pieces into a team, we are trying to build a completely new team. Get a guy who will fit with Anthony Davis if anything, he’s the real building block, not Gordon

  10. I go with Rivers all the way everybody wants to say Rivers is not a true PG we dont need a true pg we need a scorer and Rivers is that take the finals for example westbrook is not a True Pg and never was and never will be but chalmers is and he never brings the ball down court they put him at the 2 this league is about scoring rite now and rivers can do a lot of that.

  11. if we are planning for 2018, gordon will only be 28 or 29. We need gordon!!!! REPEAT WE NEED GORDON! I know he is a injury risk, but so what. If you want to win a ship you need three stars in todays NBA. If (when actually) we draft Davis and liliard/rivers we will have one star in Davis and maybe another star in liliard/rivers.Maybe. Its too risky. As a hornets fan i am soooooooo tired of being either a non playoff or a one and done team! The stars have finally aligned for us for the first time since Chris Paul almost single handedly took out the spurs in the semi-finals. We have to take full advantage and that includes keeping Gordon, even if him staying healthy is a 50/50 proposition. That being said my vote is for Rivers because he is 6’5 and pairing liliard with gordon makes us smaller than i would like.Also, it gives us insurance if Gordon is hurt.

    • Cant win a the finals if your best player is in street clothes. Just ask Chicago! Gordon is too much of an injury risk.
      Gordon in a sign & trade is by far the best option.
      Gordon for Josh Smith?
      Gordon for Danny Granger?
      Gordon for Rudy Gay?
      Gordon for Kyle Lowry, Kevin Martin & #16?

  12. sup guys its been a while.

    draft Rivers, sign and trade gordon for size, young talent, and cap space, sign CP3 to max deal. I say that leaves us in a damn good spot as wed also be picking in the lottery again next year as our youngins develop.

    CP3 and davis running the starting lineup with rivers as our scoring punch (ginobli sytle) off the bench and also finishing games. Thats what I wanna see

  13. I like Lillard. He is a proven commodity. Rivers to me looks like another Marcus Thorton, incredible scorer, but defense is woeful and lacks the ability to see the open wing or run the pick and role. I think Gordon has better passing abilities than Rivers by a long shot, and he would be the primary ball handler, if he can get the ball away from Rivers.

  14. Voted for Lillard.. Now to read the article

    Haha no I wouldn’t do that, but I did vote for Lillard.

  15. If Lillard is even available at 10 we will be lucky, and we should pick him and hold on to him. (We should be able trade Jack to get a second half of the 1st Round pick if we want another 1st Round pick.)

    There is no question Lillard is the better talent and he plays the position of greatest need on the Hornets. So how do you counteract that argument? You can’t! So you make some crazy argument about Rivers’ pedigree, like he is a household pet. Then you make some crazy Gordon argument claiming the Hornets will give Gordon max money and we don’t need him anyway. Then you offer your unsupported opinion that Rivers will be a better NBA player and call Lillard nasty names like “Ryan Leaf”.

    Here is the question. Can anyone find one word, let a alone a sentence, that Michael wrote above explaining anything Rivers does better than Lillard? Neither can I. If there was something, don’t you think Michael would have mentioned it?

  16. The two most important assets in the NBA are scoring and skilled height. We’re already getting skilled height with Davis, so let’s use the other pick to get a scorer. Rivers all day.

      • if bensons pockets are that deep to amnesty lewis, that’s a drew brees salary type hit, then great

        if not this trade is a disaster

      • Great trade! Hornets now have cap room galore next summer! Lewis’ contract expires after this year, Dell is building for the long term with this trade. Personally, I think he pulled a fast one on Washington.

      • ok, thought lewis also had two years left. if he is on last year of contract then that does clean up the books a year earlier, that’s not a bad deal. still would prefer the amnesty. then we’d have cap this year to get kaman or other alternatives

      • Firstly, we can’t amnesty Lewis because he wasn’t on our books when that provision was introduced to the CBA.

        Secondly, I imagine we’ll waive him and only pay him 13.7 mil rather than his full 24. Over the two years it saves us around 30 mil. That’s 7 this year where Oak + Ariza = 20 – minus Lewis’ 7 and 21 next year.

        Plus it let’s us keep our 10th pick and potentially package the 46th pick with it to move up. Or just brings us into the second round where we didn’t previously have a pick.

        In summary, it saves us 30 mil, gives us an extra pick, and allows more playing time for swingman x I am now convinced we will take in the draft and AD (not to mention Ayon, J-Smitty and Aminu.)

        Now for the real home run. We can re-sign EG for around 10 mil and then when J Jack and Lewis come off the books next year we’ll be about 30 mil under the cap and could make a genuine run at the Dwight + CP combo.

        That could lead to a rotation of;
        J Jack/Vaquez
        EG/Swingman x from draft
        Aminu/Swingman X or visa versa
        4 man big rotation of AD/J-smitty/Ayon/free agent x/second round draft pick

        Followed by this one the following season;
        EG/6th man Rivers/waiters
        Who really cares

        That would be beastly.

        247 afficianados, feel free to jump in and correct me if I’ve got any of the numbers wrong.

        I dunno about you, but I’M EXCITED!

    • My initial thoughts..
      We get out of both their contracts that had multiple years left on them… In exchange for lewis who will be in his contract year…
      If we wanted to use the amnesty(can we use it on a player not on our roster during the cba ratification?)… Then this would save benson MILLIONS… compared to having to pay mek for two years… Roughly 3-4 mil…
      This also opens up our draft possibilities at 10 immensely since we now have No center and no starting caliber SF…
      Maybe looking to pick point guard in the second at 46?
      Scott machado? That euro guy who’s name I can’t remember…

  17. I still say we take Rivers with the 10 pick and then get a Center through FA. Roy Hibbert or Brook Lopez. We now have what it takes to attract them.

    Hibbert or Lopez

  18. LOL it’s been on espn top headline for about a half hour now
    Also on hoopshype
    Bleacher report
    And now Hornets247…

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