Tenth Pick Tournament Semi-Finals: Rivers vs. Lillard Counterpoints

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Published: June 21, 2012

Yesterday, each man made his arguments. Now, each man counters his opponent. Plus you get the chance to vote for the man you want to see in the Finals

If you have not read yesterday’s original arguments, check them out here first.

The Case for Rivers Part Two

(By: Michael McNamara)

It seems like the fundamental difference between Mason and I is that he is drafting for fit, while I am willing to swing for the fences on a guy who has a chance to be a star in this league. Mason will have you believe that Lillard is the perfect fit next to Gordon, while I am really not all too concerned with whether we bring Gordon back or not. The face of this franchise and the guy who will make or break our title hopes is Anthony Davis, and as far as I am concerned, the only thing that would keep me from drafting the best player on the board is if he were a bad fit with Davis. That does not describe Rivers.

In fact, Rivers is the perfect compliment to Davis in my opinion. His boldness and borderline cockiness off-sets the humbleness of SkyNet. His scoring mentality and desire to have the ball in his hands late allows Davis to concentrate on the strengths of his game. Rivers quick first step and ability to get to the bucket will result in plenty of drive and dish opportunities for Davis, along with some easy put-backs when Rivers draws multiple defenders.

Mason is also quite fond of throwing stats in his argument without prefacing them with the fact that Lillard has been out of high school for four years and is playing in a conference that is to the ACC what the NBDL is to the NBA. Seriously, if I showed you some inflated numbers from a guy in the NBDL, would you assume that he would have even close to the same impact in the NBA? Then, why are we glossing over the fact that Lillard’s numbers would have been drastically reduced if he were playing in a real conference or that Lillard’s freshman numbers in that junior varsity conference were worse than Rivers freshman numbers in a real conference? People say that I didn’t show what Rivers does better than Lillard, but that is because 21-year old Rivers doesn’t exist yet. That version of him does a lot of things better than Lillard.

In their freshman years, they were dead even in FG%, Lillard was 1% higher in 3-pt percentage, eerily similar in rebs, assists, steals, and turnovers, but scored 4 less points per game in four fewer minutes per game. And yes, those stats are close- but remember, one was the top player on a team in the ACC while the other was in the Big Sky. That makes Rivers’ freshman year infinitely more impressive, and that is all we really have to go on with these two.

Can I say with certainty that Rivers would average 35 per game if you put the 21 year old version of him in the Big Sky? Can I claim with certainty that Lillard’s numbers would have been more pedestrian in a real conference? Of course I can’t, but I think we can all agree that each of those premises are somewhat likely.

Lastly, I take some offense to the claim Mason makes that “the best Austin Rivers can be is an OJ Mayo-esque sixth man.” Where does he get that from? Oh, because Draft Express lists that as the best case scenario for him? Frankly I don’t see any similarities between Mayo and Rivers, on or off the court. What I see is a guy who has been around the game all his life, who is determined to succeed and has the pedigree to be a star in this league. Whether he gets there or not depends on numerous circumstances, but I would be willing to take that gamble if I were the Hornets.

The Case for Damian Lillard Part Two

(By: Mason Ginsberg)

I’d like to begin my counter-argument by quoting one of our seemingly most knowledgeable readers, 504ever. In response to part one of the Rivers vs. Lillard debate yesterday, he said:

“If Lillard is even available at 10 we will be lucky, and we should pick him and hold on to him. 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 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?”

Boom! Maybe he should be writing for this site instead of me, because if I was forced to reduce my argument for Lillard and against Rivers into one paragraph, it would look very similar to what is pasted above. Someone please tell me – what does Rivers do better than Lillard? Actually, expand this question beyond Lillard – what about Rivers’ resumé proves that he deserves to be a top-10 pick?

In order to make the “level of competition” argument as close to irrelevant as possible, I picked out some stat categories that aren’t terribly dependant on who you play, and more related to each player’s unique basketball skills (I included PER which doesn’t really adhere to that requirement, but only because the massive difference between the two players transcends level of competition).

  FT% 3P% REB% TO% PER
Lillard 88.7 40.9 8.7 10.7 34.0
Rivers 65.8 36.5 5.8 13.9 16.9

One of the best ways to evaluate a player’s shooting talent and try to guess how that player will fare at the next level is by using his free throw percentage and 3-point percentage. Lillard demolishes Rivers in both categories, and neither have much to do with opposing defenses. The reason is obvious in the case of free throws, and most shooters attempt the majority of their 3-pointers when they are being poorly defended no matter who their opponent. To be honest, while these numbers make me confident in Lillard, they do even more to worry me about Rivers.

To get some more data, I looked at all qualifying college freshmen over the past 3 seasons with usage rates over 20% and 3-point percentages under 37%, and checked to see if there were any names that I recognized who many think will be successful in the NBA. I did indeed – guys like Alec Burks, John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Tony Wroten Jr. were all present. Unfortunately, there is one key difference between those guys and Rivers – the first three had PERs 22 or above, and even Wroten’s was still above 20. Rivers? Hardly above average at 16.9. Those superior PERs, in a nutshell, mean that those players do other things that make them special apart from shooting the basketball (and they all played in major conferences, too). As a 6’5” shooting guard (and don’t tell me he will one day be able to play point guard, because his tunnel vision makes him quite possibly the weakest “first round talent” in this draft in the area of getting his teammates involved), Rivers will only be a special player if he is able to shoot along with his ability to attack the rim. Given the evidence that we have to the contrary, it makes no sense to gamble on a player with a pick this high when the Hornets could go with a player with such a wide skill set as Lillard with the numbers to back it up.

One more relevant point, based on yesterday’s trade – forget the notion of getting rid of Eric Gordon. By clearing the contracts of Ariza and Okafor/buying out Rashard Lewis, it becomes increasingly likely that the Hornets will keep their star shooting guard. In fact, as I noted in the comments section of Michael’s post breaking the news of the trade, this deal could even keep teams from throwing big offers at Gordon. In restricted free agency, when another team makes an offer to a restricted FA, that cap space is tied up and unusable until the player’s original team decides whether or not they want to match the offer. With so much cap space, the rest of the NBA may assume that the Hornets are willing to match any offer, making it a poor idea to tie up cap space in a player that they probably won’t get while the best free agent alternatives are snatched up by other teams. Therefore, don’t let Mr. McNamara try to sell you on Gordon being let go, because the odds of that happening just became even smaller, while the odds of the Hornets getting him for less than a max contract just went up. While this news makes Rivers even less of a fit with the Hornets, I have also made it quite clear based on the facts presented above that, regardless of fit, Lillard is simply the more talented player with the brighter future. If the Hornets’ choice with the 10th pick comes down to these two players, the decision should be a no-brainer.

Note: The point of this tournament is to choose between two players under the assumption that they will both be available when the Hornets are on the clock with the 10th pick. Please cast your vote based on your opinions of each player and the arguments provided by the writers as if this will be the case; try to refrain from voting for one over the other simply because you think the other player won’t be available at pick #10.

67 comments
Ben
Ben

Well now that Dwill has said that he will only go to the mavs or nets, this question becomes much easier. Lilliard is a superior talent and can run the point. I like rivers so I wouldn't mind trading next years 1 and 46 for the rockets 14 or 16 to get rivers or zeller where they won't be expected to do as much

Ian H
Ian H

You make all solid points but if you are bringing up Colston in comparison to Lillard that's truly unfair to Lillard. Their situations are miles and miles away. Lillard will be top ten based on production, skillset, and athleticism regardless of what we or the Hornets think. Colston had none of those qualities leading into the draft but he lucked up and got with a coach with a vision to use Colston's 2 elite qualities and that's his size and strong hands. There were 30 other teams that Colston doesn't make it out their training camp let alone become a household name. Colston's equal in the NBA would be Ben Wallace. He fell into a great situation in Detroit like Colston fell into the perfect situation in New Orleans. But I agree Austin isn't Doc, but he is 19 and has several years to become better than Doc.

Ryan
Ryan

Lillard vs Tyshawn Taylor Would you please fill in the missing puzzles? raw data Similarities: -Seniors (Lillard not technically, but played 4yrs) -fg% -assist avg -stl -same minutes Differences: -Level of competition -Lillard has confidence edge? -Lillard 3more fta -Lillard 3 more 3pta -As a result, Lillard 8pt more avg -Lillard much better rebounder -defense? Tyshawn? -taylor more length -Lillard better vertical How come it is speculated Lillard might go at #5 whereas Taylor 20 spots lower? What causes the huge discrepancy?

Jordy
Jordy

Tyshawn had disciplinary issues at Kansas. He also doesn't have the work ethic Lillard has.

LaNative
LaNative

People are talking about Lillard being a scoring point guard but isn't that what the league has come to? Didn't CP3 have to score more? Russell Westbrook? Lillard has a superior work ethic and I think he will work hard to prove that he belongs because of so much doubt about the competition he played against. Yes River played against better competition but that doesn't mean that he's the better competitor. I don't like to use Saints references while talking about the Hornets but look at Colston (my favorite Saints player). Where you play or the level of competition gives you some indication of what a player can do but it doesn't tell you exactly what he will do. I mean no disrespect to Rivers (or his fans) but I don't think he's a good fit for the Hornets. Rivers has a great pedigree but he isn't Doc.

mojart
mojart

breaking news: lillard resist to work out for the hornets who hold the 10th pick in the nba draft....source: sam amick of SI.com so u still want a guy who does'nt want to play here!

VeezyV
VeezyV

lol but yall are begging and pleading for Chris Paul to come back!

Ian H
Ian H

I have read places that his agent only wants him to do individual workouts while the Hornets are insisting on group workouts in which he plays against others. Not sure why his agent is keeping him away from competing against others. I think it helps him if he dominates those "big school" guys but obviously his agent is much smarter than me.

Chuck
Chuck

Yeah I've read this too. This is all moot, since it looks like he's shooting up draft boards and will be gone by the time we pick most likely

Jordy
Jordy

Agents make those calls. His agent didn't even want him to participate in the combine workouts.

NOLA_Fredo
NOLA_Fredo

He more than likely doesn't want to work out for us cause he's hearing that Portland and Toronto want him. Meaning he's not expecting to be there at #10.

mojart
mojart

and by the way lillard play in the BIG SKY TOURNAMENT and rivers play in the ACC!lillard is RODNEY STUCKEY 2.0!do u like dat in ur team??????????

mazonmafia
mazonmafia

How is he stuckey?? Add something to your argument besides a random name. I could say rivers is elton john and my argument would carry just as much weight as yours... Do you want elton on your team?

mojart
mojart

LET'S SUPPORT AUSTIN RIVERS!PLEASE VOTE FOR AUSTIN RIVERS......so many FA point guard out there and many are available via trade...we need scorer on this team!we are a very god defensive team but we are not that good offensively!jeremy lin,felton,dragic,lowry,dwill,brooks,nash,kidd are all FA or can be had via trade....and we can even draft a PG at 46!machado,satoransky i think should still be there.... If I'am dell i will try to lure linsanity here in big easy bcoz he is so good in transition and a willing passer and the fans would love him as well....NY can't retain him they are over the cap!

mazonmafia
mazonmafia

we arent rebuilding with nash,kidd. They would double the average age of our team.

NOLA_Fredo
NOLA_Fredo

Tough call but I opted for Rivers over Lillard. To me, there's two ways a prospect who is drafted can help you out: 1) he develops and becomes a part of your title-contending team or 2) he develops and you can trade him for other commodities. Looking at the two, I think Rivers would be the most likely to remain a commodity (even if he doesn't develop under Monty) that he could be moved onto another team. Plus if the option is Potential Russell Westbrook vs Potential Jason Terry, well, I gotta swing for the Westbrook option.

David
David

I like both of them. I like Lillard a lot more. I like Zeller, but I like him at 16. Not at 10. I like Leonard, his production was decent, his combine was excellent, his interviews and athleticism are perfect. They only issue I have with him is I heard he was a big P***y. I don't want no big p***y.

NOH Domination
NOH Domination

I don't feel like Michael's arguments are all that convincing, but I don't care. I'm taking Rivers!

Jordan J.
Jordan J.

Very off topic, but apparently the Rockets have a trade in the works with the 16th pick and Dalembert.. Demps?

VeezyV
VeezyV

i was thinking that too

Rocco
Rocco

At first I was not a fan of trying for Lillard at ten. But, after the draft combine, and those eye popping measurements he posted, and his sky high stats from Weber(albeit against lesser opponents), I think the kid is worth a shot. He's athletic, and his college coach calls him the hardest working player he's ever coached. The big gamble with him is can he evolve from being a shoot first point guard to one who distributes more. If not you will have a more athletic Jarrett Jack, if he does grow his game, he could be in the mold of a Russell Westbrook. In any event, he worht a shot at #10 (if he's still there).

Ian H
Ian H

Hey I'm a Lillard fan no doubt but give me the freshly turned 19yr old with upside as opposed to the 21 yr old who dominated subpar competition. I think Lillard can and will be effective but Westbrook came into the league at 19 and within 4 years was a dominant force. I feel that I'd rather give that same shot to Rivers and see where he is once his game and body matures as compared to a guy Lillard who may be at his apex already.

tmb1978
tmb1978

I would rather Rivers than Lillard, just because of the level of talent. Both guys are used to being "the man". Besides, if Lillard is so good, why did they lose to MONTANA in their conference tournament. Really, MONTANA???? Meanwhile, Rivers was busy in the ACC tournament against one of the best defensive teams in college (FSU). 17 pts. (leading all scorers) and 6 rebs. against those guys and the clutch 3 against UNC during the season is more impressive than averaging 24 against rec league type talent. BTW, will this argument be archived to look at if we end up picking Marshall and he's a star? Does anyone realize Jason Kidd is a free agent? That would be a helluva move to pick him up. I'm sure both will enjoy throwing alleyoops to "Le Brow".

mazonmafia
mazonmafia

Montana was a decent team. Just because a team doesnt make it on espnu doesnt mean they suck. I hate that people think every talented person plays for kentucky or duke. Seriously naive. And if you would have watched that montana game, you would see just how amazing lillard is. He was terrific. The first half he played unselfish and his teammates gave him no help. Absolutely zero help. The second half he took over and scored at will against double and triple teams consistently. Montana was on fire and kept hitting threes and they ended up winning. But thats like saying kevin love sucks b/c the heat blew them out when love had 30pts and 15rebs.

VeezyV
VeezyV

Really, that's youre augment Montana. Lol did you see who Duke lost to in the first round of the tournament.

Taquito
Taquito

did you watch Kidd last season? no thanks

Jordy
Jordy

Lillard is one person, it takes an entire team to beat another team. Oh, and he had a double double in that loss (29pts, 10 rebs). It's pretty hard to say the loss was his fault. And don't say he ball hogged or something dumb, he had 7 assists also. Weber State went 25-7. Quit talking about one loss.

GreaseyTime
GreaseyTime

Le Brow is so much better than SkyNet. It's not even close.

nola hustle
nola hustle

I also prefer le brow, as much as i appreciate the effort skynet doesn't move me. Think I'm leaning with the big easy or the second line for local flavor

Johnny
Johnny

What y'all think about the hornets trading the 10th for Houston 14&16 picks and we draft zeller then get perry jones III b/c at 16 PJIII is not a risk and he could be big if he does reach his potential

nola hustle
nola hustle

Yes but for zellet and Marshall Rumor that Houston is considering 16 + dalembert, who has 1 more year on his contract to move up. Why do I have a feeling that it might be time to fire up the 16th pick tournament I'd prefer not by the way. Rather trade 46 and next year's 2nd to get into end of 1st via Miami or plc

nola hustle
nola hustle

now even more than pre-trade, best case scenario may be for lillard or even drummond to drop to us, and trade down we probably don't need #10 to get rivers, zeller or even Marshall now that we have big holes at the 3 and 5, we may need to go with quantity of assets

Mickey Chatman
Mickey Chatman

Why don't we stop looking at Rivers as replacing Gordon. Rivers can be a top 6th man in the league. He will provide instant scoring against other teams 2nd unit. And if Gordon get injured he can step up. I don't feel as though Lillard fits on this team cause he is not a pass first Pg. plus I don't care what his numbers say. He played at WEBER STATE!!!!! That's like a high school player crushing middle schoolers and then being compared to another high school player (Rivers) who competes with other high schoolers.

Ian H
Ian H

Thank you!!!! That's my entire argument. Rivers has a clearly defined role in the NBA already as a 6th man instant scorer who can back Gordon up in a pinch while everyone is hoping Lillard's great college success against inferior competition translates to the NBA. No one is questioning can Rivers get to the lane or create his own shot because even though he was "suspect" at the college level you can see those elements in his game already. There will be minimal zone usage and with the hand checking rule he could literally live at the line. Xavier Henry does that now and he is no where the ball handler Rivers is. Rivers is the safer pick.

Jordy
Jordy

You guys don't see why everyone in the NBA is so high on Lillard. Yes, he had great production, but that's not what teams love about him. They love his superb work ethic and his elite athleticism. He's one of the best athletes in this draft. Oh, something else, HE PLAYS DEFENSE! The stats don't show it, but he is a good defender. They see a player they can mold. And about him being a scoring point guard. That was his role. That was what he was asked to do. Stats don't get players drafted, their body of work does. How many times have Monty and Dell said they weren't going to draft someone based on one workout, but rather their entire body of work. Lillard's entire body of work is impressive, top 10 impressive.

StefanC
StefanC

But we already drafted Marcus Thornton.

kempleton
kempleton

Mike had very good arguments. Donald Sloan had amazing stats in NBDL, but we have seen him on the court playing for our Hornets as a very different player. So, stats are not everything. So, Mike is saying that Lillard is risky, Mason says that Rivers is risky. Who would I pick? Hmmm... :) They now think Lillard might go as high as #6 to Portland. Do the Blazers see something in him that Mike does not see, or do they ignore Rivers? If Rivers is that good of a potential why do we see Drummond at Top10 but not Rivers at top 10? (Of course, Kobe was not Top 10 either...) This gets interesting. Vote for the record (NCAA scoring champ) or vote for the potential? What if Lillard has better potential in the NBA and Rivers become a mediocre player? BTW, I have a question: Have we invited Lillard for a workout? We have heard that he performed very well at other workouts but have Monthy and Dell seen him? No! Well. they should...

LSUhornet17
LSUhornet17

I haven't seen a single mock draft that has Rivers going anywhere higher than 10. Multiple mocks have Lillard going at 6 or 8. That's pretty telling. If the Hornets don't pick Rivers, it's very likely he would drop to around 16. That is also telling. His abilities don't match the perception people have of him.

LSUhornet17
LSUhornet17

I don't put THAT much stock into it, but the comment I was responding too asked about what other teams were looking at the players and where. Totally agree that Demps and co. should take who they think is the best pick, they certainly know better than I do. That said, I think there is something to be said for what other teams are looking at. In all drafts teams make moves based on what they believe other teams will do. If they love a guy and know a team two spots ahead of him does as well, they may try to trade up. If they have two picks and believe that one of the prospects they like is low on other teams' board, they may wait to try to select him with the second pick. If you love a guy at 10 where a lot of other teams have him in the 15-20 range, you certainly don't change your pick based on that, but you better well make sure that you're not missing something that they are seeing.

Jason Calmes
Jason Calmes

So neither of us understand that idea! Glad I'm not alone.

Ian H
Ian H

But what does that mean? Marvin Williams was picked before D-Will and CP3 and Darko was picked over Melo, DWade, and Bosh. It's not always about where you are drafted. Need sometimes dictates draft picks, and Portland and Toronto need a PG so it's not surprising they are looking to draft Lillard much higher.

Jason Calmes
Jason Calmes

Here's something I don't get about picking... Here's a guy you want and he's available. You don't want anyone else as much. He will not be available to you later. So, you don't pick him because someone else won't? Sure, try to work a way to get him at x+2 instead of x, but should it fail, then what? I say: take your guy. Directed generally, just that the argument here made think of the tangent. Also, mocks are about all teams. Being picked at x rather than x+6 sometimes means a talent difference, but sometimes it's about need, fit, redundancy. And... millions of people can be wrong... see flat earth...