Hornets nab Duke Freshman Austin Rivers with the Tenth Pick

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Published: June 28, 2012

Somebody called this….

The Hornets love for Austin Rivers has been one of the worst kept secrets of the last two weeks, and on Thursday night they officially made him a Hornet by selecting the polarizing Duke star with the tenth pick in the 2012 draft. Rivers, who was the second ranked high school recruit in the class of 2011 (Anthony Davis was #1), had a somewhat disappointing freshman season at Duke by his own standards. He put up 15.5 points on 43.3% shooting, but averaged more turnovers than assists and also failed to lead Duke out of the first round of the NCAA tournament.

That is not to say that Rivers did not have his moments at Duke. In February, he finally started to put it together and show the enormous potential that he has, putting up 18ppg on 45% shooting from the field and 41% from the 3-pt line. He also got to the line 6.5 times a game in that final full month of the season and grabbed 4.5 rebounds- a 50% increase over what he had done in the months prior.  He simply got better as the year went along. And, oh yeah, who could forget possibly the biggest shot of the year in college basketball.

At 6’5″, Austin Rivers is listed as a shooting guard but has the ability to slide into either guard slot because of his elite ball handling skills. He also is fantastic as a ball handler in the pick and roll, as he shot 47% from the field in those situations at Duke last season. For the sake of comparison, Russell Westbrook, shot just 42% in that situation last season. Chris Paul, a master of the pick and roll, shot the same 47% last season with the Clippers.

While Rivers will never be a conventional point guard, NBA teams have shown over the last few years that there is more than one way to skin a cat. While traditional pass first point guards like Steve Nash, Chris Paul, and Ricky Rubio have been effective by getting their teammates involved, shoot first point guards like Russell Westbrook, John Wall, Derrick Rose, and Kyrie Irving have taken over games in a different way.

Monty stated in his last interview before the draft that he wants two guys who can handle the ball at the end of games and either create for themselves or get an open look for someone else. He now has those guys in Eric Gordon and Austin Rivers. Which guy plays which position is a question only fans seem to worry about. Good coaches know that you draw up schemes and plays based on the skill sets of the players, not what positions they are listed at on the program.

Defensively, Gordon has the length and the quickness to guard either guard spot, and will usually take the more athletic of the two. Against OKC, he will check Westbrook. Against LA, he will face off against Bryant. Very few teams in the NBA have two elite guards that are both quick enough to take advantage of Rivers’ average lateral quickness. For the next year or two, Rivers will come off the bench as a spark and play spot minutes with Gordon, but the plan is for them to eventually work together in a way that will be similar to Parker and Ginobli, where they take turns sharing the ball and creating offense.

Outside of his “position”, Hornets fans seem to have the most concern with Rivers attitude. It’s no secret that Chad Ford is down on Rivers and has used nearly every platform to voice his opinion on the kid, but his is not the only opinion that exists. In fact, listen to the NBA Today podcast from 6/26. Ford hosts the podcast and brings on Dave Telep, somebody that Ford says, “knows these players better than anybody.” When Ford gives his opinion of Rivers, Telep disagrees and actually puts Rivers “alpha dog mentality” in his plus column. You know who says the same thing? Coach K.

Here are some excerpts from the Duke coach, hoping to set Mr. Ford straight

“He is an alpha dog. I think he will succeed in the NBA because of that. He believes he’s going to be great. I’d rather have a guy like that than a guy who doesn’t believe in himself.”

He also talks about where he would like to see Rivers end up:

“I hope he gets a demanding coach at the next level who pushes him to keep adding to his game. That’s how he’ll become great.”

That sounds like Monty to me. Coach K also talks about the lack of talent and leadership he had around him at Duke- another thing that won’t be a problem in New Orleans:

“We had a young team, maturity-wise, this year. I would’ve rather had him playing with Nolan Smith and Kyle Singer. I think they would’ve reacted better to his aggressive attitude. We didn’t always use his attitude properly.”

Look, you can nitpick any player in this draft not named Anthony Davis, but at the end of the day it is going to be about how willing the player is to work on those areas in his game that need improvement. By all accounts, working hard has never been an issue for Rivers and that same ego that everybody worries about will drive him to improve his game once he realizes that it won’t be as easy in the pros as it was back at Winter Park High School.

The truth with Rivers is that you can make whatever argument you want with him because there is plenty of ammunition on both sides. Is he selfish or was he forced to shoot because he wasn’t surrounded by talent? Is he cocky or confident? Is it a good thing that he has an alpha dog mentality or a bad thing? Honestly he can go either way and I have always felt like his career is more dependent on which team he goes to than anybody in the draft (with the exception of maybe Andre Drummond). Even if I weren’t a Hornets fan, I honestly couldn’t think of a better situation for Rivers than New Orleans.

Only time will tell.

 

45 comments
chunk
chunk

Monty said in his press conf that he sees Gordon more of a point gaurd than rivers so he can pick and roll. I think this was a great pick. and for you people who think rivers is to cocky would u rather him pass the ball at the end of the game or take the shot and give us the win. Hornets 2012 IM IN!!!

loudlikepat
loudlikepat

Can we all agree that regardless of where he stands consistency wise, this is by FAR the most exciting team to watch. Davis, Gordon, and Rivers. I'm calling this early. Rivers seems cocky and animated "ie entertaining" but i think he could be the heart of this team. Once his skill matches his mouth, he will be a killer. Good thing we have an amazing coach who's team trusts him. Monty knows this kid, and Rivers gives off an intelligent vibe. It's fate. Great draft Dell and co. I will never forget this night! patattack

nikkoewan
nikkoewan

Can I get a lot of thumbs up if I said I'll support Rivers even if I didn't like his skill set? :D But its true. Don't like his combination of skills and habits, but his a Hornet, so I'll cheer like a madman for him and support him like he's my brother. Let's go!

ImSorryMonty
ImSorryMonty

Was starting Austin Rivers chants in section 102-103 in the arena when Toronto picked Terrence Ross at 8(lol?). Fricking thrilled. This is what I wanted 100%. This night could not have gone better. If there was 1 place to keep Rivers' attitude in check it would have to be NOLA with Monty baby! What a great night!

Mickey Chatman
Mickey Chatman

Im very cheap but this year I will be purchasing NBA league pass so I can see numerous hornets games here from Fort Bragg.......Im ready!!!!!! Geaux Hornets (or whatever name we're changed to)

da ThRONe
da ThRONe

I don't like a backcourt of Rivers/Gordon. This just seems like a recipe for something unproductive. Rivers is a scorer so is Gordon. I rather not have to rely on either to get others involved. Especially not Rivers.

Boss
Boss

Just hope he realizes who the Franchise is.

Tyler
Tyler

What does this mean for Jarrett Jack??? Trade???

Skynet
Skynet

I've heard rumors that Mike had articles written for Drummond, Waiters, Henson, Zeller, Sullinger and Leonard in case any of them were the pick. He even had an article written in case we took MKG first overall. Can you just send those unused articles to needy kids now? Really happy about the pick, especially considering what was available. Can't wait for the podcast later.

Jordy
Jordy

I actually like the idea of converting Austin to a PG. If anyone can do it, It's Monty!

Ian H
Ian H

Exactly the combo I had hoped for after the lottery, the 1st and 2nd recruited guys one year ago today approaching their freshman year in college. I don't think the Hornets could have done better. Say want you want about David Stern but CP3 and his knees for Gordon, A Davis, A Rivers, and Aminu and cap room. Wow what a trade there. Both teams completely happy.

Mason Ginsberg
Mason Ginsberg

You guys all know I hate the pick. That being said, if Monty Williams is convinced that he can teach Rivers some court vision/how to pass and make him into a PG, then this pick could be okay. If they keep him as a SG, then I stand by my initial reaction. Either way, he's a Hornet now, so I'm behind him 100%!

Mickey Chatman
Mickey Chatman

Im going out on a limb and I say we will be competeing for the 8th seed next year and contending the year after. I think people honestly underestimate our coach. He now has Gordon, Rivers, and Davis to build around. He has players like Ayon, J Smitty, and Vasquez that drives their motors from tip off till the end. Now free agents will be attracted to come here like Hibbert and McGee. We will be a very exciting team that will be a problem for teams in the near future.

Jay Dogon
Jay Dogon

5 things: First of all, props to Michael. Second, I do find solace in the fact that usually if the father is a marginal talent the son is a great talent and vice versa. Third, I also like that I remember Rivers said he wanted to beat Lebron when coming out of high school. Fourth, I will hope that Rivers becomes the superstar that he was expected to be out of high school. And last, NONE OF IT MATTERS BECAUSE WE GOT #SKYNET!!! GEAUX HORNETS!

DREWBEEZ989
DREWBEEZ989

"Somebody called this…." Way to pat yourself on the back Mike.LOL. But seriously, im glad we drafted Rivers. Of course, there are concerns with his game. That can be said for anyone as the draft is not an exact science. I think the people thinking he can't become really good have short memories when it comes to current players as youngsters. Remember Tony Parker when he first came in the league? He was a bad freethrow shooter and couldnt make a consistent jump shot. He worked hard ( and Pop worked him harder) and added to his game offensively each year. Now he's one of the best in the league. I know Monty will work him hard and I think he is too scared of not being a star to not work hard. Everything around him was NBA from the time he was born. Its the classic iron sharpens iron saying. By being around greatness he will work like Hell to become great. That doesnt mean he will be great. Plenty of guys have the work ethic but never pan out, but i dont see that happening in his case. I dont know if he will be a hall of fame talent but, i think him becoming a bigger (more cold blooded) version of Mike Bibby is entirely possible.

NOS-3RD GEN
NOS-3RD GEN

Do anybody knows if we are going to keep R.Lewis or not. There are rumors stating that the hornets are gonna buy him out.Sorry plz don't think I'm dumb but what do they mean by that?

jmbell
jmbell

I love his attitude. And I just hope we don't go Warriors style with the two combo guards. The difference is we have two 6'4"+, 200 lbs.+ guards rather than two 6'2" 180 lbs guards. And EJ is twice the defender of Ellis or Curry.

Jo D
Jo D

:( I will reluctantly cheer for him...

nicks65
nicks65

An "expert", Chad Ford, just wrote that he doesn't see how Rivers and Gordon can fit together. I love that this blog had a solid answer about two minutes before the pick was even made.

berlin-hornets
berlin-hornets

I like the pick and agree that New Orleans is the best situation for him. First of all, it seems like he really wants to be here. That is a plus. I also think that Monty is the perfect mentor for him.

NOH2313
NOH2313

I wanted Rivers so badly. Happy as hell to have him. He and EJ are going to be an excellent backcourt combo for years to come.

D-Rock
D-Rock

Welcome to the N.O. Austin Rivers it's time to ball.

dbeard06
dbeard06

Like they criticized CP3 for doing.

Jason Calmes
Jason Calmes

I heard that chant. I was sitting in 103 at that time. Fine chant. For those who don't know, ImSorryMonty is pure passion and one of the top fans in the city, if not the world.

David
David

Seeing as we scored the ball like an 8th grade basketball team last year, I would say we need as many scorers as we can get. They are both GREAT pick and roll players. I'm looking forward to actually scoring some points this season.

Mickey Chatman
Mickey Chatman

Sometime cockiness is a good thing.....look at Rondo, Doc had issues with him every single game, but Rondo overall goal is to win the game and that's why he succeeds. I believe Rivers will start off too cocky but as he gains experience and plays with this team and under the coach he will come around. There is a good upside......

Scott
Scott

I hope not. Jack needs to be the PG this year and Rivers the sixth man. Maybe next year, but tarting off as the starting PG this year is only stting him up for failure.

SP
SP

THUMBS UP FOR SKYNET!

Ian H
Ian H

And the best part about the 7 guys you just mentioned are that there are 2 guys that are 21 and former lottery picks in Aminu and Xavier Henry who will be key guys on this team. They are the forgotten guys that either will be able to be traded for developed talent or can reach some of their potential and become major contributors.

jmbell
jmbell

No such thing as a dumb question. Everything I've heard says we'll buy him out since we can't amnesty him and we wouldn't have to pay his entire salary.

NO-CHI
NO-CHI

Two combo guards isn't a bad thing if one or both have height. Every time the Bulls used Derrick Rose and Kirk Hinrich, they were using two combo guards. But I think Rivers could (And should) play Vinnie Johnson for us this year: Start Jack and Gordon, and let Rivers light it up off the bench.

504ever
504ever

Jo D, I was a vocal opponent of this choice, pre-pick. Now it's time to move on, cheer for our team, and welcome Austin Rivers.

nicks65
nicks65

Sorry to thread jack, but Berlin-hornets, what is your deal? Are you an ex pat living in Berlin? I'm studying in Marburg this semester from the states.

ImSorryMonty
ImSorryMonty

that's good for a 90% negative rating on this site 42

Jo D
Jo D

If we traded Jack, Vazquez would start... Rivers is the sixth man scoring punch

jmbell
jmbell

"a quid-pro-quo between the player and team regarding contractual obligation and salary -- in exchange for gaining his freedom, the player agrees to give the team a break on the remaining salary he is owed" according to cbafaq.com

jmbell
jmbell

Sorry I didn't really answer your question. It's basically just waiving a player and paying his guaranteed money.

Jo D
Jo D

That's basically what my comment said, in less words... I'll always cheer the Team... Hopefully he can learn to dish up more assists than turnovers and prove me wrong about his ball hogging/offense stopping tendencies

berlin-hornets
berlin-hornets

I am actually a german from Berlin. Nice to see there are some more hornets fans in Germany. If only temporarily. ;-) Say hi when you can make it to Berlin (great city).

Jason Calmes
Jason Calmes

Like I care. How about this one: You can be my wingman anytime! They can't thumb down Top Gun, can they?!?!