Beneath the Screen: A Rivers Runs Through It

Published: December 7, 2012

After the Lakers game the other night there was a lot of talk on the site and twitter about Austin Rivers. Some people were labeling him a bust less than 20 games into his pro career. Others see potential but understand this is a long process. The 10th overall pick is going to be a hot topic this season, and, as the point guard of the future, I decided to look at how Rivers does on the pick and roll. To the Madistrator!

Here Lopez sets the screen for Rivers. The screen is excellent and forces a bigman to switch onto Rivers. This is a matchup he should normally win as he has a huge speed advantage. Just look at the space on the left side of the court. But instead of going around the defender he cuts back to the right…

and runs into Lopez and becomes pinned there between his screen man and the defender.

Rivers loses control of the ball and Kobe comes up for a quick steal and dunk in transition.

Rivers has no need to cut back to the right on that play and the bad decision is compounded by giving up easy transition points. Rivers needs to realize he has a favorable matchup and drive to the rim. As he gains experience he’ll be able to recognize these situations better.

Let’s take a look a better example

As Rivers comes around the screen, a defender slides over to cover him.

This times Rivers sees the defender takes a poor angle and this time Rivers correctly cuts back inside. Notice there is more space between him and the screener, so he doesn’t pull a Mark Sanchez and run into his teammate.

After he cuts correctly, Rivers has enough space and positioning to score.

Even though he struggles at times, I’m not ready to label Rivers a bust or even say he’s not going to be a good NBA player. Right now, he makes both good and bad plays. What he simply needs is time and minutes.

Even though it’s early in his career, you can start to see the type of NBA player he will be. Throughout the season so far, Rivers has continually slashed to the basket. This skill is going to aid him on the pick and roll but I noticed that Rivers doesn’t tend to pass in that situation. In fact, most of his assists on the season have gone to other guards instead of the team’s bigmen. But his slashing talent, if you combine him with more shooters than just Anderson, is going to lead to a lot of kickout passes for open looks.

We’re less than 20 games into River’s career. He’s still going to be a work in progress. But as long and he keeps improving this season, I’ll be happy. Hopefully he learns to pass in the pick and roll by season’s end.

What’s your take? Let everyone know in the comments below.

Beneath the Screen is a reoccurring series throughout the season run on Fridays. See past editions here.



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