Is Austin Rivers to the D-League a Smart Move For The Hornets?

Published: January 17, 2013

We are now at the half way point of the season and since we’re here many players are set in their ways, some are lighting it up while others are breaking down. The Austin Rivers debate has been hot and heavy throughout the season with people firmly encamped on two sides of the argument.

Is Austin Rivers good or bad?

The hopes for Rivers becoming a solid NBA player are not lost, though they are not looking bright.

Of players that qualified for minutes there are only 8 players who have posted a PER of below 6 in their rookie campaigns. Some of the names include Kareem Rush, Nikoloz Tskitishvili, Andre Wakefield and you betcha Austin Rivers.

Descernable NBA skills aside Rivers has struggled. Many don’t even want to know why, they just know it is. The Hornets selected Rivers for all the right reasons. A hard working guy who has a winning pedigree. Once he was ranked as one of the top high-school recruits. He led the Duke Blue Devils to an NCAA appearance. He knows how to score, has excellent handles.

But all that has disappeared since entering the NBA.

There is time for Austin to improve. Can it be in the NBA?

The NBA D-League started in 2001 with the objective of creating a farm-like system for NBA teams to develop players that weren’t receiving sufficient minutes in the major league. The idea was to replicate that of the MLB and NHL system where players are encouraged to utilize it to improve their games.

While many remain skeptical of its impact of actually developing NBA talent; certain teams have been able to use it successfully. The San Antonio Spurs are a perfect example of this where they have developed players like Gerald Green, Patrick Mills and Cory Joseph.

Nearly 30% of current NBA players have D-League experience which has grown considerable over the years. Even the Hornets allocated forward Darius Miller in the hopes of seeing some more game-time.

The whole discussion of Austin Rivers heading to the D-League has stemmed from his poor play and reduced roll. Despite playing against the Boston Celtics and beating his father to now be at the head of the family table, it seems more often than not that Rivers’ decent nights are arbitrary and not part of a greater trend.

Even his better nights are not those you would expect to convince you he deserves more playing time in the league. Rivers has posted greater than 20 points once this entire season. When reaching double figures it often takes him double-digit shot attempts and 30-plus minutes to do so.

The root of the question is whether this is a smart move for the Hornets. Some would argue that it would be, that seeing playing time to work on his game in an NBA environment is a smart decision. I’m going to move against the grain and say not to send him.

My reasoning isn’t founded in facts or statistics, but merely from a player managing perspective. Rivers hasn’t been utilized in the manner in which he’s accustomed. He’s got no idea how to run a basic pick and roll and his shooting form and shot through contact is horrid. However I believe that if coached and treated in the right manner that Rivers can overcome these things while remaining with the team.

New Orleans isn’t trying to win a championship this season, so taking baby steps should be the attitude of both the team and the player. It’s been a disastrous season for the rookie, he’s arguably the worst lottery pick in the last 5 years, but patience is a virtue that is sometimes missing on even the best of us.


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