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

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.

19 responses to “Is Austin Rivers to the D-League a Smart Move For The Hornets?”

  1. Doing well against lesser competitors if he’s fragile will do little to help his confidence. Go punch a 5y old in the face and see how much stronger you feel. Doing poorly against lesser competitors if he’s fragile would be a disaster. If that 5y old whips your tail, then see how you feel.

    • Excellent point. I don’t think it’s worth it to send Austin to the D-league, because if he does poorly it’ll absolutely destroy his confidence. Let him sit and learn from Monty and Gordon, we’re in no rush for him to be good.

    • From a comparative perspective, I agree, but doesn’t that overlook the fact that if said 5-year old does indeed kick your butt, you probably have no business competing with the big boys to begin with? If he’s simply not good enough, confidence won’t matter much. Just expressing another point of view.

      • Mason, I don’t think sending him to the D-League fixes the physical issues, and his play in the NBA has already told us that he’s not ready for the NBA.

        His best place to develop is practice with his Hornets teammates and with Monty. I would not be surprised in the least if he spent some time in the D-League next season, but not this one. I don’t think he can out there on his own at this point.

      • You calling me short?

        Look here, Andrew . . . now, down here where the people of average height live . . . one of these days I’m going to really have a good zinger about you, and I just might post it . . . sir . . .

  2. So when you decide to rebuild in the draft and generally remain young in FA this is what you get… But this kid never had to see Santa in the ghetto… Frankly I would like to see him just settle down and make his shot… He gets looks but he can’t dominate so he passes..

    You have to like his passing, hustle, basketball IQ, and pedigree… He is the kid in the mail room who does all his work on time and gets to work… Let him earn his way out… He isn’t confused nor hurting the team…

  3. Overall, the D-League is more complex than ‘lesser competitors’. D-league players can often be just as physically gifted as NBA players, but lacking in talent/skill/IQ. ie: During Summer League, Austin struggled against the older, physically-matured athletes.

    Either he will grow physically and match the physicality of the NBA/borderline-NBA body, or he he will learn to adjust with his current physical tools. The first option takes time, while the second, I believe, takes practice, which the D-League can provide in greater frequency than his limited NBA minutes.

  4. He looks generally lost, which is worrisome but not fatal. He looks criminally overmatched physically, which when combined with the first, whispers of the irretrievable.

    Hope to see him improve. I understand his Duke stock was at its peak, but jumping to the NBA is doing him no favors. Commenters are worried he’d lose to 5 year olds.

  5. I think almost all would agree that another 2 years at Duke would have been the way to go for Rivers. But now that’s not possible and Monty is dealing with reality. He’s known Rivers since he was a little kid and, my guess, realizes throwing him to the D’League wolves at this stage would be counter productive. Jason is right, maybe next year when his body is more mature and his head is more relaxed. At this stage it’s best to keep the little chick near the nest.

  6. Let him stay. He’s a hard worker and he’s smart. Like it was stated,we aren’t gunning for a ring this year. Those layups will start falling, and so will his 17 footer. He just seems like he’s over-thinking things. The NBA has been a part of his whole life. That has to be extra pressure on him. He always looks so nervous. Hopefully it will become second nature sooner than later.

  7. Confidence or not (has it been scientifically proven to produce wins in basketball?), I think Rivers lacks productive basketball skills or skills at a level that are productive at the pro-level. He doesn’t need to be a big boy to hit a jump shot. It can help when try to get a good look but a he and/or his team can get him one without him needing to get bigger. So I’m not buying confidence or size as an reason for this level of un-productivity.

    I think the D-League would be good for him. It’s odd to worry about the worst that could happen (building an argument on the worst-case scenario rather than the probable scenario is fear trumping reason – I mean even then, are we scared to be wrong about Rivers’s ability to play professional basketball?) In the D-League he would get more minutes in much less pressured situation. He would learn how to deal with mistakes. He would be able to polish that jump shot in game situations that are not him playing his father or Wade or Harden or the best players in the world. (and for the confidence argument, is it only me who thinks it’s a hit to one’s confidence to be constantly comparing yourself to players you aren’t yet prepared to compete with?)

    He would overall be able to make a realistic and reasonable assessment of his skills and what he needs to do to get better rather than trying to high jump to standards that may or may not be reachable by him (not to say he can’t but be good, just different standards.)

    So yeah, I like the D-League for him … however I think that Williams and his coaching staff are very valuable to Rivers in understanding both the team’s system and Williams’ apparent skill at developing guys. I think the D-League is the best place to work this stuff out for a player like Rivers … but I’d much rather it be a D-League team that’s owned and/or operated by Benson and the franchise …

  8. So Coach, so far, wants to work with him… Look this kid is privileged… First he is from an affluent background… Every now and then one of these Silver Spoon kids has a little talent… This kid is the “Golden Boy” or everyone is hoping he is…

    How many former NBA players/coaches are worth anything athletically… He is holding his own in not losing games due to his play.. and he has something you have to be borne with…. Personality and dominance… This kid wants to dominate games…

    We know he can’t physically dominate but notice.. if he gets his shot… its on…. He plays behind Vasquez and EG.. that’s not bad…. Trust if he was so completely out of his game.. still evolving… He is learning to pass and when to do it…

    He is almost our best passer…. he can get to the hoop although too nervous to make a shot… He has the heart of the Lion… notice his progress so far…

  9. I view the resigning of Sloan as a neccessary step to sending Rivers to the D-League. We need another guard, especially who can play PG, if we send Rivers down to the D League.

  10. I thought Doc looked mildly concerned on draft night. He certainly was not unreservedly enthusiastic, like I expect most families would be.

  11. This would be a great move for him to develop his game.We all know he’s not NBA ready let him go to the d-leauge.

  12. So I guess everyone forgot about Vasquez and Aminu. It took both players 3 years to settle into this league. Both are now doing some good things and still getting better each game. Give Rivers time.

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