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2014-2015 Exit Interviews: Austin Rivers

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We continue the 2014-2015 Exit Interviews with the Austin Rivers story: From Draft Bust to Daddy's Boy to Playoff Hero.

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Key Stats
AGE YEARS IN NBA YEARS WITH CLIPPERS 2014-2015 SALARY CONTRACT STATUS
28
3 1 $2,439,840 Unrestricted Free Agent; Clippers have his limited Bird Rights up to $3,110,796

PPG RPG APG FG% 3P% FT% WS/48 PER TS% eFG%
2014-2015 (with Clippers) 7.1 2.0 1.7 .427 .309 .582 .046 10.6 .488 .473
2014-2015 (Playoffs) 8.4 1.7 1.1 .438 .371 .632 .045 12.8 .516 .500
CAREER 7.0 1.9 2.1 .397 .326 .624 .011 9.3 .467 .435

In a Nutshell
Four years ago in 2011 the Clippers traded for Chris Paul and completely revolutionized the franchise from laughingstock to perennial playoff contender. One of the key pieces involved with the trade was Minnesota's unprotected draft pick, which just so happened to end up being Austin Rivers. Coming out of Duke, Austin was picked 10th and projected to be a legit NBA player. However he then proceeded to post what many called the worst rookie season ever, and two years later found himself fighting to stay in the league. Traded to the Celtics and rumored to be destined for the D-league, the Clippers saw a thread bare bench and a young, salvageable lottery pick, and proceeded to make history by pairing up the first father and son player-coach tandem. While the rest of the league snickered about nepotism and the incompetence of GM Doc, it ended up being old Glenn getting the last laugh.

During the season Austin did little to impress with his play backing up Chris Paul, but did provide the Clippers with youth and a different type of guard. While being an aggressive penetrator, Doogie from the start could be relied upon to bring energy on the defensive end. Going into the playoffs, despite one or two outlier performances against Sacramento and others, there were many still dubious of Austin, suggesting Lester Hudson get playing time over him. If only the world knew what was coming for them in the playoffs.

During the course of the postseason, AR25 broke basketball Twitter and the Internet on multiple occasions. Game 4 against the Spurs with the Clippers down 2-1 having been blown out in the previous game, Doogie went 7-8 off the bench scoring 16 points in 17 minutes allowing the Clippers to net a victory. Against the Rockets in Game 1 with Paul sidelined with a hamstring injury, Austin started his first playoff game scoring 17 and making 4 three pointers. In Game 3 versus Houston Austin scored 25 points going on a 20-3 tear with Redick putting the Rockets away in the third quarter. No one could've predicted that Austin Rivers would play an instrumental role in 3 Clipper playoff victories, but some credit must be given to Doc and Wohls for taking a chance on the kid when no one else would. Austin showed flashes he can be a real NBA player, but the biggest thing to remember is that he's only 22.

Strengths
Austin Rivers is what Doc affectionately calls a "downhill" guard. Austin has an extremely quick first step that allows him to drive past defenders and penetrate into the lane. Once in the lane, Doogie has a variety of floaters and off-balanced ways to finish over larger defenders. While not known as a shooter, in the playoffs Austin found his stroke, hitting around 37% from deep giving slight confidence that the three ball could be developed as a real tool in the future. Austin brings energy and athleticism to defense, allowing him to be a good on ball defender at both guard spots, and against smaller 3s, even seeing some spot minutes against Kawhi Leonard. One of the biggest strengths Austin brings is his youth, athleticism, and unbridled confidence that he is the best player on the court.

Weaknesses
Despite being the backup point guard, Austin has a suspect handle and poor court vision. With so much of his game being built on his ability to attack the basket, Rivers doesn't do nearly enough passing when gets into the lane drawing help. Often when he has the ball, he can be a black hole insisting on taking his man one on one. This tunnel vision means that Austin often takes too many poor shots in the lane, trying to finish from weird angles and with crazy floaters. While he is better at making these than I expected, he's not Kyrie Irving at the rim, and should learn to find the higher percentage basket. While Doogie can be engaged on defense on ball, he is a spacey help and team defender, often missing his assignments, losing his man, and doubling down at errant times. It's the little slips in concentration that can lead to problems, like not boxing out the Danny Green after shooting a free throw.

Future with the Clippers
The Clippers have Austin's bird rights and are able to pay him up to $3,110,796 million this offseason. While he did have a few great playoff performances, it's extremely unlikely that any team in the league would be willing to throw Doogie money that would fall outside of the Clippers's price range. Plus, Austin has repeatedly talked about how much he loves LA and his situation with the team, commenting how he would sacrifice to remain a part of it. Plus it helps when your dad is the coach and de facto GM. Austin is a 22 year old that finally showed some promise after 3 years in the league. The Clippers need to resign him if only because they are unlikely to find a better player with the veteran's minimum if he decides to leave.

Favorite Moment
There are so many terrific Doogie moments from his incredible playoff extravaganzas to Staples chanting "Austin, Austin, Austin" to falling on the same behind the back dribble move twice in back to back playoff games. With so many great moments to choose from, I wanted to go with two of the more humorous. First, Justin Russo, Clips Nation staff writer, actually purchased an Austin Rivers Clippers jersey because of these magical playoff runs. Second, this:

@blakegriffin32 w/AR iso impersonation #GetTheF&$kOutTheWay

A video posted by matt_barnes9 (@matt_barnes9) on