Weight: 200 pounds
NBA Experience: 5 seasons
Position: Point Guard / Shooting Guard
Key Stats: 8.4 points, 2.0 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game (career)
- 2017-18: $11,825,000
- 2018-19: $12,650,000 [Player Option]
Austin Rivers is only one of five returning players for the Los Angeles Clippers this season. Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Wesley Johnson and Brice Johnson are the others. Rivers recently confirmed in an interview with David Baumann that he will be starting at the shooting guard position for the revamped squad, alongside veteran point guard and former Houston Rocket Patrick Beverley.
Although Rivers did start as indicated in last night’s first pre-season game against the Toronto Raptors, it is not a guarantee he will keep that spot given the stockpile of perimeter talent the Clippers brought in during the off-season.
In fact, photos from NBA media day intended to highlight the Clippers’ starters were noticeably missing a shooting guard, suggesting the position may still be open.
It is undeniable that Rivers did have a breakout season last year, but he still has something to prove to the NBA and Clippers’ fans. He has spent five years in the league, and four of them have been little more than lackluster. The relative success he experienced last season was overshadowed by accounts of preferential treatment from his father, Clippers’ head coach Doc Rivers, and the role that he may have played in a failed deal for Carmelo Anthony and/or in future hall of famer Chris Paul’s request to be traded to the Rockets.
For what it’s worth, Rivers denied those rumors.
These false rumors are comedy...so fictional it's actually amusing! People will say or do anything to get attention. A lot out there— Austin Rivers (@AustinRivers25) June 28, 2017
So what can we look forward to from Rivers this season? Will the Clippers’ roster overhaul stunt his recent growth and improved performance?
Last season Rivers finished with career high averages of 12 points, 2.2 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game. He shot a respectable 44.2 percent from the field, 37.1 percent from deep, and 69.1 percent from the free throw line, also career highs.
Rivers also successfully weathered being thrown into a starting role when Paul tore a ligament in his left thumb, causing him to miss 14 games. Rivers ended the season with a total of 29 starts - across all three perimeter positions - averaging 16 points, 4 assists, and 3 rebounds per game, while shooting 46 percent from the field and 42 percent from beyond the arc. A decent contribution for someone 2017 Finals MVP Kevin Durant recently described as “irrationally confident” and acknowledged as able to “go off and get [the Clippers] 30” during a Bill Simmons’ podcast.
Rivers should continue to be an important asset for Los Angeles during the 2017-2018 season. Despite the addition of strong perimeter players Beverley, Milos Teodosic and Lou Williams, all of whom are capable scorers, Rivers is anticipated to be utilized heavily in Los Angeles’ rotation, and should thrive within a young team playing uptempo and physical basketball.
Although Rivers is a competent point guard in his own right, he will best be utilized as an off-the-ball guard paired with true point Beverley or elite passer Teodosic. Rivers is a viable scorer from just about anywhere on the court, and presents both catch-and-shoot and isolation move threats. His offensive decision-making could be better at times, but he has improved consistently in his shooting percentages and ability to beat opponents off the dribble. In addition to shooting 44.2 percent from the field last season, Rivers had a 48.6 shooting percentage on drives, attributed in part to off-season mentoring from Sam Cassell.
Defensively, Rivers has historically been underrated. He is a much more effective defender than he gets credit for or appears to be on paper. His defensive rating has been significantly influenced by the inconsistent defense of the Clippers as a whole – particularly the franchise’s second unit. Rivers hustles, and has not been afraid to handle difficult defensive assignments (e.g. Gordon Hayward, Rudy Gay, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, James Harden). His size and lateral quickness have provided necessary sparks for the Clippers in past seasons, and his impact in this regard is not expected to change. In fact, paired with elite defender Beverley, Rivers could be an integral part of one of the most effective backcourts in the league.