Phoenix Suns NBA Draft Series: Austin Rivers, SG, Duke

Is Austin Rivers the right man for the Suns?

With the NBA Draft fast approaching on June 28th, we at Bright Side of the Sun want to cover all the bases regarding the possible players who the Phoenix Suns could draft with the #13th pick.

The Suns have just seven players under contract, and depending on what their plans for free agency are the team could be in a position to pick the best available player. However, with the way the way the lottery is shaping up and considering recent comments by Suns General Manager Lance Blanks, there is a strong chance the top player on the Suns' board will be a shooting guard.

We're in the middle of mock draft season, and with each new mock that is published a pattern appears to be forming. One player has been picked for Phoenix more often than any other as of late.

Today's draft coverage focuses on the player many prognosticators believe will be the pick at 13 for the Suns: shooting guard Austin Rivers of the Duke University Blue Devils.

Make the jump for some fast facts and a breakdown of Rivers' strengths an weaknesses.

So who is Austin Rivers?

  • Measurables: 6-foot-5, 203 lbs, 6-foot-7.25 wingspan
  • Position: Shooting guard
  • Age: 19 years old (one year of college)
  • College: Duke University
  • Accolades: ACC Rookie of the Year (unanimous selection), All-ACC First Team
  • NBA Comparisons: Best case - O.J. Mayo, Jamal Crawford; Worst case - Jerryd Bayless
  • Fun Fact: Son of former NBA player and current Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers

Per Game Statistics:

Season School Conf G MP FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
2011-12 Duke ACC 34 33.2 5.1 11.8 .433 1.7 4.7 .365 3.6 5.4 .658 3.4 2.1 1.0 0.0 2.3 2.2 15.5
Career Duke 34 33.2 5.1 11.8 .433 1.7 4.7 .365 3.6 5.4 .658 3.4 2.1 1.0 0.0 2.3 2.2 15.5
Provided by Sports-Reference.com/CBB: View Original Table
Generated 6/8/2012.

Advanced Statistics:

Season School Conf G MP PER TS% eFG% ORB% DRB% TRB% AST% STL% BLK% TOV% USG% ORtg DRtg OWS DWS WS
2011-12 Duke ACC 34 1129 16.9 .538 .505 2.2 9.2 5.8 13.0 1.7 0.1 13.9 25.2 107.8 104.0 2.1 1.1 3.2
Career Duke 34 1129 16.9 .538 .505 2.2 9.2 5.8 13.0 1.7 0.1 13.9 25.2 107.8 104.0 2.1 1.1 3.2
Provided by Sports-Reference.com/CBB: View Original Table
Generated 6/8/2012.

Strengths

The Suns current roster is lacking a go-to scorer, which is why many see Rivers as a good fit. He's shown throughout his high school and college careers that he knows how to put the ball in the bucket.

Rivers has the tools to be a good isolation scorer. He has an explosive first step, supreme quickness and advanced ball-handling ability which allow him to get anywhere he wants on the court. He does a great job of changing speeds and using hesitation, and he is very good with cross-overs and spin moves.

He measured 6-foot-5 in shoes with a decent wingspan and has bulked up a bit since high school, so he has the size to play shooting guard in the NBA.

Rivers has supreme confidence in his jumpshot and is capable of getting hot in a hurry. He has deep range, extending well beyond the college arc, and should have no problem making the jump to the NBA.

Rivers is not afraid of stepping up on the biggest of stages and he made a few clutch plays in his one year of college ball, including drilling a game-winning 3-poiner against Duke's arch-rival North Carolina.

Weaknesses

Despite his potential as a scorer, there are plenty of weaknesses in Rivers' game right now.

While he is able to get into the lane seemingly whenever he wants to, he's not all that great at finishing when he gets there. According to his Draft Express profile, he only converted 49% in his first 19 games in a Duke uniform. He did make major strides in that area and shot 63% at the rim over his final 15 games, but it's going to be much more difficult to finish in the paint against NBA bigs. He also only made 65.*% of his free throws, which is terrible for a guard and limits him as a scorer.

He's certainly capable of heating up from deep, but he's streaky and his form is far from textbook. He shot 36.5% from 3-point range, isn't all that great for someone who is considered to be a big-time shooter. He also doesn't have much of a mid-range or pull-up game.

Rivers spent plenty of time as the primary ball-handler at Duke, yet he only averaged 2.1 assists per game (compared to 2.3 turnovers). He doesn't exhibit great court vision, often getting tunnel-vision and forcing shots up in traffic rather than kicking it out to teammates.

Rivers wasn't a particularly good defender at Duke, and I don't see him improving all that much either. He didn't always focus on that end and often gambled instead of playing good, fundamental defense.

Conclusion

The Suns need a player who can score the ball. There is no denying that. But I don't think Austin Rivers is the right guy to fill that role. He doesn't offer much outside of putting the ball in the basket, and I question how efficiently he'll be able to do that in the NBA.

He also has some character questions. He often showed poor body language on the court and appears to have an ego. His interview at the combine did little to dispel that image. When asked what his biggest weakness was, he responded:

"My biggest weakness? Umm, man, umm. It's one of those things where, um, you know, I'll let other teams figure that one out. I don't really know."

He is still young. For all I know he could mature and lose the ego when he enters the league. From all accounts, there really aren't questions about his work ethic and he did improve throughout his freshman season. However, I don't think he's the right fit for Phoenix.

For some excellent clips showcasing Rivers' strengths and limitations, check out his profile on SwishScout.

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