Why Change Austin Rivers?
The Hornets came into the Summer League with a rather dull roster, with the focus obviously on Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers. With Davis a last minute call up to the U.S. Olympic Team, it was now the Rivers show. The team has had hopes of him becoming their full time starting point guard and gave him the opportunity to run the team, but after a forgettable first two games, an injury forced him out of the final three games. So for now the jury is definitely still out on whether or not Rivers can one day be a starting point guard. It certainly seems that this just is not his time and the team would be wise to focus on what he does well and how he can be successful. Rivers is at his best as a scoring guard off the bench or as a starting two guard, but with Eric Gordon in the fold, Rivers will most likely come off the bench as a sixth man. However, despite playing off the bench, he has a chance to make a big difference and become one of the best sixth men in the NBA almost immediately. Unless of course they force him to play point guard, in which case he will struggle.
In the two summer league games that he actually played in, he shot 3-16 from the field and had seven assists. Obviously the shooting numbers will not be the norm, as he is simply too good of a scorer and shooter to continue to shoot like that and despite relatively solid assists numbers, he was just not comfortable as a point guard. He was constantly over dribbling and forcing the ball to teammates, but to be fair, the Hornets’ Summer League roster was rather pedestrian, but he simply did not look the part of a point guard.
Now to the point, why change Rivers? It is true that in the long run a starting point guard is more valuable than an excellent sixth man, but why force him to change the way he plays the game. He is a scorer through and through, who although is capable of being a good distributor, there is no reason to turn him into something he simply is not. What he is, is a dynamic offensive force, who can bring instant offense off the bench. He can shoot at an elite level, is able to create his own shot and drive to the hoop. He is also an ultra confident/clutch player who relishes the big moments, which is rare in the league. There is no reason to change Rivers, let him score. A point guard will be found eventually, but for now they should realize that they may have found one of the best sixth men in the league. Jason Terry and James Harden have both played huge parts in championship runs the last two years, which are two big samples of how important a great sixth man can be in the NBA. So why change what works? Why change Rivers?