New Orleans Hornets Guard Austin Rivers Isn't A Bust

By Shahab Khan
Austin Rivers Anthony Davis New Orleans Hornets
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sport

The New Orleans Hornets have arrived at a turning point in the career of their franchise. The team has finally laid down some roots in the Crescent city. The announcement of their name change to the New Orleans Pelicans which is more in keeping with their Bayou home was seen as a good move league wide. This past draft they selected Anthony Davis with their first pick,and he hasn’t disappointed. With their second pick they selected what many thought was a sure fire star in the making: Austin Rivers. Unfortunately, that star hasn’t shone too brightly this season.

Rivers is the son of former NBA guard and current head coach of the Boston Celtics, Glenn Doc Rivers. He therefore has pedigree. He has been around the game his entire life. Coming out of high school he was considered the best and most ready NBA prospect in the nation. He was ready for the jump to the next level. The Hornets took him tenth overall, with most pundits shocked that he had dropped so low.

It is this same shock that has league observers and the Hornets themselves wondering what has happened to Rivers, who has slowly fallen down the pecking order and finds himself behind Greivis Vasquez, Eric Gordon and Xavier Henry among others in the rotation. The media surrounding the team have been wondering why Rivers hasn’t been sent down to the Developmental league.

Rivers can flat-out play. He can beat most off the dribble, his range is unquestionable and he has skills that would make most guards blush. He will take time to get an NBA body but most at his age don’t yet anyways. So the question beckons why is he struggling and what should the franchise do with him?

As a rookie, your numbers shouldn’t be the be all and end all. But in truth, Rivers doesn’t have the numbers that Davis has. Rivers has the basketball IQ but right now his IQ just isn’t fast enough. The NBA game is much faster than anything he has been a part of and it’s taking him time to adjust. Playing on a losing team doesn’t help. He has all the tools that one day could make him a good if not great player but it’s just taking him slightly longer than people expected.

The Hornets shouldn’t send him down to the D-League. He needs to play and play more. He should be the first guy off the bench and coach Monty Williams needs to let him play through his mistakes. Rivers hasn’t lost any of his confidence but he just needs the backing of his coach to get his game back. Rivers was pushed into playing the lead guard role – that isn’t his forte. He is an off-guard, and needs to play that position. The team needs to bring in a veteran to guide him and show him how to get to that next level.

I’m not worried about Rivers, his game and his future stardom. I am worried about the team’s direction and who that will effect him. For now, the franchise needs to keep Rivers in New Orleans and surround him with a good veteran to learn from. If the team believes that he is part of their future, they need to make a concerted effort to make him feel that way. Rivers is much like other stars in the NBA – they need to feel wanted. If the Hornets brass do that, the sky is his limit.

Shahab Khan is a Columnist with Rant Sports focusing on the Toronto Raptors

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