The New Orleans Pelicans played their first game since shedding the Hornets nickname and rebranding themselves as the native Louisianan bird. It may have just been the first game of the 2013 Las Vegas NBA Summer League, but that doesn’t change the fact that it was a bit different to see Pelicans uniforms out there.
The player that shined the most for the Pelicans in this somewhat momentous occasion was last year’s 10th overall pick in the draft, guard Austin Rivers. Rivers was incredibly productive for New Orleans as he played just under 35 minutes and put up 24 points, six assists, seven rebounds and turned the ball over only twice while shooting 8-15 from the field.
Looking at those numbers, it might seem like an indication that Rivers is ready to rebound after his preposterously awful rookie season and show that he can be an effective NBA player. However, believing that would simply be wrong as that’s not what is going on here at all.
Basically what Rivers’ big game on Friday indicates is the fact that he’s fully healed from his hand injury that ended his rookie season prematurely. Despite that, it’s impossible to separate the fact that Rivers was going up against a slew of no-named guards, an inexperienced Tim Hardaway Jr. and a seemingly uninterested Iman Shumpert for the New York Knicks. That makes it a little easier to put up 24 points.
There’s a reason that Rivers, in 61 games, finished last season last in the entire league in estimated wins added a -3.2 and with the next-to-last Player Efficiency Rating in the NBA at 5.95: he’s not as good as advertised. Rivers has talent, but he doesn’t play the game in a way that maximizes his talent. He tries to play in the image of Kobe Bryant, but doesn’t have the strength, footwork, or plethora of moves at his disposal that Bryant does. That’s a not a good place to be.
It’s good to see Rivers get another chance to try and prove himself in the NBA, but you’re kidding yourself if you’re taking any stock out of one big game at Summer League. Rivers may be improved, but he still has a long way to go before he’s an effective professional basketball player in this league.