Austin Rivers, No. 14 (Mock)
The Rockets go rolling on the Rivers.
by Adam Sweeney
Call me Bill Murray because as the Houston Rockets general manager heading into the 2012 NBA Draft, I feel like our organization is living out the basketball equivalent of Groundhog Day.
For the third year in a row, the Rockets are drafting in the 14th spot overall, a testament to my recent theory that we’re currently stuck in hoops limbo. While we’re not quite ready to ditch Clutch in favor of Punxsutawney Phil as our mascot, we’re certainly itching to break free of our shadow, because it’s been winter for far too long in H-Town. (No, marginal Playoff runs don’t count.)
A study of our Draft history shows that we’ve been a little forward happy in our picks, which is fine since we’ve found ways to acquire a talented back court (Kevin Martin, Courtney Lee, Goran Dragic and Kyle Lowry all came from other teams). So we can’t talk ourselves into Terrence Jones. I just can’t convince myself to become the Matt Millen of forward picks in the NBA. I’m also not buying the hype about Dion Waiters. Anyone who draws comparisons to “a poor man’s Rodney Stuckey” isn’t quite what we’re looking for this early in the Draft.
In order to break the chains of basketball purgatory, we need a player with the ability to shine when the lights are at their brightest. Of course, it would be nice if the NBA would air the Rockets on more than one national telecast so we would have that opportunity, but I digress. The NBA is an association of names and personalities, and frankly, our team is lacking star power. We have enough lunch pail guys. With any luck and some development, this player will turn enough heads to draw us some attention and maybe, just maybe, he will shape into an NBA All-Star.
With the 14th pick of the SLAMonline Mock Draft, the Houston Rockets select…
Austin Rivers from Duke.
This selection initially kills me but there is something special about Rivers, and when you see that spark you go for it, especially when you’re at the end of the lottery. Plus, I remember another Duke player doing alright when he was with Houston. You may be watching him put on a three-point clinic in the NBA Finals this week.
Yes, there are legitimate concerns about Rivers’ game. He hasn’t figured out how to play offense without the ball, an intangible he could have probably gained with another year of college. His attitude, defensive effort, and strength all are in need of at least a little improvement, and I don’t love his 66 percent free-throw percentage. But for critics who say Rivers isn’t NBA ready, allow me to quote Denzel Washington from Training Day in defending our choice: “The shit’s chess, not checkers!” The selection of Austin Rivers benefits the Houston Rockets on three levels.
Everything about Austin Rivers’ game says that he believes he is the man. “Well, don’t all NBA prospects feel this way,” you ask? Allow me to introduce a certain Perry Jones III (who I like, for the record.). Yeah, that’s what I thought. Rivers wants the ball in his hands when the game is on the line, unless you’ve forgotten about the backbreaker over Tyler Zeller that Rivers drained last year in North Carolina.
Some experts have criticized Rivers for being too ball dominant and he definitely could stand to shake some of the AAU mentality in an effort to look for his teammates, but it’s that same alpha dog mentality that could drive Rivers to grow into an All-Star. His crossover’s sick; his jumper is silky; and he’s an explosive scorer with a knack for getting points efficiently. We want a player who can become the face of the franchise. Austin Rivers can be that cat.
National media attention
The NBA loves it stories and Rivers’ father-son connection to Boston head coach Doc Rivers guarantees at least one more game on national TV. Plus, Rivers has the type of personality that exudes confidence. Rookie or not, he is the type of player I’d immediately head to for a quote. Tyler Zeller? Not so much. If there is one truth I know about the NBA when it comes to selecting matchups, it’s that the one thing they drool over (aside from rivalries) are star scorers. Durant, Kobe and LeBron all qualify. Rivers is the only player left in the Mock Draft with a story and style of play that I find appealing as a journalist. And yes, that matters. The NBA is more than a game. It’s also a business. (David Stern nods his head.)
It’s no secret that Kevin Martin, who has one more year on his contract, was in Kevin McHale’s doghouse last season. With Rivers on our roster, we have flexibility to move Martin, provided we lock up Courtney Lee. Should Martin somehow improve his attitude and stay healthy, we could move Lee. That’s the beauty of having an endless number of quality players. You can lose one or two without losing too much as a team overall (Aaron Brooks, anyone?).
If the rumors are true, the Rockets were one Early Termination Option clause away from getting Dwight Howard at last season’s trade deadline. It’s time for us to finish that deal and add Howard’s name next to Hakeem and Ming on the list of Center U. We have more than enough pieces to go after Howard this summer and adding Martin or Lee (should the Magic want a reunion) only makes the package sexier for Orlando.
With all that in mind, Austin Rivers is starting to look pretty damn good.
The pick is a low risk, high reward one and that’s the best kind to make as a GM. If Austin Rivers works out, the Rockets have the star scorer they’ve been desperate for since Tracy McGrady was in the red and white. If he busts, well, it’s call the NBA lottery for a reason. Besides, we’re the Houston Rockets. If the fall of the Ming Dynasty wasn’t enough to break us, I highly doubt we’re going to lose any sleep if we can’t make the Rivers flow.
|2012 SLAMonline Mock Draft|
|13||Suns||Perry Jones III||28||Thunder|