NBA Draft Player Preview: Austin Rivers

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This is the first of PBT’s review of players in the 2012 NBA draft, we will be running these regularly up through draft day, with plenty of other content to follow.

Austin Rivers is not a guy sliding under the radar in this draft — he’s the son of former NBA player and Celtics coach Doc Rivers and a starting guard with Duke last year. Doesn’t get much more high profile than that.

And he’s got NBA game. The real question seems to be is he willing to fit it in the NBA style.

Rivers is a 6’4” two guard who can play the one sometimes, a combo guard. If you’re looking to criticize, the word you’re looking for is tweener. He’ll have a hard time defending two guards, and he’s a guy looking for his own shot with the ball not dishing like a traditional point.

But we’re nitpicking a guy who is a lottery pick. Draft Express has him going No. 15 (and they are one of the best sources for following the draft run-up). I was able to catch him a couple times on television (turns out Duke gets a lot of air time).

Rivers plays like a coach’s son — good shooter well out to the NBA three point line and he plays a smooth, confident game. He’s also got good handles, the hesitation move of a mature player and a good crossover move that helps him create space for his shot. He can get to the rim and DraftExpress notes his finishing at the rim improved as the season wore on.

The guy can score, the question again is getting him to do that within the system. ESPN’s Chad Ford has said his game seems modeled after Kobe Bryant — the swagger, the scoring — but Kobe is a different level of athlete. Kobe breaks out of the offense but can pull it off. Rivers is a solid NBA level athlete but he’s not elite (meaning he’s no Derrick Rose, John Wall, etc.). Rivers is going to have to adapt his game at the NBA level, improve the skills he has and work within the offensive system to get his — be a guy who can catch-and-shoot (he shot just 33 percent on those at Duke) not just score off the bounce. And if he wants to stay on the floor he has to improve his defense.

At Duke Rivers seemed to try to get his own shot to the detriment of others at times and it hurt the team. And his college PER 16.85 isn’t blowing anyone’s doors off (it’s just above average).

Still, Rivers is a smooth, smart player who can put the ball in the basket (15.5 points per game, shot 36 percent from three). At the end of the day that is what this game is about. It may take Rivers a while to adapt, the way it took Klay Thompson and many before him some time to adapt. But you’ve got a guy who can be a solid future NBA starter or sixth man here who isn’t going to hurt you.

Now the big question — if he fell to 21, would Danny Ainge bring him in and let him be a Celtic? He likely would be the best player on the board at that point, but oh that would be an awkward situation. Ainge is praying that Rivers is taken higher and he doesn’t have to deal with it.

He most likely will not have that problem. Rivers may take a little while to develop, but he should have a good NBA career ahead of him.

Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala cleared to play vs. Pelican Friday

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Without Draymond Green in the fourth quarter Tuesday night in the opener, and with Andre Iguodala out for the game, the Warriors defense fell apart against Houston. The Rockets scored 34 points in the quarter and came from behind to beat a Warriors team that had been in control of the game up to that point. There was more to it than just Green’s balky knee, but without the Defensive Player of the Year they are not the same.

Bad news for the Pelicans: Green and Iguodala have been cleared to play in New Orleans Friday. Green had an MRI and it came back negative.

Green admitted he was concerned that the injury, via Anthony Slater of The Athletic.

Now it is the Pelicans who should be concerned. The Warriors will want to wash the feeling of that opening night loss off them.

Report: Kevin Love was frustrated with move to center

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With Derrick Rose having to start at point guard (until Isiah Thomas returns sometime in early 2018) and Dwyane Wade starting at the two, Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue had no choice but to move Kevin Love to starting at center. The Cavaliers desperately need the floor spacing to open up driving lanes and options for LeBron James. Start Tristan Thompson at the five (with Love at the four and Jae Crowder coming off the bench) and it adds another non-shooter to the mix that allows opposing defenses to just pack the paint and force LeBron to be a jump shooter.

That doesn’t mean everyone liked the change.

Love admitted to Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer he was frustrated with the move at first.

“It’s been a little bit of a change for me,” Love admitted. “I still find myself spacing a little bit wanting to roll a little bit more and on the defensive end just playing the primary big on their team the whole time on the defensive end. It’s been a little bit different figuring things out on that end, but it comes with the growth I’m talking about. We need to do that and hopefully be a machine when things start clicking.”

Lue put it this way.

“We’re going to try it out and see how it works. He was frustrated at first, but now he’s enjoying it.”

While in certain matchups, when the opposition has a more traditional center, the Cavs may go back to the Love/Thompson front line for a stretch. But the small ball lineup is the way Cleveland should be leaning, even with its clear defensive deficiencies. We saw that in the opener with Love’s dagger three in the fourth quarter.

Love is adjusting, he’s already sacrificed a lot to play with LeBron. This is just another step in that evolution.

Another wing down? Celtics’ Marcus Smart likely out vs. Sixers

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The horrific, probably season-ending injury to Gordon Hayward has left the Celtics with a shortage of players on the wing.

Going up against Philadelphia Friday night, that might be getting worse, reports A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston.

Looking at the pictures, I doubt Smart plays.

As noted, Smart said he hurt both ankles in the second night of a back-to-back against Milwaukee, the left one in a collision with teammate Jaylen Brown. Smart started that game and played 32 minutes. That’s a lot of time to go to lesser players.

If he’s out Friday, that likely means either Terry Rozier or Abdel Nader get the start, and both are going to see a healthy bump in minutes. Whatever happens, the Celtics would miss Smart in a game where they need to defend Ben Simmons on the wing.

What happened to Willy Hernangomez’s minutes with Knicks?

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When talking about the Knicks’ young core going forward, Willy Hernangomez was one of the names that got mentioned by the front office (alongside players such asFrank Ntilikina and Tim Hardaway Jr.). The Knicks are crowded at the center spot — Enes Kanter got the start in the opener Thursday night, and Kristaps Porzingis should get minutes there (it’s ultimately going to be his NBA position), and this isn’t even mentioning Joakim Noah — but Hernangomez looked like a developing young player who needed some run.

He got just 3:46 minutes in the opener, and that was during fourth quarter garbage time. Kyle O'Quinn got nearly 22 off the bench at the five. That follows a preseason where Hernangomez saw his minutes drop seemingly game-to-game.

What gives? Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News asked the same question.

“We have a lot of bigs,” Hornacek said. “(O’Quinn) and Enes earned the minutes in training camp. Willy’s not far behind. He’s got to keep working. When you got that many bigs, you can’t play them all. The other guys earned the minutes. I told all three of them it doesn’t matter if you’re in the rotation or out of rotation. If you’re in it, you’ve got to earn it to keep it.”

“I can score. It’s not difficult for me. I think the coach wants to see my effort on defense. That’s why I have to keep working hard everyday,” said Hernangomez, who is also Kristaps Porzingis’ best friend on the Knicks.

Without question, Hernangomez needs to work on his defense, but then again this is a Knicks team starting Kanter so it’s obviously not a requirement.

Hornacek needs to find a balance here — it’s early in the season, he wants to win games, he wants to put his best foot forward. But the Knicks are not a playoff team this season, and they are in the player development business. That means Hernangomez — as well as rookie point guard Ntilikina — need to get minutes, need to be thrown to the wolves a little, and need to learn from their mistakes. Hornacek needs to be coaching for a few years down the line… the problem is he knows he may not have this job that far down the line, so he’s coaching to get wins now.