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.

Rumor: Dell Demps out, Joe Dumars in with Pelicans?

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Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry is on shaky ground.

What about New Orleans general manager Dell Demps?

A long-swirling rumor is getting renewed.

Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders:

A few league sources peg the New Orleans Pelicans as a team that is going to make sweeping changes once their season ends in eight games.

The Pelicans have long been rumored to be the next stop for former Piston’s executive Joe Dumars, who is a Shreveport, Louisiana native and has close ties to the ownership and leadership of the Pelicans and Saints organization.

League sources said recently that Dumars has been active in the NBA front office circles, scouting players and reconnecting to the process.

Demps has done a lousy job building a supporting cast around Davis. Part of the reason trading for the risky DeMarcus Cousins made so much sense: The Pelicans were so underwhelming, they wouldn’t be much worse off if Cousins destroyed their culture and/or bolted in 2018 free agency.

But it’s not too late to salvage Davis’ tenure in New Orleans. He’s locked up for three more seasons, and Cousins is an extremely talented No. 2.

Is Dumars the right man to bring it all together?

He masterfully built the Pistons into the 2004 NBA champions. He also played an integral role in the team’s downfall.

Another factor: There appears to be a mutual respect between Cousins and Dumars, who coveted the big man since he was coming out of Kentucky. That could help the Pelicans re-sign Cousins in 2018.

Dumars’ success should get him general-manager job interviews, but his more-recent failings demand tough questions. I’m unconvinced the Pelicans are scrutinizing Dumars enough, and they’d probably benefit from a more-thorough search.

But Dumars might be a fine hire. Dumping Demps would at least be step in the right direction.

Maryland star Melo Trimble declares for NBA draft

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Maryland guard Melo Trimble declared for last year’s NBA draft but withdrew.

This time, he’s not turning back.

Don Markus of The Baltimore Sun:

Trimble, less than three weeks removed from finishing his junior season with the team’s first-round loss to Xavier in the NCAA tournament, announced Wednesday he will make himself available for the NBA draft.

Unlike a year ago, when Trimble went through the pre-draft process without signing with an agent and then decided to return to school hours before the deadline, the 6-foot-3 point guard will forego his senior season.

“The deciding factor was that I felt there was nothing more I could do,” Trimble told the Baltimore Sun from the Stamp Student Union during a lunch break. “I felt like I did everything I could for the program. We went to the [NCAA] tournament three years in a row, and I had the same amount of points three years in a row. I felt that if I wanted to hopefully get to the next level, I had to leave at this time.

Trimble’s scouting report hasn’t changed much in the last year. He’s a scoring guard whose size (6-foot-3) will require him to play point guard in the next level, but he hasn’t shown the necessary distributing skills.

The biggest difference: He’s now 22, not 21.

Trimble had a superb college career, but at this point, his range is second round to undrafted.

DeMarcus Cousins answers first several Kings-related questions same way (video)

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DeMarcus Cousins had a bitter exit from the Kings, but that won’t be the last they see of him.

Cousins’ Pelicans will host Sacramento tomorrow night.

Not that Cousins rushed to talk about the matchup.

Justin Verrier of ESPN:

Cousins is pretty funny when joking with the media, and his smile is contagious. Just listen to all the laughs Cousins generates as he goes through his shtick.

Bonus points to Cousins for eventually breaking down and providing real answers. Some of his relationships in Sacramento were clearly meaningful to him, and he wanted to acknowledge those — even if he’d prefer just to get past this awkward game and all the talk it invites.

Report: Sweet-shooting 7-footer Lauri Markkanen leaving Arizona for NBA draft

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Lauri Markkanen is 7-foot and made 42% of his 3-pointers this season.

That combination alone will have NBA teams drooling, and the Arizona freshman will capitalize.

Evan Daniels of Scout:

Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen is declaring for the NBA Draft and is expected to sign with an agent, multiple sources told Scout.

Markkanen seems pretty certain to get picked in the lottery, likely in the top 10.

Calling him a good shooter for his height undersells him. It’s not just he shoots so efficiently from deep, it’s that he can generate 3-pointers in so many ways — pick-and-pops, spot-ups, off off-ball screens and even running pick-and-rolls himself. Having the height to shoot over defenders is his most noticeable asset, but don’t undersell his mobility.

Markkanen also finishes well at the rim and offensively rebounds at extremely impressive clip for someone who spends so much time on the perimeter. Those interior skills instill belief he will eventually become a suitable defender.

There are a couple red flags. He’s old for a freshman, turning 20 before the draft. He leaves plenty to be desired defensively, especially due to his lack of strength.

But his size and shooting are tantalizing. That’s plenty for now.