Injuries have decimated the NBA as a whole this year and there hasn’t been a team that has been hit harder than the New Orleans Pelicans. Second-year man Austin Rivers is now in prime position to show why he was a lottery pick a season ago.
In today’s edition of “All Wired Up”, I’ll delve into the fantasy strengths of Rivers as the season winds down.
» Austin Rivers, PG/SG, New Orleans Pelicans (1.0 percent owned on ESPN.com)
20 points (8-24 FG, 2-6 FT), 2 three-pointers, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal, 0 blocks vs Rockets.
I’m struggling to remember a lottery pick that was bashed from pillar to post as much as Austin Rivers was during his rookie season in New Orleans. Maybe Joe Alexander, but that’s about it.
And to be fair, Rivers was horrendous last season. He finished the season with a PER of just 5.9, averaging 6.1 points and 2.1 assists on 37.1 percent shooting. But the guy obviously has talent. Whether he was unfairly criticised because he is the son of an NBA coach or because he went to Duke doesn’t matter, but the hate definitely went too far.
Rivers has started turning things around this season. His PER to date is 11.1, more than double last season’s number in large part due to his improved efficiency.
Recently, though, he has been flashing snippets of play that show why he was the tenth overall pick in the 2012 draft. With the Pelicans’ missing Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon and now Tyreke Evans and Brian Roberts from their backcourt, the onus has fallen squarely onto Rivers to hold things together.
In his first two starts of his fledgling NBA career, Rivers has held his own. He has averaged 19 points, 2.0 three-pointers, 9.0 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.0 steal with only 1.5 turnovers in 42 minutes. His shooting has been a concern though, hitting only 40.5 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from the line.
The Pelicans have nowhere to go this season, so they’ll be in no rush to get Evans or Roberts back into the lineup if they aren’t ready, which means a heavy workload for Rivers in the season’s final two games.
The way things are going, I wouldn’t be surprised if a triple-double is just around the corner.