Duke guard Austin Rivers has apparently seen enough of Durham, NC, and is declaring for the NBA draft, per a report by CBS Sports. The son of Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers was one of the most highly-recruited high school hoopers in the country heading into this season, and his freshman season at Duke has provided more than a handful of highlights, including that buzzer-beater against arch-rival UNC.
Rivers will definitely be a lottery pick, but his stock has cooled in the past couple of months. Perhaps the expectations were a bit too high, but as the rigors of a competitive ACC season wore on, his play deteriorated a bit. The best player on a very good Duke squad, he seemed incapable of leading the proverbial charge into battle, as was evident when a flat-lining Blue Devils squad got their asses handed to them in the ACC championship against UNC, then got defeated by 15-seeded Lehigh in the NCAA Tournament. If you’re the best player on the team, you have to rile up the troops better than Rivers did.
It doesn’t help that his game seems so one-dimensional. He’s a great scorer, capable of shooting from anywhere on the floor and quick enough to penetrate the paint, but he rarely showed the ability to make his teammates better. As a 6’4” guard, he needs to develop into a better passer if he wants to earn substantial playing time in the NBA, lest he start wearing the dreaded ‘tween guard’ label that dooms high-ceiling, low-impact players like Jerryd Bayless and Ben Gordon. The talent is definitely there for Rivers to be an NBA star, but it will take a lot longer to reach that point than many of us thought back in October.
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