Our Boston Celtics wanted him. The New Orleans Hornets coveted him. And the Hornets, with the 10th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, wasted little time in selecting Duke guard Austin Rivers to help lead the resurgence in the Big Easy.
In case you’ve been living under a rock or have been abducted by aliens, the Hornets also had the first overall selection in the draft. They went with Anthony Davis, a franchise-caliber player who should become a perennial NBA All-Pro and should also help change the Hornets’ fortunes for the better. But as good as Davis is, he can’t do it alone. He’s a big man with an otherworldly defensive game. His offensive game is raw, unpolished, under-developed. That part of the game will come in time. But even then, Davis can’t do it alone. The Hornets know this, too. They know that they need a point guard to spearhead the attack, a player to replace the departed Chris Paul.
And they believe they have that player in Austin Rivers.
But the question is, can Rivers play the point? There are some who feel that he’s better suited to the shooting guard position. He can create his own shot, has good range, and can break defenders down on his way to the rim. But can he be the floor leader that’s required to win in today’s NBA? That’s a very good question. Ther’s no question about his competitiveness, or his drive, or his basketball IQ. Rivers can flat out play. And even though his freshman season at Duke didn’t live up to the hype (other than that game-winning shot against the Tar Heels), Rivers’ game is considered ideally suited to the pros. He has excellent speed and quickness. He’s very good with the ball. He can get into the lane, and he can finish or dish it off.
Turnovers will be a concern. Can Rivers take care of the ball? Can he make the appropriate decisions on the fly?
The Hornets think so. They’ve just tabbed him to become part of a new super duo, and one that they hope will provide the foundation for a championship contender for years to come.
If they’re right about Rivers, then the Hornets have taken a giant first step in that direction.