clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Wes Johnsons of North Carolina

Getty Images

If you head on over to Draft Express you will see that they currently have Austin Rivers going with the 16th pick, right where the Wolves could end up should Utah sneak its way into the playoffs.

The possibility of the Wolves getting the Utah pick and using it on Austin Rivers has gained mention on everything from In the Zone to Paul Allen to Real GM and pretty much every Wolves-mentioning entity in between. In an entirely unscientific canvasing of these mentions, it appears that this possibility is viewed as something of a positive.

Below the fold I'll tell you why that's insane.

First, let's talk about who Austin Rivers is and why the thought of a player like Rivers is enough to give some Wolves fans the vapors.

Austin Rivers is a highly-hyped (Naismith Player of the Year) high school player who can get wherever he wants to with the ball. He attended Duke University and made the (likely?) college shot of the year against hated rival North Carolina. He is frequently mentioned on ESPN and he led a 2nd seeded NCAA tourney team in scoring.

Better yet, he plays a position of need for the Wolves: shooting guard.

This is a conventional-wisdom marriage made in heaven.

It is also horribly misguided.

Austin Rivers is very good at looking good at basketball. He has a nice handle, he can drive to the lane from anywhere on the court, he likes the "big shot". He's also not very good at putting the ball in the bucket and he does next to nothing off of the ball.

(All stats per Kenpom.)

In the last 3 draft classes there have been roughly 22 players that fit the basic Rivers player profile. Among these players, here is how Rivers ranks:

  • %Poss: 11
  • TS: 19
  • Blk/Stl/Oreb: 21
  • FT%: 20
  • TO: 9
  • 2p%: 16
  • 3p%: 12
Roughly translated, Austin Rivers is a high usage (he carried the highest usage rate on Duke) guard with below average shooting numbers who does nothing off the ball. When Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic have their hands on the ball, what will Mr. Rivers be doing? Can he hit all of those kick-out Rubio passes that were missed by Wes Johnson, Martell Webster, and Wayne Ellington? Can he help out on the boards and on defense?

Of the top 15 %poss players on this list, Rivers has the 3rd lowest TS (53.8), behind only Tony Wroten (48.8) and Josh Selby (48.9). Out of this same group he has the 2nd lowest FT% (.658), behind only Wroten (.583).

The relatively poor free throw shooting goes a long way to negate one of Rivers's biggest strengths: getting to the line. Rivers carries a 45.8 FTr but he only makes .658 of his shots when he gets there. The one big caveat about his body of work is that if he can become a better finisher and free throw shooter, he might be a decent player. The catch to the caveat is that he's nowhere near making his off-the-ball-do-nothingness worth the risk. Maybe someday (and with another team).

Off the ball, only Doron Lamb does less. Rivers carries a combined blk/stl/oreb% of 4. As a contrast, Orlando Johnson is at 10.2, Terrence Ross is at 10, and Bradley Beal is at 9.8. These players are able to do things for their team outside of scoring points, which, in the case of Rivers, isn't exactly an efficient process to begin with. Even in comparison to Lamb (2.6% off the ball), Rivers doesn't carry good enough shooting (Lamb has a 62.4% TS) to make the off-the-ball gamble worthwhile.

Austin Rivers was a highly recruited and hugely decorated high school player who went to one of the best college basketball programs in the country. He made a few flashy shots, had his name mentioned a bunch on Sports Center, and is the son of a former NBA player and current coach. For these reasons, he is frequently mentioned as being an optimal target for the Wolves's 1st round pick should Utah make the playoffs.

Unfortunately, his college production does not suggest that he is the type of player that can live up to this hype. it suggests that he is a high-usage, low-efficiency volume scorer who will do next to nothing off the ball. This is not the type of player the Wolves or its fans need on the roster.

An even more horrifying thought with the potential 16th pick is the Wolves having the chance to draft Harrison Barnes. Let's go over this one more time: Do not draft Harrison Barnes.

%poss: 26.2
TS: 52.8
blk/stl/oreb%: 10.2
1/2/3: .723/.469/.358

Barnes is able to rebound a little from the 3 so he might be a little more functional than Rivers off the ball and he may even be able to play/guard both wing positions.

That being said, as is the case with Rivers, there are quite simply many, many, many better wing options in this draft and the North Carolinian Weses should not be selected or even considered with the 16th pick...especially if guys like Jae Crowder, Will Barton, and Dion Waiters are available.

(PS: We'll save the "Don't draft Perry Jones III" post for a later date.)