The notion many fans have that veteran guard Austin Rivers is a bad player is curious, as Rivers has routinely made high-level plays and had eye-popping scoring outbursts in his career. With that said, if the Cleveland Cavaliers can look past the veil that seems to cast Rivers in a negative light, they should be pleasantly surprised by what he brings to their backcourt.
A confident player with the quickness and ball-handling ability to get to the rim regularly, the shooting touch to score from all three levels, and the basketball IQ necessary to consistently make the game easier for his teammates, Rivers should challenge incumbent backup Ricky Rubio for his spot in the rotation next season. Especially if Rubio doesn’t begin to look a bit more like he did prior to suffering an ACL tear early in the 2021-22 season.
What Austin Rivers brings to the Cavs
In his 11-year career, Austin Rivers averages 8.5 points, 2.1 assists and 0.7 steals in 23.8 minutes per game, shooting 41.9 percent from the field and 34.9 percent from the field. A jack of all trades and master of none, Rivers isn’t a player that the Cleveland Cavaliers can or should rely on to contribute in any one particular area.
However, Rivers can provide just enough in every area to make a positive difference for the Cavs, and that’s all they need if he comes in the game behind a high-minute and high-usage player in Darius Garland. Especially given veteran point guard Ricky Rubio’s underwhelming 2022-23 campaign.
Last season, Darius Garland played 35.5 minutes per game. Rivers is capable of handling or sharing point guard responsibilities for that long and will at least focus on the fundamentals — what may not show up on a stat sheet — that help teams win basketball games.
The Cleveland Cavaliers aren’t the youngest team in the league, but they lost three experienced players this offseason in Danny Green, Robin Lopez and Raul Neto.
More specifically, they lost multiple players with invaluable postseason experience in Green, a three-time NBA champion, and Lopez. For that reason, bringing in a player like Austin Rivers could be beneficial for Cleveland, even if he doesn’t play a major role for them in a playoff setting.
Rivers, who has averaged 7.1 points per game on 41.2 percent shooting from the field and 35.7 percent shooting from 3 in his playoff career, has been solid but unspectacular in terms of his offensive contributions. However, his performance for the Denver Nuggets during the 2021 NBA Playoffs, is particularly notable. In 10 games (9 starts), Rivers averaged 9.2 points and 2.1 assists per game while shooting 43.5 percent from the field and 41.1 percent from 3-point range.
Quenton Albertie ·
It’s worth noting that the now 30-year-old Austin Rivers was well-liked among the young players on the Denver Nuggets in 2021-22, as the Nuggets pride themselves on team and organizational culture. That said, perhaps it comes with being a coach’s son, but Rivers is also vocal leader who has no qualms about holding his teammates accountable.
To that point, while Cleveland Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff hasn’t had any issue doing that either, leadership in sports is a shared responsibility.
From Cavs president Koby Altman to rookie forward Craig Porter Jr., who Cleveland signed to a two-way contract immediately after the 2023 NBA Draft. Whether players are vocal leaders or lead by example, whether they’re a front office executive or a coach, having people in the organization that are capable of influencing and guiding the others towards success is ideal.
With that in mind, while having a player like Rivers in the locker room might not bridge any gaps, he should help them stay alert and focused throughout the 2023-24 season.