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New Orleans Pelicans: Why Austin Rivers Is Poised for a Breakout Season

this is a discussion within the Pelicans Community Forum; Following two underwhelming NBA campaigns, New Orleans Pelicans guard Austin Rivers is entering the most important year of his career. Depending on how he performs over the course of this season, the 2012 lottery selection will either carve a successful ...

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Old 09-07-2014, 10:30 AM   #1
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New Orleans Pelicans: Why Austin Rivers Is Poised for a Breakout Season

Following two underwhelming NBA campaigns, New Orleans Pelicans guard Austin Rivers is entering the most important year of his career. Depending on how he performs over the course of this season, the 2012 lottery selection will either carve a successful career path or set himself up for failure.

Odds, however, support the former. After displaying improvement in his second year, Rivers is poised to break out and establish himself as a reliable rotational asset.

Two reasons explain why this is the case: an enhanced offensive arsenal, and an opportunity to play more minutes off New Orleans' bench.

In 2013-14, despite experiencing a decrease in playing time, Rivers raised his production in numerous statistical categories. The most significant of these occurred in scoring and shooting from distance, as he upped his points per 36 minutes from 9.6 to 14.2 and his three-point percentage from 32.6 to 36.4 percent.



Through his first two seasons, the combo guard has proven himself a scorer who can effectively attack the rim as well as consistently shoot from deep. Unfortunately Rivers has lacked one skill that could dramatically strengthen his play: mid-range accuracy.

While his percentages from 0-3 feet as well as beyond the arc increased last season, his already shoddy hit clip on jump shots dropped from 33.3 to 25.8 percent. For a shooting guard—or any other position, for that matter—this is absolutely horrid.

Thankfully, according to Rivers himself, his atrociousness from 10-23 feet is poised to completely evaporate (h/t John Reid of The Times Picayune):
I've strictly worked on mid-range and getting my body stronger this summer. I've got both of those things and I'm ready to prove and show people that this year.

Despite poor mechanics in his form, Rivers—as referenced earlier—managed to raise his three-point percentage by just under 4 percentage points last season. Evidently, Doc Rivers' son can improve aspects of his game if he truly places an effort on doing so.

Expect Rivers' scoring abilities to soar if his word indeed rings true. With his exceptional handles and strong gift for driving the lane, opponents already play on their heels when guarding the youthful athlete. Throw in a steady pull-up shot, and the 22-year-old will prove difficult for many defenders to contain.

A potent mid-range game will only aid the guard's knack for pouring in points. If successfully applied to his overall offensive attack, the Duke product will emerge as a well-rounded scoring option off the pine.

However, in order to fully showcase his abilities, Rivers needs to consistently play a satisfactory number of minutes. Fortunately, the Pelicans made decisions this offseason that will positively impact his court time.



For the past two years, Rivers has split backup duties with point guard Brian Roberts. But with New Orleans failing to extend Roberts a qualifying offer, the 28-year-old hit free agency and ultimately signed with the Charlotte Hornets.

As of now, Rivers is poised to serve as the Pelicans' first backcourt player off the bench. Rookie Russ Smith—whom New Orleans acquired from the Philadelphia 76ers in a draft-day trade this summer—may steal some minutes with his hard-nosed defense, but Rivers will likely remain a key cog in head coach Monty Williams' rotation.

Speaking of Williams, the sideline leader expressed optimism regarding the guard's second-season improvements at the end of last year (h/t Nakia Hogan of The Times Picayune):
You have to admit that he has really improved his game. He's improved his shot. He finishes at the basket better than he did last year. His free throw percentage came up. It's not where we want it, but it came up.

The head coach clearly possesses a liking for Rivers and his talents. Barring any sort of significant setback, it seems the former 10th overall pick will obtain a plethora of playing time in 2014-15. Naturally, this will also allow him to manifest himself as a dependable NBA role player.

Austin Rivers boasts potential. He may never transform into a star—or even a solidified starter—but he boasts potential to influence a team.

Entering this season, Rivers possesses an extraordinary opportunity to validate his role in the league. With the upgrade he installed in his offensive game, along with other positives such as an improving defensive effort, he will experience a breakout season while playing an essential part in the Pelicans' playoff push.

(All stats are courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted)

Josh Haar is a contributing NBA writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @JHaarNBA.

Read more New Orleans Pelicans news on BleacherReport.com



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Old 09-07-2014, 04:53 PM   #2
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Re: New Orleans Pelicans: Why Austin Rivers Is Poised for a Breakout Season

I've been pulling for this kid and he's got some talent. If only he could just put it all together.
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