Austin Rivers is now a part of this Denver Nuggets team for the stretch run, how has he played, and what can he bring to the upcoming playoff run?
Adding Austin Rivers to this Denver Nuggets team mere weeks before the playoffs wasn’t part of the team’s plans. With the season-ending injury to Jamal Murray and the team trying to withstand several other injuries in the home stretch of the regular season, Rivers has been playing a lot of minutes and might figure to have a role in the postseason.
After being traded from the New York Knicks and waived by the Oklahoma City Thunder, Rivers entered the 10-day contract dance with the Nuggets. He was recently converted into a full season contract and in seven appearances for the team, he’s averaging 24.7 minutes a contest.
How has he played in those minutes? Well, not amazingly.
Rivers is averaging 5.7 points per game while shooting 33 percent from the floor, and 21 percent from behind the arc on four attempts per game. His points per shot attempt is second last in the league, ahead of only Matthew Dellavedova according to Cleaning the Glass.
I won’t lump on him too much, but just understand that he’s having a bad time out there.
However, when his shot comes back (assuming his shot comes back), he should fit in with what Denver’s trying to do and it’s encouraging that the front office guaranteed his contract for the rest of the season despite some horrid shooting numbers.
Mike Singer of The Denver Post added that the Nuggets front office has been impressed with Rivers in the short time he has been with the team.
Everyone knows what Rivers is when he’s at his best, a shot taker and a shot maker role player. He’ll finish plays for you but you’re not the most comfortable with him orchestrating your offense every time down.
Luckily for him, he’s playing next to potentially the best passing big men ever in Nikola Jokic and the mold of a shot-happy lead guard on this team works, we’ve just seen Jamal do it for the past few years.
When Jokic is in the halfcourt, the Nuggets score 14.3 more points per 100 possessions according to Cleaning the Glass. That number is firstly, incredible (did someone say MVP?) but it’s also a testament to how great of an offensive engine he is, being able to get himself and his teammates involved – I’m not breaking any ground by writing that.
In New York and Houston, Rivers’ past two destinations, he took more than half of his shot attempts from behind the arc and knocked them down to an above-average level, 37 and 36 percent respectively using Cleaning the Glass’ numbers.
Rivers, while with the Knicks this season, was assisted on 64.3 percent of his three-point attempts per NBA.com/stats, a number that would put him near the top of his positional grouping. Using the same numbers, Murray on 58.1 percent of his makes, a career-low. At 6.6 attempts per game, Jamal gets more off than Rivers, but their skill sets align there as catch-and-shoot guards.
When looking at the most used lineups with Jokic and Murray on the court, the team made a much higher portion of their threes.
Jamal does plenty more, especially when taking steps inside the arc and finishing in the paint but that’s not going to happen this season. Austin can do his best Jamal impersonation for Michael Malone when running around the court looking for an open shot.
So, does he figure to have a role when the playoffs roll around?
Well, the Nuggets are 9-1 since Murray went down with the injury and poor shooting from Rivers clearly hasn’t mattered too much.
Other players have stepped up, especially since Monte Morris and Will Barton have been missing time too, so it’s not all on one guy to take the load.
But it is nice to know that for the minutes Rivers should get down the stretch and maybe in the playoffs when Jokic finds him open from behind the three-point line, there will be someone sitting there ready to fire. Let’s hope it goes in.