The Houston Rockets have signed another contributor to the team, and it is someone that people are not too fond of in Houston. Austin Rivers has been a somewhat forgotten player for the Washington Wizards this season.
The Wizards are a dysfunctional franchise right now. There is drama going on between John Wall and Bradley Beal, and Dwight Howard doesn’t help the cause of bringing peace to the locker room. They have just traded for Trevor Ariza to hopefully fix all the dysfunction going on with the franchise. But notice that Austin Rivers is not the problem in this situation. He is just a bystander in the bigger picture.
For those that did not know, the Wizards traded for Trevor Ariza and sent Kelly Oubre and Austin Rivers to the Suns. Not long after the trade, the Suns immediately bought out Austin Rivers and made him a free agent. There was speculation that he may end up with Grizzlies, according to Shams Charania (in a now-deleted Tweet). But ultimately, he decided to join the Houston Rockets. The timing could not have been better, as the Rockets have lost Chris Paul to yet another hamstring injury. Luckily, it isn’t the Western Conference Finals (Sorry to bring up bad memories).
The Rockets are picking up a solid player for a minimum deal. His minutes are way down compared to last year. Rivers played nearly 34 minutes per game last season, compared to the nearly 24 minutes a game he was getting this year with the Wizards. His field goal stats are also down compared to what they were last year (from 43% overall to 39% overall and 38% from three to 31% from three). So, I can see why everyone is arguing against the signing. (Stats courtesy of ESPN.)
But let’s try to find a positive with Austin Rivers.
- He is an immediate upgrade to the Rockets’ bench.
With Chris Paul sidelined at least another 2-3 weeks, if not more, the Rockets need as many ball handlers/scorers as they can possibly have. This will relieve some of the tension from James Harden and hopefully not put as much wear and tear on him during the regular season. The Rockets need to find a way to conserve James as much as they can this season, and Austin Rivers can help the cause.
- He is an immediate upgrade from what Brandon Knight can offer this season.
Let’s face it, we all loved the Brandon Knight acquisition because we were finally able to get rid of the awful contract of Ryan Anderson. (Praise Morey!) But Brandon Knight is still trying to work his way back from nearly two years of not playing. It shows. Knight has played in six games this season, and the most points he has scored in any game this season is three. What is worse is that Knight currently has a -8.70 PER (Player Efficiency Rating). Granted, other players have a negative PER, but it is crazy that someone has a negative effect whenever they touch the floor. (Stats courtesy of ESPN.)
- Austin Rivers is already one of the better playmakers on the Rockets.
With Chris Paul out for the next 2-3 weeks, if you had to guess who the Rockets’ second-best playmaker was after Harden, who would you guess? (Go on, I’ll wait...) You might say Eric Gordon. The crazy thing is, Austin Rivers is averaging the same number of assists as Gordon. Gordon is a shooter and a scorer. There is nothing wrong with that; it’s why he got the contract he got. But with Chris Paul gone, you can’t run the MVP into the ground trying to create offense.
- Austin Rivers fits what the Rockets run.
Watch Austin Rivers’s highlights from his best season for the Los Angeles Clippers. The Rockets’ offense is all about three pointers, free throws, and lay-ups. You don’t see a lot of mid-range shots in those clips.
All in all, is Austin Rivers the signing that is going to fix the Rockets season? Probably not. But let’s take this at face value. Austin Rivers is 26 years old and is a productive NBA player. He has a skillset that lets him create his own offense, and he has a pretty decent shot. I really like this signing and can’t wait to see him (hopefully) on Christmas day against Russell Westbrook’s Thunder!