To say that Austin Rivers‘ career to this point has been a disappointment would be a drastic understatement. He was quite possibly the worst player in the NBA as a rookie and he hasn’t been any better in year two, as his shooting percentage still sits at a lowly .348. The continued struggles of Rivers beg the question: will the Pelicans try to develop him going forward or will we continue to see Rivers absent from the Pelicans rotation?
Admittedly, it’s hard to picture a team not trying to get at least something out of a player who was once one of the hottest prospects around, but Rivers has been a disappointment in every possible area. He can’t even hit free throws, as right now, his average sits at a lowly .625, well below what a 2-guard should be hitting from the line. If we look at the moves of other teams in recent years, it’s not unrealistic to think the Pelicans could part ways with Rivers. Thomas Robinson — another disappointing 2012 lottery pick — has probably played a bit better than rivers, but he’s still on his third NBA team and struggling to get minutes for the Blazers. If the Sacramento Kings were willing to get rid of Robinson despite his considerable potential, the Pelicans could easily do the same thing with Rivers.
Now, the problem may be finding a suitor. When the Kings dumped Robinson, he was still an alluring prospect to many general managers. But after a year and a half of the Austin Rivers experience, it’s hard to picture why any team would be excited about acquiring this guy. Interestingly enough, the Pelicans might get the most interest in Rivers from general managers who are looking to sink into the depths of the standings in order to secure a prime lottery pick. A team like the Bucks or the 76ers has nothing to lose taking a flyer on Rivers. If he’s good, it’s found money. If he keeps playing at his current dreadful level, that’s a few more losses closer to Andrew Wiggins.
Conversely, it’s not in the best interest of the Pelicans to play Rivers right now — not when they’re trying to snag one of the last few spots in the Western Conference playoffs. Last year, when the Pelicans (Hornets at the time) were one of the worst teams in the league, they could give Rivers all the time in the world to figure things out. If he shot the team out of a few games, so what? It wasn’t like they were contenders. Now, though, the Pelicans are a mid-pack team looking to break through and Rivers’ status as a liability is undeniable.
So, he’ll likely stay on the bench while the team searches for a suitable suitor for him. It’s possible that in a different situation, he’ll develop into a solid player, but the odds of that happening a shrinking each day. He just hasn’t proven he can be even an adequate NBA player and the Pelicans can only afford to be so patient with him, especially as the attempt to crack the top eight in the West. Look for Rivers to continue sitting on the bench and look for the Pelicans to try and get whatever minuscule offerings they can for him in a trade.