It’s time for Austin Rivers to prove his worth for the Clippers


May 8, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan (6) and guard Jamal Crawford (11) congratulate guard Austin Rivers (25) against the Houston Rockets during the second half in game three of the second round of the NBA Playoffs. at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Doc Rivers decided to pay his son quite a hefty allowance. Last week, Austin Rivers agreed to terms on a two-year contract worth $6.4 million to return to the Los Angeles Clippers — the team his father doubles as a head coach and team president for.

Prior to the mid-season trade in January that sent him to Los Angeles last year, the younger Rivers, 22, was on the verge of being stamped with the undesirable label of yet another college athlete who made the leap to the professional stage prematurely.

Rivers surprised many by foregoing his remaining three years of college to declare for the draft in 2012 after a salient season as a freshman at Duke. New Orleans made him a lottery pick three years ago, but Rivers never seemed to look comfortable as a Hornet/Pelican, as his playing time was shaky, and he never settled into a consistent role over a year and a half span with the team. In a total of 165 games for New Orleans, Rivers only averaged 6.9 points in 21.4 minutes a contest.

There isn’t another person on this planet that knows his son’s game better than Doc, which he proved during the Clippers’ late season surge last year.

Unlike Monty Williams, Doc provides his son with the best possible scenarios to flourish on the court. Coach Rivers primarily utilizes Austin as a point guard, a transition from shooting guard — the position he played in college and in his first seasons in the NBA. Austin appears to be benefitting from handling the ball more, and Doc’s desire to push the ball and maintain a fast tempo certainly caters to his young, speedy son. Also, it doesn’t hurt that he’s learning from one of the league’s top guards, Chris Paul.

Apr 19, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Austin Rivers (25) picks up a loose ball against San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker (9) during the second quarter in game one of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

In his first taste of the playoffs, Rivers’ PER was impressive, climbing to a solid rate of 12.9. Austin didn’t miss a beat stepping in as the second unit’s offensive facilitator, a job he showed that he is more than capable of performing. Although it can’t be seen in the box score or stat lines (except for his 25 point Game 3 against Houston), Rivers demonstrated an intelligent grasp of his father’s offensive schemes, and moved the ball efficiently in his new role.

I understand that the former Duke standout’s stat line doesn’t jump off the page (7 points and 2 assists last year), but that isn’t the point. Rivers is younger than five of this year’s draftees, but already has three seasons of NBA experience under his belt, including a valuable appearance in the postseason. There is no denying the strides his game has taken, and his level of play will only continue to rise.

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Rivers was the best candidate for the vacancy behind Chris Paul on the depth chart in Los Angeles.

This year’s free agent market was superb, just not at the point guard position. As of July 11th, (ten days after players could officially sign to teams) HoopsHype listed Sergio Rodriguez as the best available at the position. Yup, the guy who left his mediocre NBA career for Spain and never looked back.

Rivers’ presence on the court with the Clippers was promising. The combination of Rivers, Matt Barnes, Jamal Crawford, Glen Davis, and Spencer Hawes (all reserves except Barnes) outscored their opponents by an average of 6.5 points last season, a rare feat for a fixture of bench players.

Doc has shown his son the money, now it’s time for Austin Rivers to prove he’s worth it.

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