Why Austin Rivers is the X-factor for the Rockets this season
Much like it has been in years past, the Houston Rockets will enter the 2019-20 season with lofty expectations of raising the Larry O’Brien trophy next June. We all know the drill in Houston. They’re a top-heavy bunch that runs everything through their franchise superstar James Harden. Well, this has been their recipe for success over these past few seasons. Of course, while the Rockets have been successful mainly due to Harden’s individual brilliance, they have also had a group of guys that know their role to the fullest of their capacities. The Rockets will undoubtedly need their supporting cast to step up if they want to reach the mountaintop. With half a season in Houston already tucked under his belt, eight-year guard Austin Rivers should play a valuable role for the Rockets this season and become their X-factor.
The standout from Duke re-signed with the Rockets this off-season on a two-year $4.5-million contract. That’s pretty cheap for what he can potentially bring to the table.
The key word is potentially, as Rivers hasn’t had the most consistent of careers so far. If he performs to the best of his capabilities, then the Rockets may have secured themselves a valuable contract.
The reason why Rivers will be the X-factor for Houston this year is because of the uncertainty of what he can bring to the Rockets. The rest of the supporting cast seems to have an established role already.
Of course, we all know The Beard runs the show, and his good buddy Russell Westbrook is there to be his runningmate this season.
Eric Gordon is their main spark off the bench and tertiary playmaker. Starting center Clint Capela is their rim runner and rim protector. P.J. Tucker gives them the hustle and his main role on offense is to stay ready to hoist up three-pointers in the corners.
With Rivers, however, we aren’t entirely sure about his role in Houston. What we are sure of is his capabilities as a basketball player.
The former 10th overall pick in 2012 has sneakily established himself as an outstanding perimeter defender in the NBA. He moves his feet well and can stay in front of his man. Likewise, he has disruptive hands to be a pest on defense.
Offensively, Rivers is capable of creating shots for himself and for others. He’s also a pretty respectable shooter from beyond the arc; though not a very good one as he is just a career 34.7 percent shooter from three.
The problem with Rivers, however, is his inconsistency. The knock on him has been his tendency to do more than he’s asked to. That sometimes leads to bad decisions with the basketball and ill-advised shots on his end.
With Harden and Westbrook, there’s obviously not going to be a lot of shots in Houston. Likewise, there’s really no need for him to create plays.
Therefore, Rivers can just focus on being a pest on the perimeter and becoming a defensive spark off the bench. Likewise, just like Tucker, Rivers can solely focus on working on his threes and becoming a knockdown shooter from long-distance.
These dirty work players are the types of guys Houston needs right now. Rivers can easily fill that need for them. He’s as tough as they come anyway.
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