Is Austin Rivers the right man for the Suns?

With the NBA Draft fast approaching on June 28th, we at Bright Side of the Sun want to cover all the bases regarding the possible players who the Phoenix Suns could draft with the #13th pick.

The Suns have just seven players under contract, and depending on what their plans for free agency are the team could be in a position to pick the best available player. However, with the way the way the lottery is shaping up and considering recent comments by Suns General Manager Lance Blanks, there is a strong chance the top player on the Suns' board will be a shooting guard.

We're in the middle of mock draft season, and with each new mock that is published a pattern appears to be forming. One player has been picked for Phoenix more often than any other as of late.

Today's draft coverage focuses on the player many prognosticators believe will be the pick at 13 for the Suns: shooting guard Austin Rivers of the Duke University Blue Devils.

Make the jump for some fast facts and a breakdown of Rivers' strengths an weaknesses.

So who is Austin Rivers?

  • Measurables: 6-foot-5, 203 lbs, 6-foot-7.25 wingspan
  • Position: Shooting guard
  • Age: 19 years old (one year of college)
  • College: Duke University
  • Accolades: ACC Rookie of the Year (unanimous selection), All-ACC First Team
  • NBA Comparisons: Best case - O.J. Mayo, Jamal Crawford; Worst case - Jerryd Bayless
  • Fun Fact: Son of former NBA player and current Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers

Per Game Statistics:

Season School Conf G MP FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
2011-12 Duke ACC 34 33.2 5.1 11.8 .433 1.7 4.7 .365 3.6 5.4 .658 3.4 2.1 1.0 0.0 2.3 2.2 15.5
Career Duke 34 33.2 5.1 11.8 .433 1.7 4.7 .365 3.6 5.4 .658 3.4 2.1 1.0 0.0 2.3 2.2 15.5
Provided by Sports-Reference.com/CBB: View Original Table
Generated 6/8/2012.

Advanced Statistics:

Season School Conf G MP PER TS% eFG% ORB% DRB% TRB% AST% STL% BLK% TOV% USG% ORtg DRtg OWS DWS WS
2011-12 Duke ACC 34 1129 16.9 .538 .505 2.2 9.2 5.8 13.0 1.7 0.1 13.9 25.2 107.8 104.0 2.1 1.1 3.2
Career Duke 34 1129 16.9 .538 .505 2.2 9.2 5.8 13.0 1.7 0.1 13.9 25.2 107.8 104.0 2.1 1.1 3.2
Provided by Sports-Reference.com/CBB: View Original Table
Generated 6/8/2012.

Strengths

The Suns current roster is lacking a go-to scorer, which is why many see Rivers as a good fit. He's shown throughout his high school and college careers that he knows how to put the ball in the bucket.

Rivers has the tools to be a good isolation scorer. He has an explosive first step, supreme quickness and advanced ball-handling ability which allow him to get anywhere he wants on the court. He does a great job of changing speeds and using hesitation, and he is very good with cross-overs and spin moves.

He measured 6-foot-5 in shoes with a decent wingspan and has bulked up a bit since high school, so he has the size to play shooting guard in the NBA.

Rivers has supreme confidence in his jumpshot and is capable of getting hot in a hurry. He has deep range, extending well beyond the college arc, and should have no problem making the jump to the NBA.

Rivers is not afraid of stepping up on the biggest of stages and he made a few clutch plays in his one year of college ball, including drilling a game-winning 3-poiner against Duke's arch-rival North Carolina.

Weaknesses

Despite his potential as a scorer, there are plenty of weaknesses in Rivers' game right now.

While he is able to get into the lane seemingly whenever he wants to, he's not all that great at finishing when he gets there. According to his Draft Express profile, he only converted 49% in his first 19 games in a Duke uniform. He did make major strides in that area and shot 63% at the rim over his final 15 games, but it's going to be much more difficult to finish in the paint against NBA bigs. He also only made 65.*% of his free throws, which is terrible for a guard and limits him as a scorer.

He's certainly capable of heating up from deep, but he's streaky and his form is far from textbook. He shot 36.5% from 3-point range, isn't all that great for someone who is considered to be a big-time shooter. He also doesn't have much of a mid-range or pull-up game.

Rivers spent plenty of time as the primary ball-handler at Duke, yet he only averaged 2.1 assists per game (compared to 2.3 turnovers). He doesn't exhibit great court vision, often getting tunnel-vision and forcing shots up in traffic rather than kicking it out to teammates.

Rivers wasn't a particularly good defender at Duke, and I don't see him improving all that much either. He didn't always focus on that end and often gambled instead of playing good, fundamental defense.

Conclusion

The Suns need a player who can score the ball. There is no denying that. But I don't think Austin Rivers is the right guy to fill that role. He doesn't offer much outside of putting the ball in the basket, and I question how efficiently he'll be able to do that in the NBA.

He also has some character questions. He often showed poor body language on the court and appears to have an ego. His interview at the combine did little to dispel that image. When asked what his biggest weakness was, he responded:

"My biggest weakness? Umm, man, umm. It's one of those things where, um, you know, I'll let other teams figure that one out. I don't really know."

He is still young. For all I know he could mature and lose the ego when he enters the league. From all accounts, there really aren't questions about his work ethic and he did improve throughout his freshman season. However, I don't think he's the right fit for Phoenix.

For some excellent clips showcasing Rivers' strengths and limitations, check out his profile on SwishScout.

Poll
Is Austin Rivers the right pick at 13?

  213 votes | Results


Last offseason the Phoenix Suns used $6.5 million, the NBA’s top training staff, good friends Steve Nash and Alvin Gentry, and the Arizona sunshine to lure Grant Hill away from a handful of...

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Last offseason the Phoenix Suns used $6.5 million, the NBA’s top training staff, good friends Steve Nash and Alvin Gentry, and the Arizona sunshine to lure Grant Hill away from a handful of...

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February 25, 2012; Charlottesville, VA USA; North Carolina Tar Heels forward John Henson (31) dunks the ball over Virginia Cavaliers guard Joe Harris (12) in the second half at John Paul Jones Arena. The Tar Heels won 54-51. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE

With the NBA Draft fast approaching on June 28, we at Bright Side of the Sun want to cover all the bases regarding the possible players who the Suns could draft with the #13th pick.

Depending on the decisions the Suns make in free agency this season, nearly every position could be considered an area of need.

Being that this is considered the most talented draft in recent years, there will likely be several very good players left on the board when it's time for the Suns to make their selection--and they'll likely have a very tough decision to make as to which player they think will be the best fit for this organization.

Although the Suns already drafted PF Markieff Morris with the 13th pick last season, the Suns still have yet to find that interior presence they have been searching for from the power forward position.

More on that later, for now let's look at one of the most likely candidates that the Suns could draft this season if they chose to take another power forward with the 13th pick this year...John Henson

John Henson is a 6'10.5", 216 lb junior PF from the University of North Carolina who is known for his tremendously long arms and shot blocking/rebounding ability.

Henson led the ACC in blocked shots this season averaging 2.9 blocks per game to go along with his 9.9 rebounds and 13.7 points.

John Henson measured out with an incredible 7'5" wingspan at the pre-draft combine measurements yesterday, and an astounding 9'3.5" standing reach...tying the highest recorded in this years' combine measurements along with Kyle O'Quinn, even including centers (Anthony Davis did not attend). And if those measurables alone aren't enough to pique your interest, Henson combines his freakishly long frame with excellent athleticism, a very high motor, great defensive instincts, and great character as well.

However, as with almost all players in this draft, there are some concerns as well. One needs only to look at Henson to immediately notice the most obvious issue...He still needs to add considerable size and strength to his very long and lanky frame to play with the big boys at the next level. The only other real knock on Henson is his limited perimeter shooting ability. But with everything he provides inside on both ends of the floor, I wouldn't be overly concerned with this aspect of his game.

So would Henson be the right player for the Suns to take with the 13th pick in the draft? Read on after the jump for a closer look.

Here are the stats from Henson's three seasons at UNC:


Basic Statistics

Year Min Pts FG FGA FG% 3Pt 3PtA 3P% FTM FTA FT% Off Def TOT Asts Stls Blks TOs PFs
2009/10 15.8 5.7 2.4 4.9 48.6 0.1 0.5 22.2 0.9 2.0 43.8 1.6 2.8 4.4 0.9 0.7 1.6 1.2 1.1
2010/11 26.7 11.7 4.9 9.8 50.0 0.0 0.2 16.7 1.8 3.8 47.9 3.2 6.9 10.1 0.8 0.6 3.2 2.1 1.8
2011/12 29.1 13.7 5.9 11.7 50.0 0.0 0.0 2.0 3.9 51.1 2.5 7.4 9.9 1.3 0.6 2.9 1.3 1.6

Efficiency Statistics

Player Info Shooting Ratios Passing Ratios Defensive Ratios
Year Min PTs/g FGA/g Pts/Play TS% eFG% FTA/FGA 3PA/FGA Ast/g Ast/FGA A/TO PPR BK/g STL/g PF/g
2009/10 15.8 5.7 4.9 0.81 0.49 0.50 0.40 0.10 0.9 0.19 0.76 -3.85 1.6 0.7 1.1
2010/11 26.7 11.7 9.8 0.85 0.50 0.50 0.39 0.02 0.8 0.08 0.39 -5.68 3.2 0.6 1.8
2011/12 29.1 13.7 11.7 0.92 0.51 0.50 0.33 0.00 1.3 0.11 0.98 -1.57 2.9 0.6 1.6

Usage Statistics

Player Info Complete Metrics Possession Info Possession Ratios
Year Min PER EFF EFF/40 WS/40 Pos/g Tm Pos/g % Tm Pos Pts/Pos FGA/Pos FTA/Pos Ast/Pos TO/Pos
2009/10 15.8 20.7 8.5 21.6 11.4 6.0 73.0 8.3 0.95 0.81 0.33 0.15 0.20
2010/11 26.7 23.7 17.4 26.1 14.5 11.8 72.9 16.2 0.99 0.83 0.33 0.07 0.17
2011/12 29.1 24.7 19.3 26.5 14.5 12.5 72.9 17.1 1.10 0.94 0.31 0.10 0.10

Looking at these stats it's easy to see Henson's greatest strengths. His shot blocking and rebounding is outstanding, and he is also a very efficient scorer--mainly because he is aware of his limitations as a jump shooter and prefers to stick to his strengths in scoring around the rim.

Henson has worked on his post game over the last three years at North Carolina and has certainly developed some nice moves in the low post including a nice hook shot. He uses good fundamentals and footwork to help compliment his length and athletic ability, and he seems to have good balance, body control, and coordination as well. The one area of Henson's game I was surprised we didn't see more of was in the pick and roll. North Carolina used Henson very little in this respect but this could be a real strength for him at the next level given his length, athleticism, and agility.

However, despite his very respectable 13.7 point per game average this season, his offensive skill set overall still remains rather raw. Henson has done a very nice job at progressing with each season at UNC in this respect though, so it is very likely he will continue to do so in the NBA as well.

For now, Henson is mainly regarded as a defensive/rebounding prospect at the power forward position, which just happens to be an area of need for the Suns. Rookie power forward Markieff Morris did a fairly respectable job on the boards for the Suns last season, but his defense and interior scoring still left a lot to be desired. This is why I believe there is a chance the Suns could be looking to complement Morris with yet another rookie power forward like Henson.

Henson would give the Suns much of what they've been lacking in their interior defense and rebounding, while providing the Suns with yet another big man who runs the floor extremely well and shows great potential for the pick and roll. This would also allow the Suns the versatility to move Channing Frye back to reserve center position if re-signing Robin Lopez becomes too expensive.

Many mock drafts have John Henson going as high as the 9th pick to Detroit, and while many would consider him a top ten talent, the depth of this draft makes it possible that he could slip down to the bottom of the lottery depending on the needs of the teams and the players available. If Henson were to fall to the Suns, would Phoenix be smart to take him as possibly the best player available? Or should the Suns focus on more immediate needs like shooting guard, point guard, or small forward?

In my opinion, Henson could be just what the doctor ordered for the Suns to get taller, longer, and more defensively oriented. Because of Henson's unique physical attributes, skill set, solid character, and work ethic, there is very little chance for him to be a bust in the NBA--so this can also be seen as a relatively safe pick that also has a chance to pay off in spades. If Henson remains on the board when the Suns draft at #13, I believe he would be very hard for the Suns to pass up.


*All stats provided by DraftExpress.com

Poll
Would you be in favor of the Suns drafting John Henson with the 13th pick?

  166 votes | Results


Good length helps get the shot off.

NBA scouts, front offices, GMs, coaches and fans drool over a player's measurements. We can watch them play the game amongst their current peers, but a part of projecting them into a bigger, faster league is to look at how they measure up physically.

The Phoenix Suns have openly said they are looking at perimeter scoring in this draft. To a man, every player on the team, every coach and every front office person has said for a year and a half now that the Suns need more juice on the perimeter.

They need a guy who can not only hit the big shot in the closing minutes, but create it for himself too. Steve Nash should not be expected, at age 39, to create every single open shot for the team. The biggest hole on a holy roster is at SG. Ideally, the Suns would have someone who can take their opponent off the dribble, plus hit an open jumper, plus play defense at the other end of the court.

To do all those things, you need the tangibles. It's easier to defend big guards in the post if you're tall and thick. It's easier to deflect passes and disrupt the opponent if your arms are long. It's easier to catch the ball for a shot or a steal, and to wrestle the ball from an opponent if your hands are large.

The measurements came out yesterday for all prospects. Let's take a look at how the shooting guard prospects measured up.

First things first. Again, this is just the shooting guards projected in the 6-20 range today.

Height (with playing shoes on):

  1. Terrence Ross - 6'7"
  2. Jeremy Lamb - 6'5 1/4"
  3. Austin Rivers - 6'5"
  4. Dion Waiters - 6'4"
By comparison, the shooting guards currently in the Pacific Division, plus the best of the last decade:
  1. Gordon Hayward - 6'8"
  2. Nick Young - 6'7"
  3. Brandon Rush - 6'6 1/2"
  4. Kobe Bryant - 6'6"
  5. Randy Foye - 6'4"
  6. Mo Williams - 6'1"
  7. Brandon Roy - 6'7"
  8. Michael Redd - 6'6"
  9. Jason Richardson - 6'6"
  10. Dwyane Wade - 6'5"
  11. Richard Hamilton - 6'7"
  12. Joe Johnson - 6'7"
  13. Jason Terry - 6'2"
  14. Vince Carter - 6'6"
  15. Manu Ginobili - 6'6"
  16. Allen Iverson - 6'0"
  17. Ray Allen - 6'5"

As you can see, the better shooting guards are generally on the top end of the height scale for their position. It allows them to get their shot off over top of the defender, no matter how tightly they are being covered. None of this year's top SG prospects are even 6'6" except for Terrence Ross.

Height isn't everything though. A short neck can lose you an all-important inch or two but have no bearing on your overall length. No one shoots the ball with their head. Let's take a look at wingspan, which helps get that shot off. For reference, the average person's wingspan = height from floor to top of head.

Wingspan and standing reach, an indication of overall length, among the Suns' prospects:

  1. Jeremy Lamb 6'11" wingspan, 8'5" standing reach
  2. Terrence Ross, 6'7 1/4" wingspan, 8'5" standing reach
  3. Dion Waiters, 6'7 1/4" wingspan, 8'2" standing reach
  4. Austin Rivers, 6'7 1/4" wingspan, 8'1" standing reach
Ah, as you can see, each of these guys has long arms to help make up for their lack of traditional height. How does that compare to their peers in the Pacific, plus some of those "best of the decade" guys?
  1. Gordon Hayward, 6'7 3/4" wingspan, 8'7" standing reach
  2. Nick Young, 7'0" wingspan, 8'4.5" standing reach
  3. Brandon Rush, 6'11 1/4" wingspan, 8'8 1/2" standing reach
  4. Randy Foye, 6'6 1/4" wingspan, 8'1" standing reach
  5. Brandon Roy, 6'8" wingspan, 8'5" standing reach
  6. Dwyane Wade, 6'10 3/4" wingspan, 8'6" standing reach
  7. Mo Williams, 6'5 1/2" wingspan, 8'2.5" standing reach

Jeremy Lamb measures most favorably to these guys in terms of length, but again this class as a whole doesn't measure up in length with either their peers in the Pacific or the best in the game.

But is that a harbinger of doom? Not necessarily.

Length isn't everything. Brandon Rush's length is what got him drafted in the top 10, but he has not produced like a top 10 player. Nick Young has a sweet stroke, and his length likely helps him get his shot off over anyone, but he hasn't been a star either. Randy Foye and Mo Williams are quality players despite coming up short in length, though it took them a few years to find their way and neither is an all-star by any means.

Today, the prospects compete in terms of agility, and thickness also plays a part in the tangible as well. Don't forget those things. Oh yeah, and there's the overall talent thing.

Have at it folks. What do you think about length, when it comes to shooting guards?


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