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SummerBlazers 85, SummerHornets 82: Austin Rivers Debuts

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Hit the jump for some thoughts on the Hornets' first game!

- Let's start with Austin Rivers because obviously. I don't think we learned too much tonight that we didn't already know. He loves chucking up ill-advised long threes. He enjoys (and is generally very, very good at) dribbling. And his offensive existence is essentially a never-ending battle between those two things - sometimes he attacks, and more often than not he settles and pulls up.

The Hornets started with Rivers at point guard but went away from that plan very quickly. After the first quarter, Jerome Dyson, Brian Roberts, and Xavier Henry all handled the point at various junctures, and Rivers only got a few isolated chances to handle in the backcourt. He did suffer from a couple of teammates dropping passes, but overall, his court vision was pretty glaringly lacking. I don't know if we can even call Austin Rivers at point guard an experiment at this point; it's yet to really even reach the experimental stage. The Hornets clearly have designs on making him the point guard of the future, and it's too early to write that off as an impossibility but... there's a long, long, long road ahead.

His offensive game was largely underwhelming - he missed his (ill-advised) long range chucks, he didn't consistently break down defenders or use screens effectively, and his last play of the game was downright cringe-worthy. But that said, Rivers did appear to look for guys more frequently than he did at Duke. And when he did get to the rim, his finishing ability stood out.

Cut out the bad threes (which can probably be excused on account of this being Las Vegas), replace some of his teammates with better shooters, and a 5 to 6 assist night wouldn't have been out of the question. Rivers' defense was quite solid too. I don't think he was primarily responsible for either Damian Lillard's tepid first half performance or Lillard's fantastic second, but he showed good anticipation and used his length well.

Bottom line - nothing to get worked up about either way. If you were a fan of the pick, you saw potential. If you weren't, you saw all the infuriating aspects to his game but also the potential. We'll see how he grows this week.

- Both Jerome Dyson and Brian Roberts got to the rim just as easily as Rivers, and Roberts in particular probably used the crossover more effectively. Dyson's got a non-guaranteed deal for next year and will, at the very least, be a lock training camp invite. Roberts could very easily play himself into training camp as well if he keeps this up.

- Two bigs stood out - Lance Thomas, who is also likely to make the team again, and the 23 year old Denzel Bowles. Bowles finished with 16 points (12 shots) and 12 rebounds and generally made his presence felt on both ends. It's just a game in, but he has to be on the early shortlist with Dyson, Roberts, and Thomas to get a training camp invite. Bowles was actually one of Draft Express' "trending prospects" last year, after he finished his college year at James Madison (transferring there from Texas A&M).

- Good stuff from Xavier Henry, who's competing in his first Summer League. The final 2 for 7 line looks ugly, but Henry got to the line at will, had a 3 point play opportunity wiped out by a bogus charge call, and looked generally big and strong. He's never going to be successful until he regularly starts knocking his shot down, but he did show flashes of that last season (7 for 17 from three) and will get another big opportunity this season.

- NBAtv had Dell Demps on during the second half to talk Hornets; via Brian in the game thread last night, here are some quotes from him:

"We don't want to put too much pressure on [Austin Rivers] right now"

by Brian Ball on Jul 15, 2012 8:56 PM PDT up reply actions

"We don't want to bring jerks to our team... we also want to bring talented people that want to win."
by Brian Ball on Jul 15, 2012 9:03 PM PDT upreply actions

- Other thoughts?