The Rockets were able to re-sign Austin Rivers after his first year in Houston. Here’s what we should expect from him in his second year!
Austin Rivers significantly helped the Rockets this off-season by agreeing to a veteran’s minimum contract, because the Rockets are in salary cap hell. Rivers was a solid contributor for the Rockets last season, and is in store for an even better season this upcoming year in my opinion.
Rivers didn’t have any time to adjust to the Rockets’ system, as he was thrust into Houston’s rotation mid-season due to injuries to Eric Gordon and Chris Paul. He was definitely forced to adapt on the fly, as Rivers averaged the second most minutes of his career, playing 28.6 minutes per game. In the post-season, however, he only surpassed his minutes average once, which continued the Mike D’Antoni trend of sticking with his same guys and not going to the bench for long stretches.
Rivers could get even more minutes this season with the Rockets trying to keep Russell Westbrook and James Harden fresh and rested for the playoffs. One surefire way for Rivers to stay in the rotation is to improve upon his three point shooting, as he shot 32.1% from deep last season. If Rivers can get back to his three point shooting clip of 37%, which he accomplished as recently as 2 seasons ago, he could very well increase his minutes from last season. In the post-season, Rivers actually shot 45.7% from deep, which was a career high for a post-season. Rivers shot 37% in consecutive seasons between 2016 and 2018, which is proof that he can be a reliable three point shooter.
A big area of concern for Rivers however is his free throw shooting, as he shot 51% from the charity stripe last season. Rivers actually had the worst free throw percentage on the team amongst players appearing in at least 45 games. To put that in perspective, center Clint Capela shot 63.6% from the line, and Capela is a horrible free throw shooter. In the playoffs, Rivers got his free throw shooting up to 66.7% which is actually his career playoff average. This is likely the most the Rockets can hope for from Rivers at the foul line, as he’s had a free throw percentage of 70% or more just once in his 7 year career.
Over the course of the season, Rivers was invaluable for the Rockets as they even started him in 15 games. Of the 15 games he started, the Rockets went 9-6. They went 34-12 in games he played on the year, despite going 17-15 before signing him. There were 20 games in which he scored in double digits, and the Rockets won 15 of them, meaning 75% of the time Rivers scored 10+ points it led to a Rockets win.
Rockets nation should be excited about this upcoming season, as Rivers will surely benefit from a full off-season as well as a year with D’Antoni. He’ll know his role with D’Antoni and actually have chemistry with the majority of the players on the Rockets.
We’ll find out soon, as the season will be underway at the end of September!