Austin Rivers

Free Agent Stock Watch 2019: Southwest Division

Every week, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents next offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we turn our attention to the Southwest Division:

DeAndre Jordan, Mavericks, 30, C (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $24.1MM deal in 2018
Jordan has pretty much done his usual thing in his first season with Dallas, ranking second in the league in rebounding and anchoring the defense. One troubling development is his penchant for turnovers — he’s averaging a career-worst 2.4 per game. The one other surprising development is a plus — the career 45.9% free throw shooter has drained 70.3% of his attempts. The always durable Jordan has also answered the bell every game. Early concerns about about “selfish” play have somewhat dissipated. Dallas may not re-sign him but someone will give him another big contract this summer.

Austin Rivers, Rockets, 26, SG (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $1.15MM deal in 2018
The above salary number doesn’t reflect what Rivers is actually making this season, as the Suns bought out his contract after he was traded from the Wizards. He had a $12.6MM salary in the final year of a four-season contract and only gave back $650K. The decision to hook on with the Rockets after he cleared waivers has been good for both parties. With Chris Paul sidelined, Rivers has averaged 12.3 PPG and 3.1 APG in 38.5 MPG in his first eight outings with a championship contender. Still in his prime, Rivers should be able to land a multi-year deal this summer.

Ivan Rabb, Grizzlies, 21, PF (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $2.3MM deal in 2017
An early second-rounder in 2017, Rabb has been a force in a handful of G League games, averaging 23.4 PPG and 10.2 RPG. That hasn’t translated into NBA playing time. He hasn’t played meaningful minutes in 14 games with the Grizzlies. Interior defensive issues and the lack of 3-point shot are the main reason why the athletic big man hasn’t carved out a role. Unless they’re convinced he can improve those areas, the Grizzlies will likely cut ties with him after the season.

Darius Miller, Pelicans, 28, SF (Down) — Signed to a two-year, $4.3MM deal in 2017
Miller receives lots of playing time but his offensive contributions boil down to an occasional 3-point attempt. To be fair, Miller is the No. 5 option when he’s on the floor and he’s an above-average long-range shooter (38.7 percent). His defensive metrics are subpar, which partially explains his paltry 8.42 PER, so the 3-and-D tag doesn’t necessarily fit. Miller’s 3-point shooting could be enough to land him a veteran’s minimum deal or something slightly higher next summer but there’s no big payday ahead.

Quincy Pondexter, Spurs, 30, SF (Down)– Signed to a one-year, $2.16MM deal in 2018
Pondexter remained on the roster past January 10th, fully guaranteeing his salary for this season. Pondexter, whose career has been sidetracked by knee injuries, has been praised as a positive locker room influence but he hasn’t contributed much on the court. He’s appeared in 31 games but averaged just 5.9 MPG with a majority of his playing time coming in blowouts. Pondexter will likely struggle to find another veteran’s minimum deal in the summer.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Rockets Notes: Rivers, Paul, Gordon, MCW Trade

The Rockets and Austin Rivers seemed like an unlikely match, given his up-and-down history with former Clippers teammate Chris Paul. However, Rivers is thriving so far in Houston, with coach Mike D’Antoni calling him a “godsend” (Twitter link via Mark Berman of FOX 26 Houston) and Rivers telling Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated that he’s “the happiest I’ve been in my career.” The veteran guard also clarified that he “never had a problem” with CP3, and took the blame for the perception that there was a rift between the two ex-Clippers.

“Everything that happened was so silly and so stupid,” Rivers said. “A lot of it was on my part in terms of I let a lot of things that were said in the media about me and Chris affect me and his relationship. I accepted it like as if Chris was saying that s—, when he wasn’t doing [anything]. It ended up kind of messing us up at the time, because there was all this stuff about how we were interacting that wasn’t true.

“Me and Chris haven’t even had to say [anything] about it because we both moved on. I was just with [him] at an event at his house. It’s just crazy how in today’s age everything does revolve around social media. Social media is so powerful.”

Rivers’ conversation with Spears is worth reading in full, as the 26-year-old also discussed how being Doc Rivers‘ son affects the perception of him, why it’s a good thing that he and Doc are in separate organizations, and why he decided to sign with Houston.

Here’s more on the Rockets:

  • Speaking today to reporters, Mike D’Antoni said that Eric Gordon might be able to return in about a week, while Chris Paul will likely miss another two or three weeks, according to Brian T. Smith of The Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). The Rockets have been playing well without Gordon and Paul, but would surely welcome the opportunity to get their roster back to full strength.
  • Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders provides some specific details on the Rockets’ Michael Carter-Williams trade, reporting (via Twitter) that Houston received the Grizzlies’ top-55 protected 2020 second-round pick in the deal and sent $1,065,966 to the Bulls. Chicago will receive that money in five installments of approximately $73K apiece, followed by a final payment of $700K next July.
  • Pincus also recently shared the unusual salary guarantee details on Gary Clark‘s contract (all Twitter links). As Pincus explains, the following things must be true for Clark’s 2019/20 salary to become guaranteed before next January 10:
    • He appears in at least 37 games for the Rockets during the 2018/19 regular season.
    • The Rockets miss the playoffs OR Clark appears in at least two postseason games OR Clark is cut by April 10, 2019.

Rockets Notes: Rivers, Paul, Knight, Mbah A Moute

Austin Rivers is downplaying talk of a feud with Chris Paul during their five years as Clippers teammates, relays Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Rivers, who officially signed with the Rockets yesterday, points out that he never would have been welcome in Houston if Paul hadn’t agreed to the move.

“I have no problems with Chris, as you guys will see,” Rivers said. “Obviously, if I had a problem with Chris I wouldn’t be here. Chris has a huge input on this team as he should. He’s a Hall of Fame point guard. If that was that serious, I wouldn’t be here. That will show you that’s not real.”

Paul’s latest hamstring injury, suffered last Thursday, opened the door for Rivers to become a Rocket. Houston needs backcourt help with Paul out of action for at least two weeks, and Rivers was looking for playing time on a contending team after agreeing to a buyout with the Suns, who acquired him from the Wizards earlier this month.

“This is a team I always admired and wanted to play for with (coach Mike) D’Antoni and the way they play, getting up and down,” Rivers added. “It’s a very fitting place.”

There’s more today from Houston:

  • Even though he just joined the team and hasn’t played in more than a week, Rivers won’t be on a minutes restriction as he makes his debut with the Rockets today, tweets Houston play-by-play man Craig Ackerman.
  • The addition of Rivers will cut into Brandon Knight‘s playing time, but that was the plan all along, Feigen writes in a question-and-answer column. Knight missed a year and a half with an ACL tear and only had a couple of practices before taking the court. The Rockets intended to bring him along slowly and didn’t want to increase his minutes because of Paul’s injury.
  • Rockets management had concerns about the condition of Luc Mbah a Moute‘s shoulder, which limited what they were willing to offer him in free agency, Feigen adds in the same piece. Mbah a Moute, who got $4.3MM to rejoin the Clippers, has only played four games this season, but it has been a knee issue rather than the shoulder that has limited him.

Rockets Sign Austin Rivers

DECEMBER 24, 11:09am: The Rockets have officially signed Rivers to a rest-of-season deal, announcing the news in a press release. 

DECEMBER 23, 1:34pm: Rivers will get back the $650K he gave to Phoenix in his buyout agreement, plus nearly $500K more from the Rockets, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. Houston’s cap hit will fall between $914K and $931K, depending on when his signing becomes official. The Rockets don’t play again until Tuesday.

DECEMBER 23, 12:53pm: Former Wizards guard Austin Rivers has reached an agreement to join the Rockets, tweets Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle.

His contract will be fully guaranteed for the rest of the season, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Houston has an open roster spot, so no corresponding move will be necessary. The Rockets have part of their mid-level exception remaining, but there’s no word on whether Rivers will receive more than a veteran’s minimum contract. His new salary will cut into the $12MM still owed to him by the Suns, who waived him earlier this week.

Houston has a need for guard help with Chris Paul sidelined for at least the next two weeks with a strained hamstring. The move reunites the former Clippers teammates, who had an uneasy relationship when they were together in L.A. Sources tell Wojnarowski that Paul had no objections to signing Rivers, understanding that the team needs immediate backcourt help (Twitter link).

The agreement with the Rockets caps an eventful nine days for Rivers, who was involved in a canceled three-team trade, then was dealt to the Suns the next day. He reached a buyout agreement with Phoenix and has been looking for an opportunity with a contending team that could offer him consistent playing time. Houston qualified when Paul got injured Thursday night.

Rivers was having a productive first year in Washington after being acquired from the Clippers in an offseason trade. Used mainly in a reserve role, he posted a 7.2/2.4/2.0 line through 29 games.

Austin Rivers Seeks Playoff Contender, Regular Minutes

Veteran guard Austin Rivers officially became a free agent on Thursday after being released by the Suns earlier this week, and is now eligible to sign with any team except the Wizards.

While Rivers has heard from multiple teams interested in adding him, he plans to take his time choosing his new club, according to Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports, who tweets that Rivers would like to join a playoff contender willing to give him regular minutes.

The Grizzlies are one team that could fit that bill, and it briefly appeared that Rivers had lined up a deal with Memphis on Tuesday. However, that report was shot down, with Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian indicating that the Grizzlies discussed the idea of signing the 26-year-old, but opted not to move forward and finalize a deal.

After enjoying a career year in Los Angeles last season for the Clippers, with 15.1 PPG, 4.0 APG, and a .378 3PT% in 61 games (33.7 MPG), Rivers has struggled so far in 2018/19. In 29 games (23.6 MPG) with the Wizards, the former Duke Blue Devil posted 7.2 PPG and 2.0 APG with a .392/.311/.543 shooting line.

This season’s struggles may limit Rivers’ appeal to some extent, but based on Smith’s report, it sounds as if he has at least a few potential suitors. Shams Charania of The Athletic also said earlier this week that four or five teams had interest in Rivers, though he has since deleted that tweet.

Suns Notes: Rivers, Oubre, Doncic, McDonough

Although initial reports suggested the Suns would likely release Austin Rivers without a buyout, the veteran guard ended up giving back $650K to the team when he was waived this week, per Gina Mizell of The Athletic (Twitter link). Rivers had been on a $12.65MM expiring deal, so he’ll still make $12MM in 2018/19 as a result of that contract, with Phoenix paying the majority of that money.

As cap expert Albert Nahmad details (via Twitter), Rivers should still come out ahead as long as it doesn’t take him long to finalize a new deal. If Rivers signs shortly after clearing waivers on Thursday, a minimum salary contract for the rest of the season would pay him about $1.2MM. He could tack on that figure to the $12MM he’s already earning on his previous deal, exceeding $13MM for the season.

Here’s more on the Suns:

  • Following last week’s failed three-team trade drama and an eventual move to Phoenix, Kelly Oubre spoke to Sean Deveney of The Sporting News about his new NBA home, suggesting that he’s “excited” about the change. Sources tell Deveney that Oubre drew interest from multiple teams, including his hometown Pelicans, before the Suns acquired him.
  • Deveney also reports that Oubre would “certainly be willing” to remain in Phoenix beyond this season, despite the club’s spot at the bottom of the Western Conference standings. Of course, since he’s a restricted free agent in 2019, it might be tricky for him to change teams even if he wanted to.
  • Within a profile on Mavericks rookie Luka Doncic, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon cites a source who says that Suns head coach Igor Kokoskov “loved” Doncic, but had minimal input in Phoenix No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft.
  • After being fired by the Suns in October, former general manager Ryan McDonough plans to stay involved in the NBA in some capacity, but it still figuring out his next steps, he tells Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. In the meantime, he’s staying busy in an informal capacity for some NBA clubs. “A number of teams — probably a majority of the other 29 clubs — reached out, and a lot of them expressed interest in having me come visit or just kind of come observe what they do and exchange ideas and all that kind of stuff,” McDonough said. “So that’s what I’ve been doing the last couple of weeks. I was in Oakland on Monday night for the Grizzlies-Warriors game and was around the Golden State group for a few days, and in the weeks before that I’ve been to Denver and Utah and San Antonio, as well.”

Suns’ James Jones Talks Rivers, Ariza, Oubre, PGs

League executives were puzzled by the Suns‘ decision to waive both Tyson Chandler and Austin Rivers so early in the season, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. As Windhorst observes, even though the Suns may be tanking and weren’t interested in taking on multiyear money, parting ways with Chandler and Rivers – who were both on expiring contracts – closes the door on possible trade opportunities at the deadline.

In a discussion with Gina Mizell of The Athletic, interim co-general manager James Jones indirectly addressed those criticisms, explaining that Phoenix wants to do right by players. “We should be a place where every party, everyone involved, feels invested and feels connected,” Jones said. In the case of Rivers, Jones said that the team and Rivers’ camp mutually agreed that it “would be best if he found an opportunity that fit him better.”

Jones also weighed in on a handful of other subjects during conversations with Mizell and Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic, so we’ll round up some of his most noteworthy comments here:

On whether it was true that team owner Robert Sarver wouldn’t allow Trevor Ariza to be sent to the Lakers:

“No. Throughout all of this, Robert has been adamant that his focus is on what helps the Suns grow and be the best. That was inaccurate. Actually, if something could have worked out, Robert would have been a huge proponent, just because of that investment and understanding that Trevor and his family are (based) on the West Coast. If we can do right for both parties, it should make sense. There’s no reason why you wouldn’t do something that benefits both parties.”

On what he expects Kelly Oubre to bring to the Suns:

“Exactly what he’s demonstrated in the past. He’s young, but he’s experienced. He’s played in a lot of games. He’s played in the playoffs. He’s had tremendous success against some of the best players in the Eastern Conference, some of the best players in the NBA as a whole. His athleticism, his activity, just his competitiveness is something that, as we look at building the identity of this team, those are the foundational characteristics of all the players that we target. Do they play hard? Do they compete? Are they selfless? Do they sacrifice to win? He embodies that, and that’s why we’re excited to have him.”

On what happened with last Friday’s failed three-team trade involving the Wizards and Grizzlies:

“I’ll leave it as just a miscommunication. Going forward, we’re excited to have Kelly. Through everything, we have Kelly. We have a guy we know fits with us and we’re excited about.”

On the Suns’ ongoing search for an answer at point guard:

“For us, as free agency hit (during the 2018 offseason), you talk about that tier of starting caliber point guards, they chose other destinations that were a better fit and better suited to compete right now. As far as trades, I always say it takes two to tango. That’s not something you can control.

“For us at that position, we need someone who will compete defensively, can be impactful and can play well off our other perimeters… [De’Anthony Melton]’s been doing that and we’ll keep pushing him to get better.”

Western Notes: Oubre, Rivers, Doncic, Young

New addition Kelly Oubre is expected to make his debut for the Suns on Wednesday against the Celtics. It’s unclear what role he’ll play in Phoenix but the 23-year-old appears ready for whatever the team asks of him.

“They’re on a three-game winning streak, man, and I don’t wanna come in and slow them down in any type of way,” Oubre said (via Gina Mizell of The Athletic). “I try to help everybody get better, and in the process be aggressive and find myself in the system…I bring a lot of energy.”

Here’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Suns officially waived Austin Rivers earlier today and it’s unlikely any team claims Rivers off of waivers, ESPN’s Bobby Marks contends (Twitter link). The Nuggets are the only team with enough cap space to make the claim and it’s unlikely they take a flyer on Rivers at his current $12.65MM salary since doing so would take them across the luxury tax threshold.
  • The Mavericks had conducted years of homework on Luka Doncic prior to the 2018 NBA Draft and it wasn’t difficult to convince owner Mark Cuban to trade up and nab the 19-year-old, as Eddie Sefko of Sports Day relays.“Mark saw all the same things we did,” GM Donnie Nelson said. “There were no coconuts necessary on this one.”
  • Nick Young, who recently signed with the Nuggets on a non-guaranteed, one-year deal, is fitting in well with his new team, Mike Singer of The Denver Post details. Assistant coach Wes Unseld Jr. applauds Young’s adaptability. “He’s been as kind-hearted as they come. I think a lot of times [Young is] misunderstood, but there’s not a negative bone in his body,” Unseld said. “He is one of the most positive people that I’ve ever met. A little different, a little eclectic, but he’s very positive and it’s good particularly in the situation he’s in. Guys gravitate toward him.”

Suns Waive Austin Rivers

DECEMBER 18: The Suns have waived Rivers, according to the team’s website. He will clear waivers on Thursday at approximately 5:00 pm Eastern Time.

DECEMBER 17: The Suns have agreed to part ways with veteran point guard Austin Rivers, whom the team acquired in the Trevor Ariza deal, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

Rivers, 26, is making $12.6MM this season in the final year of a four-year pact he inked with the Clippers in 2016. Los Angeles traded Rivers to the Wizards in the summer in exchange for Marcin Gortat. Per Wojnarowski, both sides agreed that Rivers fits better on an older team contending for the postseason. If and when Rivers clears waivers, he will be eligible to sign with any team except for Washington.

Earlier today, we relayed Suns’ head coach Igor Kokoskov expressing excitement at Phoenix utilizing Oubre and Rivers.

“We need somebody who’s gonna help us with maintaining,” he said.  “A lot of games, we can’t go through the 48 minutes…We’re gonna find their roles. We definitely can use the talent and experience they have.” 

In 29 games this season, Rivers is averaging 7.2 PPG, 2.4 RPG and 2.0 APG. Those totals are down from the previous two seasons when the California native was a starter for the Clippers. Last season, he set a career-high 15.1 PPG and 4.0 APG in 61 games (59 starts).

Still, Rivers has significant postseason experience and could be a helpful piece to a team that needs scoring off the bench.

Austin Rivers Drawing Interest From 4-5 Teams

3:15pm: Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian is now hearing that the Grizzlies won’t be signing Rivers after all. According to Herrington, the team discussed the idea, but doesn’t plan on pursuing a deal at this time.

2:43pm: Four or five teams are still expressing interest in Rivers, according to Charania, who notes (via Twitter) that there’s been no formal offer yet from Memphis, since Rivers is still a Sun. While the Grizzlies still appear to be the frontrunners for the veteran guard, it sounds like it may not be a sure thing quite yet.

1:20pm: Austin Rivers technically hasn’t been released yet by the Suns, but once he’s officially cut and clears waivers, he’s expected to finalize a new deal with the Grizzlies, league sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Reports on Monday night indicated that Phoenix would be parting ways with Rivers shortly after acquiring him from the Wizards. The 26-year-old was part of the package Washington sent to the Suns in exchange for Trevor Ariza. However, Kelly Oubre was the prize of that package for the Suns, who decided to let Rivers try to catch on with a contending team.

Rivers and his representatives wasted little time in lining up a new deal for the veteran guard, though some details will need to be ironed out before he officially joins the Grizzlies. For one, Memphis currently has a full roster of 15 players on guaranteed contracts. One of those players will need to be traded or released to make room for Rivers.

It will be interesting to see if the odd man out in Memphis is MarShon Brooks, whom the Grizzlies were ready to trade to Phoenix in a three-team Ariza deal on Friday before the trade fell apart because the Suns thought they were getting Dillon Brooks.

MarShon has played fairly regular minutes this season, but would overlap positionally with Rivers, and waiving him might allow the Grizzlies to avoid any lingering locker-room awkwardness after last week’s failed trade. Ivan Rabb and even Chandler Parsons could also be release candidates in Memphis.

Meanwhile, since the Suns haven’t officially waived Rivers yet, they may be in position to negotiate a small buyout with him. Players in Rivers’ situation are typically only open to buyouts if they have a new NBA home lined up — now that the Grizzlies are poised to sign him, perhaps Rivers would be willing to give back the equivalent of his prorated minimum salary, which he’d receive from Memphis on his new deal.

For what it’s worth, the Grizzlies can’t offer Rivers more than the minimum, since they used their full mid-level exception on Kyle Anderson and used their bi-annual exception last season on Tyreke Evans.

After enjoying a career year in Los Angeles last season for the Clippers, with 15.1 PPG, 4.0 APG, and a .378 3PT% in 61 games (33.7 MPG), Rivers has struggled so far in 2018/19. In 29 games (23.6 MPG) with the Wizards, the former Duke Blue Devil posted 7.2 PPG and 2.0 APG with a .392/.311/.543 shooting line. Assuming they’re able to finalize a deal, the Grizzlies will be hoping for a bounce-back performance from Rivers in Memphis.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.