Austin Rivers Doesn’t Solve Sixers Depth Issues
The Philadelphia 76ers are eight games over .500, but still have a number of issues plaguing them this season. Beyond the usual turnover issues, the Sixers are starting to feel their lack of depth more than ever recently. Last season, through 32 games, the Sixers posted a 14-18 record and went 5-10 in December. Technically, we are in better shape now than we were then, but the lack of bench production isn't something that this team can deal with for the duration of the season into the playoffs.
Over the past five games, which included losses to the Spurs, Pacers and Nets and wins against the Cavs and Pistons, the Sixers bench has been outscored 239-173.
The Sixers bench has ranked towards the bottom of the league all season. So far in December, they are 25th in the NBA with 30 points per game and take the fifth fewest shots per game (25.5). This shows that not only do the Sixers not have depth, but the depth they do have cannot produce offense...or really shots in general. If they want to be able to compete with teams like the Raptors, Celtics, Bucks and Pacers in the East, their depth needs to be improved...and soon.
One name that has come up on Sixers twitter recently is Austin Rivers. The veteran point guard was traded from the Wizards to the Suns in the Trevor Ariza deal at the end of last week, but Phoenix plans to waive him and he'll be a free agent. On the surface, Rivers is a guy who can create his own shot off the dribble, but is also ball-dominant. The Sixers already have plenty of guys like that and need someone that can stretch the floor and defend.
Throughout his career, Rivers has been a guy that takes the three-point shot (.354 mark for his career), but the majority of his shots come at the rim, which is an area of the floor that is already beyond clogged in Philadelphia. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid are most successful offensively with shots at the rim and Jimmy Butler is another guy that thrives on driving to the basket. Aside from JJ Redick, the Sixers don't have guys that can knock down mid-range jump shots and while Rivers would certainly add a slight boost offensively, it may be worth holding off until a better option comes along.
Last season, Rivers averaged a career-high 15.1 points per game. Who wouldn't want that off the bench, right? Well, 46.2 percent of his shots came at the rim -- an area of the floor that he shot 56.9 percent from. As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, the Sixers already have a bit of a clogged paint area on offense. From three feet out to the three-point line last season, Rivers shot just 73-for-213, which is less than 35 percent. While he did shoot 37.9 percent from beyond, that percentage has dropped to 31.1 percent this season.
This season with Washington, Rivers has totaled 194 field-goal attempts. Of those 194, 106 of them were three-pointers and he's converted on just 33. Only 42 of those 194 shots are from three feet to just inside the arc and he's shooting 40.4 percent from that range, which is lower than Mike Muscala (40.9), Landry Shamet (42.4), TJ McConnell (56.5).
All in all, he adds little floor spacing and has a history of inconsistent offense. In addition, he has a -4.3 BPM (box score plus/minus) this season to go along with an offensive rating of 94 and a defensive rating of 117. The Sixers, as pointed out in the tweet below, already give minutes to too many guys with net negatives and have already been struggling defensively as a team.
The Sixers need depth help, there's no doubting that. That being said, signing someone just because things can't get worse isn't a reason to sign someone. Austin Rivers might provide a small offensive boost to a struggling Sixers bench, but it seems more likely that Elton Brand and company wait to find a better fit.
Brandon Apter is a Sixers contributor to 97.3 ESPN. Follow him on Twitter @bapter23.