Austin Rivers got an opportunity to get acclimated with his new Washington Wizards teammates. Rivers made his training camp debut with his new team after neck spasms kept him out of the first two practices. It didn’t take long for the son of Doc Rivers to see the comparisons of his new point guard John Wall and his former Chris Paul.
Rivers spent three seasons alongside Paul while with the Los Angeles Clippers before Paul was traded to the Houston Rockets last season. Wall is considered one of the premier passers in the NBA along Paul. Rivers sees the similarities of their passing as well how their styles are different.
“John can make the quicker pass because he’s so athletic. He’s so explosive, where Chris takes his time and really probes. Chris is a prober,” Rivers said after practice per Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. “Chris likes to go around the pick and roll, probe, probe, probe. He likes to make the defense move, then make the pass. So you’ve got to be patient. Where John is like boom-boom! You have to be ready to go.”
“John will fire at you 100 miles per hour if you’re not looking. They both play similar and they both are two of the elite passers in the league, but John’s more of a quicker, explosive player where Chris really uses his head to get guys open.”
There may not be a faster player on the court than Wall. He also brings an unmatched willingness to pass but be able to score. His speed is a challenge to defenses trying to defend the Wizards in the open floor. He also presents a challenge to teammates of keeping up with him to get in spots for him to deliver the ball.
His up and down flow at times has him going against the defense alone on a break. Rivers recognized that having played against Wall, with him in some pickup games, and now practicing alongside him.
“You realize how fast [Wall] is, but not until you play with him,” Rivers stated on Wall’s tempo. “He gets the rebound and you can’t be behind him. So when that ball goes up, you’ve got to run. Otherwise you’re behind the ball, you can’t make a play. If you run with him, he will hit you every time. You want to talk about getting points, extra points per game – it’s just running with John. He’s going to attract so much defense, you just got to keep up with him.”
Rivers gave insight into one the more looming debates among NBA fans. Wall’s postseason history — not advancing beyond the second round of the NBA Playoffs — and his style of play has resembled Paul, who made his first appearance in a Conference Finals in his 13th season in 2017-18.
Paul is only one of two players to average more assists than Wall since Wall’s rookie season in 2010-11 (Rajon Rondo is the other). Both career stats are nearly identical in regards to points, assists, and rebounds. Paul has averaged 18.7 points, 9.8 assists, and 4.5 rebounds. Wall has averaged 18.9 points, 9.3 assists, and 4.4 rebounds.
Both Wall and Paul are one of five players in NBA history to average at least 18.5 points per game and nine assists per game.
Wall will look to break off that comparison when it comes to the postseason. He is entering his ninth season and has yet to get out of the second round of the playoffs. His closest chance occurred in 2017 when the Wizards lost in seven games to the Boston Celtics in the second round. Washington followed that up with a disappointing 2017-18 season, finishing with the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference after Wall missed 41 of 82 games mostly due to a knee injury. They were then bounced out of the first round of the playoffs — Wall’s first opening-round exit of his career.
That disappointment brought about a roster overhaul that included the signing of Dwight Howard and the acquisition of Rivers in a trade that sent Marcin Gortat packing to the Clippers.
Rivers will come off the bench, but his ability to play point guard, two-guard, and some wing in a small lineup will give him plenty of opportunities to play next to Wall. The Wizards are banking on those moments to help improve an area that has been its weakest over the past five seasons, the backup combo guard to Wall and Bradley Beal. For Rivers its a matter of just keeping up and being ready for the ball when Wall knifes through the defense and makes passes.