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Report: Nuggets “in serious talks” to sign free agent guard Austin Rivers

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Rivers would offer a needed scoring punch after losing Jamal Murray to injury

New York Knicks v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Cameron Browne/NBAE via Getty Images

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, it appears that the Denver Nuggets are close to signing Austin Rivers for the remainder of the 2020-21 regular season and playoffs.

After Jamal Murray suffered a torn ACL in his left knee on Monday night against the Golden State Warriors, it appears that the Nuggets are moving quickly to try and replace the scoring and playmaking Murray consistently brought in the backcourt. Murray was having a career year during his fifth season, averaging 21.2 points and 4.8 assists per game while shooting 47.7% from the field and 40.8% from three-point range.

As Mike Singer of The Denver Post reports, Rivers is already in Denver and is expected to sign a 10-day contract, at least initially.

There aren’t any available players who can truly replace what Murray does, but adding Rivers is a good place to start. Austin, son of Philadelphia 76ers coach Doc Rivers, last played 21 games for the New York Knicks this season. He was averaging 7.3 points and 2.0 assists per game on 43.0% from the field and 36.4% from three-point range before being traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder as part of a three-team deal.

The Thunder waived Rivers a few days after acquiring him so that the veteran guard could seek playing time on a playoff contender. It was expected that Rivers would join the Milwaukee Bucks after he was waived by the Thunder, but Rivers and the Bucks never agreed to a deal.

For his career, Rivers is in his ninth season, having played 573 regular season games and 45 playoff games. He has plenty of experience contributing to contenders, having spent the bulk of his career with the Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets during their prime playoff years. He’s a relatively inefficient score-first guard who averages an 18% usage rate and 52.9% true shooting percentage over the last six seasons. Though he’s never played with a player quite like Nikola Jokić, he has spent significant time with Chris Paul and James Harden and understands what’s needed to navigate the playoffs.

It will be interesting to see how these conversations evolve and what kind of a role the Nuggets will ask Rivers to play. It’s unlikely he would fill in as a starter, and he might not even play at all. The sweet spot is probably around 15 to 20 minutes off the bench to offer a scoring boost, something Denver’s bench needed even before Murray went down.

Let’s see what Rivers and the Nuggets have in store going forward.