“I would do anything to play for the Miami Heat, seriously that No. 1 choice for me would be to play for Spo and play with guys like Jimmy [Butler], f— dogs man, dogs bro.”
Those are the words from veteran guard Austin Rivers, who made a guest appearance on the Bill Simmons Podcast last week. In this passionate declaration, Rivers has made it abundantly clear that his heart is set on joining the Miami Heat to embrace “Heat Culture.”
Since signing Josh Richardson and Thomas Bryant in early July, the Heat haven’t made any moves on the free agency front, primarily due to their ongoing involvement in the Damian Lillard sweepstakes. However, Rivers seems more than willing to exercise patience, stating, “I’m hoping the deal gets done and they gotta get off like three or four players because they already have multiple contracts still they haven’t signed. They still have three roster spots they haven’t used because they’re waiting for this Dame thing.”
While the love is appreciated, should the Heat reciprocate the same interest in the 31-year-old guard? Whether a Lillard deal gets done or not, the feeling here is that Austin Rivers should don a Heat jersey this upcoming season.
What works in the Heat’s favor with Rivers is that he’ll have a role on this team regardless of a trade. Gabe Vincent walked in the offseason and the only point guards the Heat currently have is Kyle Lowry and Jamaree Bouyea (on a two-way contract).
If Lillard lands in Miami, a deal will more than likely include Lowry. So either way, a spot will be open at guard. Regardless if it’s Lowry or Lillard, Rivers can come in for a couple of minutes in some quarters and compete on both ends.
He can shoot the ball at a decent clip (35% from 3), pass and defend multiple positions in earnest — things we know coach Erik Spoelstra loves from his players.
As far as offensive sets, there won’t be too many times where Rivers comes in and is asked to run the offense. Rivers would feed off of Butler and be asked to swing the ball to shooters and create dribble penetration. The offensive aspect of his game can be shaky (career 42% shooter overall), but knowing either Bam Adebayo or Butler will be on the floor with him means he won’t be tasked with doing too much.
On the defensive end is where he could earn his keep. Rivers is an above-average defender who loves making hustle plays. Deploying him to annoy opposing guards could allow the Heat’s defense to play passing lanes and wreak havoc.
Rivers is not a star, but he does have a feel for the game, which is why he’s survived in the league for as long as he has. He understands his role in this league, but he’s confident in his abilities, and if there’s anyone who can maximize Rivers, it’s Spoelstra.
Will Austin Rivers be the reason the Heat get over the hump and win the championship? Probably not. But he fits and is a self-proclaimed Heat guy who would relish the chance to join a locker room of other Heat guys. Guys that are willing to get down and dirty in practice. Guys that don’t care if you’re on a max contract, they’re still coming at you.
“Miami is a dream destination for every player like me because Spo doesn’t coach anybody based off merit or contract,” Rivers said on the podcast. “He plays whose gonna play hardest and who’s gonna help win the goddamn game. They try to win games over there. That’s just the bottom line.”
Say what you want about Rivers, but the Heat embrace guys with this attitude and he could easily fit into the locker room. Rivers is going to work no matter the role, and for a roster that could be depleted after a trade, he sounds like he could be a seamless addition.