The Denver Nuggets have been happy with the production they've gotten from veteran guard Austin Rivers. So much so, they have signed him for the rest of the 2020-21 season, the team announced Friday. The Nuggets initially signed Rivers to a 10-day contract earlier this month, and he has averaged 5.2 points, 2.0 assists and 2.0 rebounds in 24.2 minutes of action in five appearances for Denver thus far.
Rivers received a buyout after getting dealt to the Oklahoma City Thunder at the trade deadline. He was initially linked to the Milwaukee Bucks, but they signed Jeff Teague to be their new backup point guard, which led Rivers to consider other options. Denver ended up being a solid fit, as it offered him an easier path to playing time.
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The Nuggets lost star point guard Jamal Murray to a torn ACL on April 12, and Rivers served as a backup plan of sorts. With Murray out of the lineup, Denver has relied largely on Facundo Campazzo and Monte Morris to hold the fort for the rest of the season, but neither has much postseason experience. Rivers has played in 45 playoff games with the Clippers and Rockets, so he can provide a steady veteran hand when necessary for the Nuggets. That experience could come in handy with postseason play rapidly approaching.
Rivers spent the beginning of the season with the New York Knicks, but fell out of the rotation after they acquired Derrick Rose to be their new backup point guard. While Rivers signed a three-year deal with New York last offseason, the final two seasons were non-guaranteed. That made it easy for them to ship him out at the deadline. Now, Rivers is on a playoff team with the hope that he can reassert his value ahead of free agency this offseason.
Many felt Denver's championship hopes likely disappeared the moment Murray went down, but Aaron Gordon feels otherwise.
"This year, we have high, high aspirations -- championship aspirations," Gordon said via The Athletic. "We still feel like we have enough, especially with 'Joker' man [Nikola Jokic]. When you've got that guy on the floor, you have a chance to win every single night. So everybody's got to step up, everybody has to play their best. But if we're doing that, then I feel like we have a good chance to go as far as we want to."
Rivers can't replace Murray's scoring, but he does can provide the Nuggets with reliable backup minutes. At this point in the season, it's hard to do much better on the free-agent market.