The Doc Rivers Show will be must-see viewing as Bucks try to flip script mid-season
There’s so much content out there these days when it comes to movies and TV shows, yet finding something to watch has never felt harder.
You can go off a friend’s recommendations, award winners or whatever is currently trending on TikTok, but no matter how you pick what you watch, it doesn’t mean it will work out.
The worst feeling is being a handful of episodes into a new show and not being quite sure if the payoff at the end will be worth sticking around for.
Being too lazy to try and find something else, I never seem to take the brave step and bail halfway through a series, no matter how little I’m enjoying the show.
While the stakes are a lot higher than my nightly entertainment, the Milwaukee Bucks last week decided to jump ship very early into season one of the Adrian Griffin show to switch over to the Doc Rivers experience.
Clippers and Sixers fans of recent years can tell you that most of those seasons don’t exactly end on a high note, however, you can’t fault the Bucks front office for making this harsh, but ultimately fair call.
After a disappointing first round exit at the hands of the Miami Heat last season, Milwaukee made the decision to fire head coach Mike Budenholzer, who made several questionable calls during that five-game series that ultimately lost him his job.
Despite some more qualified names on their short list, the Bucks opted to go with the rookie in Griffin, and just 43 games into his stint, he was fired (cue the Grampa Simpson GIF).
When you have the star power of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard fronting your organisation, the expectation is championship or bust, and despite holding the second-best record in the East, just watching their games, especially on the defensive end, you could tell Griffin’s coaching wasn’t up to scratch.
With the weapons he was wielding, even for a first-year head coach, Griffin had to be better, and so after just scraping by the league’s worst team in Detroit for the second game in a row, his time was up.
Being the middle of the season, the Bucks options for a replacement were limited.
It was clear they needed someone with experience in not just the regular season, but in the playoffs too. But, arguably their most important criteria was a coach with a track record of handling superstar players.
Enter Doc Rivers.
While he does check all the boxes on first glance, you could make the case that no coach in the NBA has done less with more.
Rivers has coached five teams since 1999 (Orlando Magic, Boston Celtics, LA Clippers, Philadelphia 76ers, and now the Milwaukee Bucks), and famously has only the one title from 2008 while in Boston.
Now that Rivers can add Antetokounmpo and Lillard’s names to the already long list of talent he has/had in his arsenal, I thought it would be a fun exercise to come up with a six-man roster of players he’s coached.
To make it fair, I’m only picking players based off how they performed when he was their coach, so I can’t pick prime Patrick Ewing as he only played under Rivers in Orlando during his last season before retiring, where he was nowhere near his prime.
So without further ado…
Point guard: Chris Paul
Despite some serious point guard talent that Rivers has coached, it had to be none other than “the point god” himself.
Doc coached Paul from 2013 to 2017 which was arguably his prime, where he averaged 19 points per game (PPG), 10 assists per game (APG) and never had a season where he shot below 46% from the field.
Paul ran the offence of the L.A Clippers “lob city” era, and while they may have never even reached the conference finals, watching him throw alley-oops to Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan was peak entertainment.
The lack of playoff success is probably the only downside to this pick, however when it comes to pure point guards, Paul was one of, if not the best player at the position between 2010-2018 and it’s why he had to be picked to start on this team.
Shooting Guard: Ray Allen
There may be a certain bearded player who you could make the case for in this spot, but ultimately, in building a proper team and not just listing out the best players Rivers has coached, Allen gets the nod.
While Rivers may not have got prime Allen, the version he got was exactly what the Celtics needed, especially in 2008.
Trading in Allen as well as Kevin Garnett to play alongside Paul Pierce was good in theory but making it all work wouldn’t be as easy as it sounds, as suddenly three guys who were used to being the top dog, had to work out the pecking order.
Allen might not get enough credit, but he sacrificed the most out of the three, and suddenly he became more of a spot up shooter.
That being said, he still averaged 16.7PPG and shot around the 40% mark from three for the five seasons he was in Boston. Considering his speciality was the three-point shot, he never averaged more than 6.2 attempts per game from behind the arc.
Nowadays most players put up at least six attempts from three every night, so Allen would be perfect in a modern-day team.
It’s also worth noting that during the 2008 finals, Allen elevated his game and averaged 20.3 points over the six games, including two games where he shot over 70% from three despite having seven and nine attempts respectively.
Small Forward: Kawhi Leonard
Due to “load management”, the COVID shortened season and Leonard reportedly getting “special treatment” over his teammates, Rivers only got 57 regular season games out of Kawhi in the one year he coached him.
This may skew his stats a little, none the less, you can’t leave out a player who averaged 27.1 PPG, 7.1 rebounds per game (RPG) and 4.9 APG, all the while playing elite defence.
Kawhi has been one of the best players of the last decade and while his injuries will always be of concern, I can give you two reasons in the form of finals MVPs as to why he can’t be left off the team.
There isn’t much else to say about Leonard, he’s a playoff riser, and a proven winner and next to Paul and Allen, he easily makes up for what those two lack on the defensive side of the ball.
It may not have worked out for Rivers and Kawhi in their short time together as the pair blew a 3-1 second round series lead against the Nuggets, but with Paul Pierce and Paul George being his only real competitors at this spot, it had to go to Leonard.
Power Forward: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Now this may be recency bias to pick him over Kevin Garnett (KG), but the reality is, Giannis provides elite defence at the same level as KG, but his output on the other end of the floor is why you must have him start.
Obviously, Rivers hasn’t coached Giannis for long, but unlike KG, Doc will be getting “the Greek Freak” in his prime where he is currently averaging 31PPG, 11.7RPG and 6.2APG on 60.8% from the field.
KG was an amazing player, but he never reached these sorts of numbers, and while that may have been down to the time period he played in, you just can’t go past Giannis.
Considering Rivers has a shaky playoff history over the past decade, and outside of 2021 when Antetokounmpo won the title, due to injuries of his own or to a teammate, his post seasons haven’t exactly reached their full potential, so it will be one to watch this season.
Regardless, you can make the case that Giannis is the best player Doc has coached in his career and it will be interesting to see how the two work together.
Centre: Joel Embiid
There really isn’t much competition at the five, despite a long list of talent throughout his 25 years of coaching, Rivers teams have never really had amazing centres, except for his time with the 76ers where Embiid had a crazy two-year stretch which saw him win MVP last season.
Over the three seasons Doc was in Philly, Embiid averaged 30.9ppg and 10.8 RPG, while living at the free throw line, averaging no less than 10.7 free throw attempts per game.
He’s also an elite defender, so, between Giannis, Leonard, and Embiid, the rim protection is off the charts, so it would be hard to see how any team scores more than 100 points unless they get hot from three.
I may have gone with mostly modern players for the starters, but between these five, they have three MVPs, three finals MVPs, five championships and outside of Embiid, they have all made it to the finals at least once.
Which is the weak spot-on Embiid’s resume, as every year in the post season, he underperforms and is yet to make it out of the second round.
Yes, he has had injuries and various illnesses that can be blamed for some of these poor showings, but at the end of the day, his lack lustre showings in game six and seven against the Boston Celtics in last year’s playoffs were ultimately what cost Doc his job.
But never fear, because if Embiid faulters yet again, my sixth man can easily come in and take his spot.
Sixth man: Kevin Garnett
The best version of KG was his 2004 MVP season, but that’s not to say the version Rivers got didn’t live up to the rest of his career.
Much like Allen, Garnett had to make sacrifices for the betterment of the team, yet he still averaged 15.7 ppg and 8.3rpg during his time with the Celtics, all while being an elite defender, efficient scorer and the heart and soul of the only championship team Doc has had.
He can play at the four or five and overall, you’d expect him to the vocal leader of the team which is why he’s going to be the first man off the bench.
KG will give you next level defending, physically shutting down the other team, while also offering elite trash talking, mentally shutting down the opposition.
Pierce may have been the poster boy of the 2008 championship team, but there is a case to be made that Garnett was the most important and impactful player Rivers has ever had, which says a lot, and is why he’s very unlucky to have missed out on a starting spot.
While I could go on forever filling out this team, I’m not sure how much more enjoyable this would be for readers, so instead I’ll list out the final nine players I would have picked to fill out my 15-man roster:
7: Paul Pierce
8: Damian Lillard
9: Paul George
10: Blake Griffin
11: James Harden
12: Tracy McGrady
13: Rajon Rondo
14: DeAndre Jordan
15: Brook Lopez
While it’s not like Doc Rivers has had all of these players on the same team at once, but he has had some loaded teams in his time, which is why him only having the one championship feels a bit underwhelming.
So, as he starts his latest venture in Milwaukee, only time will tell if Doc can add another ring to his CV or if this will yet again be another team that fails to meet expectations under Rivers.
But at the end of the day, you’d have to think this is his last shot at a coaching job in the NBA, so he needs to make the most of it.