Austin Rivers is on a minimum contract, he has nothing to lose.
Rivers told Mark Berman of Fox 26 in Houston that he would decline his player option for next season and become a free agent, exploring his options.
Rivers also said this had nothing to do with Russell Westbrook seeking a trade out of Houston or the future of James Harden with the team. That tracks, this is simply a money thing.
Austin Rivers is scheduled to make $2.4 million next season, just above the league minimum (he played for the minimum last season and would have a small raise this season). He’s a legit NBA player and would make at least that again with another team, but by opting to test free agency Rivers makes it possible another team would offer him a little more to be their backup point guard.
It’s a thin crop of free agent point guards. Fred VanVleet will get paid well, Miami will likely give Goran Dragic a one-year oversized offer to keep him, and after that it’s D.J. Augustin, Rajon Rondo, Jeff Teague, Reggie Jackson, Trey Burke, and others of that level — all guys who will get a minimum or slightly larger offer from a team, but not more. Rivers fits in that group.
It makes sense to become a free agent for Rivers and see if he can get $3 million or a little more from a team on a few year deal to be their backup point guard. If not, he signs another minimum contract and is back exactly where he was a year ago, no real loss.