Continuing on in my series of potential Pacer draft picks, the topic today is Texas Point Guard D.J Augustin. Like many of the selections outside the top 2 in this years draft, there is quite a bit of difference of opinion on the NBA potential of the smallish point guard from Texas.
I was told and taught long ago by my veteran coaching mentors that a key to building a successful team was something they called "purity in guards." What they meant was as much as it is nice to have players who can play multiple positions and have multiple skills, that you should not try and pigeonhole a player into a point guard position who really isn't one....."Don't play people out of position at point guard!" With Augustin, you'll have no such worries, you are getting a player with pure point guard skills and talents.
Augustin, of the court by all accounts, is everything you'd want in a professional player, particularly for a situation like Indiana. There have been numerous articles in national publications like ESPN.com (Pat Forde wrote a great article) during the college season about the high character as a student, player, leader on campus, and as a son that Augustin embodies. One article I remember extensively dealt with how close DJ is with his parents and extended family. One assistant coach of the Longhorns even compared Augustin and his family to the "Cosby Show."
As a student, D.J. was exemplary. His perfect 4.0 GPA won him the first team academic All American honor. To be able to achieve that while performing in a major college conference at a high level shouldn't be discounted.
Augustin is a native of New Orleans, and Hurricane Katrina displaced his family and had a large impact on his life. His family moved to Houston in the aftermath, and that led him, at least in part, to choose Texas over his assumed first choice to go to college, LSU.
Clearly, the off court D.J. Augustin cannot be disputed. He is personable, charismatic, smart, mature, intelligent, a good role model for the community and no doubt will be a fan favorite in Indianapolis, especially when comparing him to our current point guard.
The questions about Augustin are all on the floor, and consist mainly about his size, or to be more exact his lack of it. While listed someplaces at 6'0, he likely is closer to 5'10" or 5'11". Is he big enough to be a legitimate starter on a good team at the NBA level? Is he athletic enough to overcome his lack of size?
Clearly, Augustin has the elusive trait of "purity" of point guards. he distributes the ball well. He handles it very well against pressure, so well in fact that most teams in college chose to play off of him and not attempt to pressure him, as they feared his ability to blow by them. He finishes in the lane pretty well, showing good control of his body, but lacks the strength at this point to finish plays with alot of contact. His height is obviously a problem shooting over bigger defenders in the paint and on the perimeter even.
One thing I think Augustin does very well right away is to be able to run the signature NBA play, the "screen/roll". He judges this play very well, has the speed to turn the corner, and the creativity to pass the ball. He reads the defenders well all over the floor, and makes good decisions. You can trust Augustin with the ball as a coach to make try and make the best play possible. I suspect teams will go under screens early against him, and make him prove he can make the jump shot over people, but in this case his intelligence will help, because Augustin will normally only take smart intelligent shots.
I also think he will defend the ball well as a point guard defender coming up the floor. If asked, Augustin will have the ability to "turn" the opposing point guard as they come up the floor, burning valuable shot clock time and energy by our opponents, which will have an overall very positive effect on our overall team defensive efficiency when he is in the game.
However, his game also has weaknesses that will be exposed in the league, and perhaps even more so with Indiana. Augustine will no doubt be posted up by almost every team in the league, and will be at a serious matchup disadvantage inside. This will require creativity on the part of the coaching staff, who will likely have to double team his man when posting up. Guards like Sam Cassell and Mark Jackson in their prime used to kill and torture players like DJ in the paint, overpowering him with size and strength. In today's game, stronger point guards like Chauncey Billups, Andre Miller and others might have their way against the Texas dynamo.
Again, how effective Augustin ends up being might be determined by who he is surrounded with talent wise, and in the style and strategies employed by whatever team uses him.
I do not view Augustin as ready to start right away. He is too small and too weak to survive huge minutes in his first year or 2 in the league. But I think he can be effective early on as a change of pace point guard to play around 20-24 minutes per game in the right situation. To protect him and use him ideally, a team really needs another point guard who is bigger and stronger than Augustin, so he isnt exposed much against the bigger and tougher guards who will likely have their way with him.
The Pacers have experience with this type of situation. For years, we started the veteran Mark Jackson, and had the smaller Travis Best as his backup. By limiting each others minutes, the coaching staff was able to get the most out of each player. I'm only comparing Augustin to Best in as far as size goes....I viewed Best as a shooting guard in a small point guards body, while Augustin clearly acts and thinks like a point guard.
No one, including me, really wants to hear this, but an argument could be made that an almost ideal compliment to Augustin exists already on our roster in Jamal Tinsley. I wouldn't be completely shocked if acquiring Augustin in fact EXTENDS Tinsley's stay in Indianapolis instead of ENDING it. I'd almost expect the Pacers drafting Augustin at #11 means that they will keep Tinsley but attempt to drastically cut his minutes to around 24 per night, and in fact try to keep him healthy by sharing the job with Augustin, while they see if DJ develops to a point where he can handle bigger minutes down the road.
In a lot of ways, I think Augustin is a much better version of Travis Deiner. A lot of the same intangibles with way better upside and athletic ability, and also much younger. As I see it, Travis is the one who loses the most with an Augustin selection, because I see no way each of them could play, since they each would have the same weaknesses as the other does.....they don't "compliment" one another well at all.
Now, what are the chances that DJ ends up being as good as Tony Parker? I think that's unlikely but certainly possible. Parker has a much better supporting cast of course, but his way of being used early in his career is what I hope Augustin is taught early in his career. Remember, Parker had players like Avery Johnson and Tim Duncan helping him along, both great role models and teachers. Parker is not an extraordinary athlete, but has great basketball skill and his game has improved every year. I'm sure we'd all be excited if we drafted Augustin and he ended up like that.
However, Parker was much more developed at a younger age than Augustin, and was thrust in a much better situation. As I view DJ and his long term NBA impact, I see him having a career much less like Tony Parker and Chris Paul, but alot more like Raymond Felton of the Bobcats, TJ Ford of the Raptors (a fellow Texas Longhorn) or the player who I think he most closely is similar to, which is journeyman point guard Brevin Knight. Felton starts for a bad team, Knight has had a long career as a backup for numerous teams.
If the Pacers brass evaluates Augustin as Tony Parker lite, they'll probably draft him at 11 I think. If they evaluate him as I do as Brevin Knight, they probably should and will pass.
Of course, there are worse things than drafting a quick, defensive upgrade at point guard with great intangibles and a 25% chance of being a top 10 lead guard, especially when this position is your biggest weakness. But I think Augustin fails and flames out as an immediate starter, so if the Pacers draft him the drama will continue about how to maximize his development, and who to play him with as a tandem. Keping Tinsley actually makes sense with this pick......but can the Pacers from a PR standpoint really try to sell that idea? Can Jim O'Brien swallow it himself?
Drafting Augustin creates just as many questions as it answers I think.....but it will certainly add to an interesting summer. For the second player I've profiled in a row, pairing him with someone like Shaun Livingston, a bigger, slower point guard makes as a tandem at the position makes alot of sense, at least to me, from what I know now.
As always, the above is just my opinion.