It almost seems amazing that D.J. Augustin isn't coming home.
With the Dallas Mavericks losing out on Deron Williams, Steve Nash and eventually Jason Kidd, there were whispers that perhaps he might come back to the Lone Star State. The Houston Rockets also said goodbye to last season's point guard Goran Dragic, and perhaps Augustin could have returned to his adopted home even after the Rockets signed Jeremy Lin. He even might have found his way back to his native New Orleans, with last year's starting point guard Jarrett Jack shipped off to Golden State.
Instead, Augustin is making a pit stop in Hoosierland.
The Mavericks traded for Darren Collison instead, leaving a vacancy in the backcourt for the Indiana Pacers. After four solid if unspectacular years with the Charlotte Bobcats, Augustin might have stayed in North Carolina, but the Bobcats withdrew their previous offer after signing Ramon Sessions, making Augustin an unrestricted free agent after which he immediately signed a contract with the Pacers.
Of course, most of D.J.'s time in the Lone Star State was spent in Austin. Longhorn fans remember him as a teammate of budding superstar Kevin Durant, joining him in the incoming freshman class of 2006. While Durant was the only bona fide superstar on the team, Augustin was a point shy of being the team's second leading scorer and led the team in assists. Starting all 35 games for UT, he was eventually named to both the All-Big 12 Second Team and the Big 12 All-Rookie Team.
While Durant was an obvious choice to enter the NBA draft the following year, Augustin opted to stay in school another year, and he continued to excel both on and off the court. In the fall 2007 semester, he achieved a 4.0 GPA and continued to play well, leading the Horns in scoring and assists that year. He went on to receive another round of postseason honors and in 2008 declared himself eligible for the NBA Draft, after which he was selected by the Charlotte Bobcats with the ninth pick.
Not so bad for a 5' 10" kid (listed at 6') whose family was forced out of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina.
Arriving in Charlotte, Augustin's accomplishments seem rather pedestrian by comparison. Although he was selected to the All-Rookie Second Team, he continued coming off the bench for most of his first two years until he became a full-time starter in 2010. Since then he has put up solid but unspectacular numbers.
While he is on the small side and has some issues defensively as a result, he has shown he is able to score as well as facilitate, and he is very respectable from three-point range and the free-throw line. Unfortunately his field goal percentage and scoring dropped considerably last year, and that certainly may have made him expendable, particularly when Sessions became available.
But now circumstances are changing, and it could be a huge opportunity.
Playing for Michael Jordan might have its charisma, but the move from a perennial NBA cellar-dweller to a bona fide contender must be welcome in many ways. Augustin joins a team whose point guard position had been in flux, yet they still gave the eventual NBA Champion Miami Heat a run for their money in the 2012 Eastern Conference Semifinals. He'll be surrounded by a solid core including Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert and David West.
At this point indications point to George Hill being the starter. Although he only took over last season from Darren Collison due to injury, when Collison returned Hill kept the job and signed a five-year contract after the season.
Augustin only signed a one-year deal to be with the Pacers, but regardless of whether he starts or comes off the bench, this coming year will be an important benchmark going forward.
It's uncertain what more he could have done in Charlotte. As DraftExpress noted, "Since arriving in Charlotte, Augustin has displayed good court vision and the ability to consistently put his teammates in positions to score, especially in transition."
It would, of course, help matters if Augustin had teammates who actually would score, but in four years since his arrival Charlotte has only been to the playoffs once, and in 2011-12 the Bobcats were ranked dead last in both team scoring and point differential. Second pick overall Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will help, but clearly the Bobcats have a way to go before they are contenders.
Indiana, on the other hand, while being in the middle of the pack in scoring (still much better than Charlotte) is an excellent defensive team, and their point differential is near the top of the NBA. They have a well-balanced scoring attack led by Danny Granger and have added additional scorers up front in Gerald Green and Ian Mahinmi during the offseason. That should open up opportunities for Augustin, both to dish or to score, and even though his minutes are as of yet undetermined, having a more talented cast around him should improve his PER regardless.
With a one-year contract and a move to a team surrounded with better scoring, Augustin should be able to showcase his skills and parlay that into a starting job somewhere. Collison was arguably the Pacers' best passer so even with George Hill starting, Augustin is a valuable commodity. While Hill is more of a slashing and scoring point guard, Augustin is a facilitator which will provide a good alternative and a chance for him to showcase his talents where the grass really is greener.
With a new home and a fresh start, 2012-13 provides a pivot point for D.J. Augustin to find his rhythm in a more fertile environment, and Horns fans and Pacer fans alike will be hoping for him to succeed.
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