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Indiana Pacers: Why They Can Expect Great Things from D.J. Augustin

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Indiana Pacers: Why They Can Expect Great Things from D.J. Augustin
Robert Mayer-US PRESSWIRE

It's amazing that D.J. Augustin didn't go home.

With the Dallas Mavericks losing out on Deron Williams, Steve Nash and eventually Jason Kidd, there were whispers that perhaps he might go 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 could 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 on his way to the land of Hoosiers and the Indy 500.

When the Mavericks traded for Darren Collison, it left a vacancy in the backcourt for the Indiana Pacers.  

After four solid, yet unspectacular years with the Charlotte Bobcats, Augustin might have stayed in North Carolina but the Bobcats withdrew their previous offer. The team signed Ramon Sessions which made Augustin an unrestricted free agent, after which he immediately signed a contract with the Pacers.

Of course, most of D.J.'s  time in Texas was spent in Austin. Many fans remember him as a teammate of budding superstar Kevin Durant, both members of the 2006 freshman class.

While Durant was the only bona fide superstar on the team, Augustin led the team in assists and was a point shy of being the team's second-leading scorer. He started all 35 games for the Longhorns and was eventually named to both the All-Big 12 Second Team and the Big 12 All-Rookie Team.

Augustin on a November 2007 cover of Sports Illustrated

While Durant was an obvious choice to enter the NBA draft the following year, Augustin opted to stay in school another year and continued to excel both on and off the court.  In the fall of 2007, he achieved a 4.0 GPA and continued to play well, leading the Longhorns 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 9th pick.

Not so bad for a 5'10" kid—listed at 6'—whose family was forced out of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina.  

After arriving in Charlotte, Augustin's accomplishments seem rather pedestrian by comparison.  Although selected to the NBA 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.  

For his first three years he put up solid but unspectacular numbers.  Small size and defensive issues aside, he has shown he can score as well as facilitate. He is very respectable from three-point range and the free-throw line.  Unfortunately, his field goal percentage and points dropped considerably last year, making 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 perks but the move from a perennial NBA cellar-dwellar 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.

Chris Trotman/Getty Images
Augustin's numbers have been solid but dropped in 2011-12 season.

He'll be surrounded by a solid core including Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert and David West.

 

George Hill only took over the starting job last season after an injury to Darren Collison and when Collison returned he kept it and then signed a five-year contract after the season.

At this point, indications point to George Hill being the starter but that doesn't mean this isn't a huge opportunity for both Augustin and the Pacers.  From the standpoint of his individual play, It's uncertain what more he could have done in Charlotte.  

As DraftExpress.com 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."

Of course it would help if Augustin had teammates who actually did score, but in the four years after his arrival, Charlotte went to the playoffs only once and scoring—or lack thereof—would be a primary reason.  In 2011-12 the Bobcats were ranked dead last in both team scoring and point differential.  Drafting Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will help but the Bobcats are a long way from contention.

Indiana, on the other hand, while in middle of the pack in scoring, is still much better than Charlotte, but they are also an excellent defensive team and as a result their point differential is near the top of the NBA.
Danny Granger leads a well-balanced scoring attack along with Hibbert and West.  Offseason acquisitions Gerald Green and Ian Mahinmi should also improve scoring up front.  

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
The Pacers will give Augustin more targets.

That should open up opportunities for Augustin both to dish and score. Even though his minutes are still undetermined, having a more talented cast around him should improve his efficiency rating (PER) regardless.

 

With a one-year contract and a move to a team surrounded with better scoring, Augustin has every reason along with much better accomplices for showcasing his skills,  which could easily translate into a starting job somewhere else if things don't work out in Indiana.  

Collison was arguably the Pacer's best passer so even with George Hill starting, Augustin is a valuable commodity.    While Hill is more of a slash and score 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.   Both the Pacers and Augustin should be able to capitalize on a great partnership with a big carrot on the horizon, meaning plenty of motivation for Augustin to carve out a successful niche during his stay in Indy.

 

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