D.J. Augustin is penciled in as the Toronto Raptors' backup point guard to Kyle Lowry for the start of the 2013-14 regular season, but with an emerging Dwight Buycks lurking in the wings, that spot in the rotation could very well be up for grabs.
On July 22, 2013, the Raptors signed Augustin to a one-year deal worth $1.26 million. He spent the 2012-13 season with the Indiana Pacers, averaging 4.7 points and 2.2 assists.
Buycks signed a two-year deal (team option for second year) with the Toronto Raptors on July 16, 2013. He spent last season with BCM Gravelines in France, averaging 18.0 points and 2.9 assists on route to being named the LNB Pro A MVP.
Both players have found themselves on very different paths in their young basketball careers. One (Augustin) is a former top-10 pick in the 2008 NBA draft with 23 games of playoff basketball under his belt, while the other (Buycks) has yet to suit up for an NBA squad.
Based on experience alone, the backup point guard slot should be Augustin's to lose, but don't discount Buycks just yet. This competition is a lot more open than some people may realize.
Why D.J. Augustin should be the backup point guard
As mentioned earlier, experience should play a huge factor in the decision. Augustin, drafted ninth by the Charlotte Bobcats back in 2008, has played in 358 NBA games, including 147 as a starter.
You essentially know what you're going to get on a nightly basis with Augustin, since he has a solid body of work to go on.
During his first four seasons in the league as a Bobcat, Augustin averaged 10.9 points, 4.4 assists and 2.0 rebounds. His numbers weren't astounding, but he proved that he could be an efficient, yet unspectacular starting point guard.
His three-point shooting will also be a valuable asset, as Augustin is a career 37.0 percent shooter from behind the arc. The Raptors finished 25th in the league at 34.3 percent last season.
Playing with the mentality of a pass-first point guard is a huge selling point. As reported by Eric Koreen of the National Post, Augustin explains the value he brings in that respect, as well as his evolved offensive game.
I've always been a pass-first point guard. I've always been able to shoot the ball. This summer I've been working on a lot of floaters and getting that down, because when I get in the lane with those big guys they're trying to tear me apart. If I get the floater down and my mid-range game down, I think I'll be a lot better.
Lowry will likely see 30 to 35 minutes of action per game, so having a backup point guard who has proven in the past that he can run an offense will be vital.
Why D.J Augustin shouldn't be the backup point guard
You're only as good as your last season.
In a reserve role for the Indiana Pacers in 2012-13, Augustin shot 35.0 percent from the field, which is the lowest of his career.
Frankly, he was awful. He found little to no success shooting from a majority of locations on the court, and he couldn't be trusted to handle big minutes, which led to him playing just 16.1 per night.
190 of his 294 field goal attempts were from three-point range, which shows that he's fairly one-dimensional as an offensive player. He rarely attacks the basket and doesn't show a willingness to drive the lane and pass out.
Fortunately, the Raptors need Augustin to be a threat from 22 feet and beyond, so if he can somehow regain his shooting touch and consistently hit shots from long range, no one will find a need to complain about his attempts.
Why Dwight Buycks should be the backup point guard
If his play during the 2013 NBA Las Vegas and Orlando Summer League's were any indication, Dwight Buycks could be ready to contribute immediately at the pro level.
In four games for the Oklahoma City Thunder, Buycks averaged 9.5 points on 48.1 percent shooting, including six assists and two steals. He saw a drastic jump in production with the Raptors' Summer League team, averaging 23 points, seven assists and five rebounds in their final two games.
The competition was nowhere near what it's going to be like during the regular season, but as an incoming rookie, Buycks was quite impressive.
At 6'3", he's versatile enough where he can play or defend either the one or two spot. He's a superior defender to Augustin, and is far more willing to play around the basket than his teammate is.
Buycks is also a vastly underrated shooter. Not only can he put the ball on the deck, but he can keep the defense honest with his silky smooth jumper. He shot 55 percent from the field in three Summer League games with Toronto.
The Raptors' should take a chance and throw Buycks into the line of fire right away. General manager Masai Ujiri sees something in him that perhaps a lot of other teams around the league couldn't.
Why not give him an opportunity as the backup point guard right out of the gate and play your cards from there?
Why Dwight Buycks shouldn't be the backup point guard
At 24-years-old and with no NBA experience on his résumé, Buycks should simply be considered a project with the potential to one day be an important piece in the rotation.
Until then, he's going to have to earn his minutes, and that means possibly beginning his tenure with the Raptors as a third-string guard.
He's really a mystery at this point. Other than his stint in the Summer League, very few fans have seen him play.
Is there enough evidence to forge a credible opinion?
There were moments when Buycks would make ill-advised passes during the course of games that would leave you scratching your head in a state of confusion and befuddlement. Effectively, his basketball IQ isn't where it should be at the moment, and he mainly gets by on the fact that he's extremely athletic.
If he's willing to put in the training with the Raptors' coaching staff, the little nuances of the game will become easier for him to grasp. For now though, there's a lot of work to be done.
The upside is with Dwight Buycks, but the peace of mind comes with D.J. Augustin.
If Kyle Lowry were to ever miss a significant amount of time due to injury, Augustin would more than likely be given the keys to the offense as the new starter, and simply because he's been in that position before.
Buycks could eventually prove to be the better player and surpass Augustin as the primary backup, but there's no guarantee that will happen.
It will be interesting to see how this battle plays out in training camp, but the smart money would be on Augustin. Dwane Casey is a competent enough coach to know how to put his team in the best position to win games and qualify for the 2014 NBA playoffs.
Backing up Kyle Lowry with D.J. Augustin would seem like the logical choice.
Buycks' time will come.
*All statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com
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