His credentials so far have been startlingly positive. His numbers are better than Kirk Hinrich’s. In fact, in terms of overall production on a per-game basis, he’s been the fifth-most successful Bull, sandwiched between Jimmy Butler and Mike Dunleavy Jr.
He is leading the Bulls in assists per game at 6.1, and if you’re looking at just his Chicago numbers, he is seventh in the NBA in secondary assists (like hockey assists) and is 14th in points off assists per 48 minutes (minimum 300 minutes).
As a backup with the Bulls, he has averaged 5.5 assists per game, which is better than any backup point guard in the league by a comfortable margin. Isaiah Thomas of the Sacramento Kings is next with 4.9 (and he's the starter there now).
It’s difficult to evaluate Augustin on plus/minus numbers right now because of the litany of Bulls injuries, the Luol Deng trade and the fact that he arrived midseason and had to adjust to a new system.
All those things working together mean it’s nearly impossible for him to develop any familiarity.
Despite all that, over the last three games—where there’s been a modicum of stability (aside from the Deng trade)—the Bulls have had an offensive rating of 102.0 and a defensive rating of 85.7 with him on the court. That’s compared to 97.0 and 94.7, respectively, while he’s on the bench.
Those aren’t the kind of numbers that are going to get him into the All-Star Game, and no one would suggest they are, but they’re not too shabby for a player who was walking the waiver wire just a month ago.
You could make a case that “D.J.” stands for “Derrick Junior," because at times Augustin can be reminiscent of Rose in the way that he plays. He has decent speed and can get to the rim and finish, unlike the other two Chicago point guards, Kirk Hinrich and Marquis Teague.
For example, this play isn’t quite up to the Rose standard of explosiveness, but it’s the type of thing that Rose does with a crossover and drive to the basket.
Augustin's speed is on display again here.
He already has 22 finishes in the restricted area this season, compared to Hinrich’s 14 and Teague’s 12. Yes, there’s a bit of a “tallest person at the little people’s convention” aspect to this, but again, we’re talking about a waiver-wire pickup, not an All-Star.
Augustin is also shooting 35.7 percent from deep, compared to 30.1 percent from Hinrich and a measly 20.0 percent from Teague.
He can stretch the floor a bit, drive to the basket and find his teammates for the dish. What else could a team ask for from a backup? No, his game isn’t a carbon copy of Rose’s, but it’s a similar style on a far smaller scale.
Being able to play in a similar way allows for the offense to remain consistent, regardless of the point guard who is running it. Yes, the offense will be more effective with a superstar at the helm, but it’s nice if a player who isn’t a superstar can step in and at least manage the minutes in the same way.
See Reggie Jackson behind Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City.
Next year, the Bulls may have to choose between Hinrich, Teague and Augustin. While Teague is under a rookie contract, it’s no guarantee that he’ll be on the roster. He’s already been sent to the D-League because he’s in dramatic need of development. If he doesn’t show improvement, don’t expect him to start the season on the roster.
Theoretically, the Bulls could sign both Hinrich and Augustin. It’s feasible that both will take the minimum, which would mean that neither would have any impact on the cap. But, for the sake of argument, let’s say that Augustin continues to pull a “Nate Robinson” and elevate his status through the remainder of the season.
What would the Bulls need to pay him for his services, and is he worth it?
The Deng trade more or less takes him out of the financial picture next season. (It’s technically possible for him to sign with the Bulls, but it’s not realistic.)
Without getting into a ton of detail (but if you want it, it's here), after dealing with cap holds, if the Bulls amnesty Carlos Boozer, they will have between $12 and $14 million to spend (depending on where they pick and whether they get the Charlotte Bobcats’ pick, which is top-10 protected).
A chunk of that may go to Nikola Mirotic if he comes over. Sam Smith of Bulls.com projects that to cost $6-8 million. That would leave the Bulls with another $5-7 million to spend on a quality player but certainly not a superstar.
A superstar is out of the question, as is even a restricted free agent like Gordon Hayward, whose contract offer would be matched by the Utah Jazz if it were in that price range.
Whom they can and should get has a huge number of variables to it, including whom the Bulls take in the draft with their pick(s), where they select and who declares for free agency. If you want a general idea though, think Rodney Stuckey or Spencer Hawes (if not those specific players, then that caliber of player).
After they fill up their roster, they’ll have the mini-mid-level exception available to under-the-cap teams, and it would make sense to use that on Augustin. There are benefits to having the same backup point guard for multiple seasons. Chicago wouldn't need to have a new player learn the system every year.
It’s unlikely that the Bulls would find a better way to spend that $3 million, so it would make sense.
There’s an expression: “Out of dung, the flowers do grow.” The Bulls may have lost their Rose for the season, but a flower may yet spring from it. If Augustin continues to flourish, he could be their backup point guard of the future.
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