Chicago Bulls point guard D.J. Augustin was facing an uncertain NBA future when the Toronto Raptors decided to waive him on Dec. 9, but he’s since carved a niche and thrived under head coach Tom Thibodeau by filling in for injured floor general Derrick Rose.
The 26-year-old’s production is truly remarkable given his tumultuous stint with the Indiana Pacers in 2012-13 and a forgettable 10-game stay north of the border earlier this season.
Augustin is averaging career highs in points and assists for the Bulls, but what will the six-year veteran be worth on the open market in free agency this summer?
It’s fair to assume he’ll make far more than his $650,215 salary with the Bulls this season, but it will be interesting to see what his market is and, perhaps more importantly, whether Chicago will decide to keep him as a safety net behind D-Rose.
Augustin’s career-best stint in the pros has been on full display during the month of March. He’s averaging 17.7 points, 3.7 assists and two rebounds per game while shooting 47.5 percent from the field and 42.3 percent from three-point range during that span.
His great month was highlighted by a career-high 33-point outburst against the Boston Celtics on March 30. He cashed 10 of 14 shots (3-of-4 from distance) and made all 10 of his free throws.
His deadeye shooting from downtown has been arguably his greatest asset.
According to NBA.com, the Texas product is shooting 45.8 percent on straightaway threes, 46.8 percent from deep at the left wing and 43.3 percent from the left corner (all of which are above league average).
His offensive output has been a sight for sore eyes, as ESPN.com has Chicago ranked 29th in the league with just 98.9 points scored per 100 possessions—only the Philadelphia 76ers have been worse with an offensive rating of 95.9.
Augustin’s team-leading 14.5 points per game is a huge reason why the Bulls have stayed afloat without Rose—again—but his defensive capabilities remain an area of concern.
While the Bulls are one of the NBA’s best defensive teams, 82games.com indicates that Augustin is surrendering a player efficiency rating of 16.7 to opposing point guards. That matches his own PER, which leads to no net production one way or another.
In a way, it’s a good thing that he’s playing opponents to a stalemate. Nevertheless, there’s certainly some room for improvement on defense.
When Augustin is on the court for Chicago, its defensive rating sits at 105.6. When he goes to the bench, that number drops significantly down to 99.5. That’s a substantial difference which shows just how good Kirk Hinrich has been defensively.
Despite shoddy defense, Augustin’s presence has been a huge net positive. The Bulls were 8-12 without him and are 33-20 since picking him up as a free agent.
In terms of what the free-agent market has dictated in the recent past, Augustin’s breakout performance may net him a significant payday.
In terms of overall skill level, Chicago’s interim point guard draws parallels to 32-year-old veteran Jose Calderon. Those two have posted nearly identical numbers thus far in 2013-14.
Even as an aging veteran, Calderon inked a four-year, $29 million deal from Dallas last summer. At the time, SB Nation’s Mike Prada pointed out the Spaniard’s porous defense and inability to attack the rim.
“Those weaknesses are why I think (Calderon’s deal) is a bit ambitious for his services,” he wrote.
Giving Calderon approximately $7 million per season did seem like an overpayment on the Mavericks’ part, but Augustin’s agent shouldn’t hesitate to use that as leverage.
Augustin is a similarly skilled floor general when compared to Calderon because he can distribute and knock down the three-ball. He’s also six years younger, but his next contract will hinge on teams in the market for a new point guard.
With so many talented point guards in the Association, it’s unlikely that Augustin will get a shot to start. Even bottom-dwellers like the Philadelphia 76ers (Michael Carter-Williams), Milwaukee Bucks (Brandon Knight), Utah Jazz (Trey Burke) and Sacramento Kings (Isaiah Thomas) have talented guys to run the offense.
As a result, Augustin’s potential as a free agent appears to be that of a talented substitute like veteran guard Jarrett Jack.
After a solid stint with the Golden State Warriors, the 30-year-old reached a four-year, $25 million deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers last summer. Despite the healthy contract, Jack has regressed statistically across the board.
Augustin could ultimately be overpaid during the offseason based on his respectable campaign and regress statistically like Jack did. If he finds a deal similar to that of Jack or Calderon, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bulls cut their losses and let the December pickup walk.
Should the Bulls try to re-sign D.J. Augustin this summer?
Signing Augustin essentially saved the Bulls’ season, but with more than $55 million already committed to Rose, Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson, it doesn’t appear as if Chicago can afford the potential price tag for a backup point guard.
A possible return to the Raptors or Charlotte Bobcats is also possible, as both squads could use depth behind talented backcourts.
Augustin has boosted his free-agent stock in a big way under Coach Thibodeau. As a result, his return to the Windy City—especially with another Rose return on the horizon—seems like a long shot at best.
Golden State has had trouble adjusting without Jack and even acquired Steve Blake at the trade deadline. As far as I’m concerned, the Dubs will be front-runners for Augustin’s services as a means of spelling the workload for All-Star Stephen Curry. I imagine him landing in Oakland on a three-year deal worth approximately $18 million.
Chicago may show renewed interest if it decides to amnesty Boozer, but that's not a guarantee.
All salary information courtesy of ShamSports.com.