Before the season started in my preview for the Bobcats, I asked myself whether or not the Charlotte Bobcats had the worst point guard situation in the entire league. I said yes and I maintain that, at the time, the Bobcats did have the worst point guard crop in the league. But now that the Bobcats have undergone a successful head coaching change, D.J. Augustin is starting to turn into one of the league’s better point guards.
When I say that, I don’t mean he’s entering Chris Paul/Derrick Rose territory but I do think he’s gone from afterthought at the point guard spot under Larry Brown to a top 15-20 point guard in the league under Paul Silas. His overall per game numbers do not match up with the other superstars around the league but his contributions are recognized by those that have seen him play with Silas in charge, which has subsequently led to a bit more freedom on the break for the athletic Bobcats.
Since Silas took over on December 27th, Augustin is averaging 18.8 points and seven assists per game (compared to 15/6 for the year) while shooting 47% from the field and 41% from three-point land (compared to 44%/38% on the year). Augustin’s best career game came just a few days ago against the Philadelphia 76ers when he went off for a career high 31 points on 11-of-17 shooting with eight assists and four rebounds.
More on Augustin’s rising career status after the break…
Confidence is starting to shine through Augustin’s play. He’s taking his shots in rhythm without hesitating, he’s using his perimeter accuracy to get defenses to overplay and then taking them off the dribble, he’s moving the ball to his teammates in the spots they like the ball and he’s become more comfortable leading the team. Often times, Augustin would defer to Gerald Wallace or Stephen Jackson to run an offensive set but of late Augustin has looked a lot more comfortable at the top of the key, setting up the offense or breaking his man down.
According to Synergy Sports Technology, Augustin is scoring 1.035 points per possession, which ranks him in the 86th percentile amongst NBA players, a mark that is categorized as “excellent.” When you include Augustin’s assists to his possession count, he ranks even higher in the 97th percentile. This level of efficiency is just percentage points away from the likes of Chris Paul, Manu Ginobili, Pau Gasol and Kevin Durant and places him ahead of all-stars like Kevin Garnett, Deron Williams and Chris Bosh. That’s not exactly the company you’d place Augustin in off the top of your head, but his play has earned him his spot in the top 60 in the league in points per possession.
Augustin does two things really well on the offensive end: he runs a great pick and roll and he’s a knockdown spot-up shooter. He’s not a great isolation player and he doesn’t do a lot of off-ball cutting, but he can handle the ball extremely well, get by the defense off of a screen and connect on his open looks.
As the ball handler in the pick and roll, which accounts for 31.3% of the Bobcats’ offense when Augustin has the ball, Augustin produces .995 points per possession. Unlike most elite point guards that find their screen setter on the roll to score efficiently out of the pick and roll, Augustin uses his screen to penetrate the defense, draw help, and hit the open man on the wing or the weakside cutter. The Bobcats have never had any great pick and roll players and with Tyrus Thomas going out that will only get worse (Thomas, by the way, isn’t good as the roll man either, but he does present a bit of intimidation because of his athleticism). But what they do have are big bodies that can set good screens with Boris Diaw, Kwame Brown and DeSagana Diop and several athletic wings that can cut to the basket (mainly Wallace) or hit the open spot-up jumper (Jackson).
When Augustin decides the keep the ball himself and score, he is very good. On his pull-up jumpers off the pick, Augustin is shooting 46% (which ranks him in the 91st percentile) and when he takes it all the way to the basket, he is finishing 60% of his shots (89th percentile), which is worlds better than how he finished at the rim last season (41%). Augustin is at his best when the pick and roll is run at the top of the key because it gives him ample amounts of space to get his shot off and presents a better view of the entire floor for him to pick apart. In the high pick and roll, the only other starting point guard in the league that produces more points per possession than Augustin is Steve Nash, which is certainly nothing to be upset over.
In spot-up scenarios, Augustin has produced 1.241 points per possession, another excellent mark that has him in the 94th percentile. He’s making 45% of his true spot-up jumpers which shows his versatility as an offensive player. Augustin can not only shoot off the dribble and create shots for others, he can also switch into an off-ball mode to allow the likes of Stephen Jackson or Gerald Wallace to set-up the offense. The Bobcats love to swing the ball around the perimeter after an initial drive fails or off the kickout from the post, which gets Augustin a fair amount of open looks as the defense struggles to rotate over in time to cover all three passes. When Wallace or Jackson put in on the floor, Augustin is also adept at getting to the right spot on the wing too allow for an easy dish out to the wing.
In comparison to other point guards, Augustin rates out fairly well. D.J. has the third lowest turnover rate among lead guards, 15th best PER, the 18th highest assist rate and the 11th best true shooting percentage. Those ranks make Augustin out to be a middle of the pack point guard in todays game and that’s what he is. There’s no shame in that, though, especially considering what was expected of him coming into the season. Most experts (again, including myself) thought the Bobcats would suffer a major setback this season after the loss of point guard Raymond Felton, who signed with the Knicks in the off-season.
Well, the Bobcats do have a worse record than the Knicks to this point, but they are currently the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference (which is where they were last season) and the individual performance of Augustin compares well to that of Felton. Take a look at this chart comparing their numbers.
As you can see, Augustin trumps Felton in points per possession, which is widely regarded as the most telling offensive statistic. Augustin also has a significantly higher true shooting percentage, a better three-point percentage and a much better turnover rate. He trails Felton in PER by just a fraction of a point and the other categories that Felton has the advantage in are usage percentage (which does not rate performance but rather the amount of possessions a player uses) and rebound rate (by just .5). Overall, its tough to say that Augustin doesn’t have the statistical advantage over Felton and the eye test is starting to lean in Augustin’s favor as he has become much more assertive of late while Felton has been mired in a dreadful shooting slump.
Despite the fact that Augustin has been playing just as well as Felton this season, it is Felton that has been garnering some heavy consideration as an all-star candidate. I’m not saying Augustin is or should be an all-star and I know that the Knicks have an above .500 record while the Bobcats sit eight games below it, but he definitely deserves some attention for his play. Augustin has gone from Felton’s back-up that almost nobody believed could lead the Bobcats this season as the starting point guard to outperforming Felton at least statistically despite having a worse supporting cast around him. That’s pretty darn impressive, if you ask me.
Augustin may not be the best all-around point guard in the league but he is a good one and one that has improved vastly in a year’s time. Paul Silas should be very proud of his third year point guard. He’s making strides and is leading this Bobcats team quite well. There are a few teams right now that are right behind the Bobcats in pursuit of the last available playoff spot in the East and Tyrus Thomas’ injury, who has been fantastic for Charlotte on both ends this season, will likely hamper the Bobcats’ ability to remain in the eighth seed for long, but this team has been playing well under Paul Silas and he deserves a lot of credit for turning the tides after Larry Brown parted ways with the organization.
Augustin deserves his share of credit too, because he hasn’t gotten much of any to this point in his career. And now that he’s playing better than he ever has in his career, its about time he got some.