There’s always something about the underdog everybody seems to like. In this case, that underdog is the Toronto Raptors backup point-guard D.J. Augustin. Let’s face it, when the Raptors have a quality undersized point guard good things always seem to happen. Standing 5’10 among the trees of the NBA, DJ has always been at a physical disadvantage. However, this signing screams quality addition. DJ played in all 19 games of the Indiana Pacers Easter Conference finals run and has more playoff experience than most of the roster. He’s now spent five seasons in the NBA last season averaging a career low in minutes and virtually every other statistic across the board. New situation, less playing time, surrounded by talent, things change, shit happens. However getting the first guard off the bench in Frank Vogel’s rotation, at the price that Masai Ujiri did was a steal.
There is a fantastic amount of value in this signing. Looking past the negatives features of an undersized point-guard, let’s look at the 2013-2014 season for DJ in an optimistic light for the sake of positivity. Not only does this signing help the Raptors financial flexibility moving forward, but it will also help the development of the roster. The big issue many people seem to have with DJ is his lack of defensive prowess. DJ may be undersized, but he’s at least an average defender at the point guard position. He may lack the length to consistently steal the ball, however his foot speed allows him to stay with his man. Effort and a high basketball IQ is what DJ brings on the defensive end. If everybody buys into Dwane Casey’s system this season, then the communication that DJ is able to bring will be a welcomed addition.
DJ is a coaches point guard, and will do whatever is asked of him. Rick Barnes coached DJ in college where he played alongside Kevin Durant, becoming one of the most decorated point guards in the NCAA, winning multiple awards. He was picked before Brook Lopez; hand picked by Larry Brown (probably the wrong move for the Bobcats), but clearly the potential has always been there. The learning experience was guaranteed a gift in itself for DJ. You can nag on DJ and say his production was a result of playing on the lowly Charlotte Bobcats. However those lowly Bobcats also made the playoffs before the Raptors with DJ around.
Last seasons statistics are not indicative of how DJ will help this team. Offensively he’s replaced John Lucas’ shot-chucking with real point guard play. The difference in decision-making between the two is going to be a phenomenal change. DJ excels at throwing the lob pass in transition. Everywhere he’s balled, athletic wings have always played with DJ. Whether its Gerald Wallace or Gerald Green, DJ always seems to find his teammates above the rim. With the Rudy Gay, DeMar DeRozan and Terrence Ross, the Raptors are well equipped with above the rim players. As long as there’s movement, DJ will quickly become a fan favorite for his unselfish play. He’s not the type of player to kill his dribble in a bad situation, which speaks to his high basketball IQ. This is good because getting trapped on the ball and being undersized can lead to wasted time-outs, which the Toronto Raptors simply can’t afford.
Playing in Indiana; the style of play slowed down tremendously for DJ. Coming to Toronto may be the refresher he needs. He’s worked on his pick and roll game in practice beside a real centre playing with Roy Hibbert last year. The transition to a much more mobile centre who thrives from the pick and roll Jonas Valanciunas will not be a problem come this season. With the makeup of the current roster Toronto will continue to grind it out defensively, push the ball off turnovers and use their athleticism to their advantage. DJ is a reliable ball handler and a good floor general. He’s not a shooting guard trapped in a point guard’s body, which has me intrigued, yet very excited. He’s low-risk, high reward, and this may be the most important try-out of DJ’s career; he has the chance to become a leader as a young veteran, so expect him to make the most of it here as a Raptor.