Monday, July 21, 2014

Listen to Your Chart: D.J. Augustin

D.J. Augustin's career hasn't followed the optimal path of a 9th overall pick.  After being selected by Charlotte in the 2008 draft, Augustin has only managed two above average seasons (as measured by PER, an inexact science) in the league, between stints with three different teams.  Following four inconsistent seasons on his rookie contract with Charlotte, Augustin signed a one year deal with the Pacers during the 2012 off-season.  He was handed the keys to the backup PG job with Indiana, appearing in 76 games, but with little success.  Left with few options entering the 2013 off-season, Augustin signed a one-year, $1.27M deal with the Raptors.  He failed to click in Toronto, appearing in 10 games and shooting 29% before he was cut loose in December.  Out of necessity, the Bulls gave Augustin a shot to fill a job in their desolate backcourt.  He wouldn't disappoint, providing Chicago with the kind of play that people expected when he was taken 9th overall in '08.  At age 26, Augustin posted the highest PER of his career (16.8) over the final 61 games of the season.  His stellar play led to a two year, $6M deal with the Pistons this offseason, and will likely man the backup PG spot behind the volatile Brandon Jennings this season.  If Augustin can provide the Pistons with the same dynamic scoring he gave Chicago last year, he could prove to be one of the biggest value signings of the off-season.  Whether or not he can do that will likely depend on if he can replicate his shooting success from last season, which was predicated on success at the rim and from the perimeter.

Click "Read More" for the rest of the shot chart analysis...
Augustin's success last season, generated mostly on the left side of the floor, is a bit unconventional for a right-handed player; especially his work on the left baseline.  Nonetheless, Augustin found his comfort zone on the left side of the court, making 46.3% of his attempts from the left side of the floor, well above league-average.  He was even more impressive from beyond the arc on the left side of the floor, making 62 of his 137 attempts, good for 45.3%.  Augustin's strong shooting from the left side of the floor should couple well with Kyle Singler's right corner assassin work and Jodie Meeks' right wing marksmanship.  Stan Van Gundy likely knew this going in, and I would look for any lineup that features these three players to balance the floor towards their strengths.

The other major strength in Augustin's scoring game is his above average ability to finish near the rim.  At only 6'0 tall, Augustin uses a floater that has been a cornerstone of his game over the course of his career.  Don't just take it from me though, Jonathon Givony of the popular pointed this out all the way back in 2007, Augustin's sophomore season at Texas.  Here's his assessment of Augustin's strength at the rim and in the mid-range:
The most noticeable stride in Augustin’s scoring game has to be his mid-range game, where he’s showing off a more consistent and versatile repertoire, making him a threat to score from anywhere on the floor at any time. He’s taken a page out of Steve Nash’s playbook with a fadeaway 10-foot jumper heading towards the baseline, and has made more effective use of a floater in the lane.
Augustin also boasts a solid career .315 Free Throw Rate, showing that he can absorb contact from bigger players upon penetration.  For a reference point, Brandon Jennings' career FTr is .241.  Essentially, for every 1000 FG attempts, expect Augustin to get to the charity stripe an extra 74 times.  As a nearly 80% free throw shooter, Augustin's extra trips to the line are very beneficial from an efficiency standpoint.  All else equal, Augustin is already a more productive scorer than Jennings, even when you don't consider Augustin's superior shooting efficiency from the floor.  If nothing else, Augustin will be a breath of fresh efficiency air when Jennings comes off of the floor.
Here we have Augustin's shot frequency chart, showing which spots he takes his shots from.  47.1% of Augustin's field goal attempts came from behind the three point line during the 2013-14 season, and only 22.2% of his threes came from the corner, a number that isn't really surprising as a PG.  A little bit more surprising, for a 6'0 player, is that 27.6% of Augustin's attempts came at the rim; for reference, roughly 30% of Kevin Durant's shots come at the rim, and only 23% of DeMar DeRozan's attempts come at the rim.  Obviously a two man sample isn't representative, but you get the idea.  Augustin isn't afraid to mix it up inside, a quality that pays off in floaters for two points, or a trip to the free throw line. 

Normally when I look at a shot frequency chart, I compare it to the player's shot efficiency chart to see if there's somewhere he should be taking less shots.  In a vacuum, I would say that Augustin should cut down on his right wing threes and right side mid-range jumpers.  However, it's hard to play a right-handed player off of screens to the left side of the floor, due to a trailing defender being right in his shooting pocket.  It's necessary to keep Augustin's action balanced, so it's hard to say he needs to cut down on shots from the right side of the floor, where he's less efficient.  Playing the right-handed Augustin to the left side of the floor more often would likely only cut into his efficiency, rather than improve it.  This is simply a matter of hoping that Augustin can optimize the quality of the looks he gets on that side, and maybe have a hot shooting year on right wing and right elbow jumpers.

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