Over the next couple of weeks, we’re going to be rolling out our profiles of several of the top expected prospects in the 2008 NBA Draft. Figuring that we’re not the only ones who’ve thought of this, we decided to enlist some help by asking several of the best school-specific bloggers in the land to give us the up-close-and-personal profile of the players they’ve spent all year watching. For example, we watched DJ Augustin play 10-12 times this year, but that pales in comparison to the number of times a true Horns fan saw him play. These bloggers know these players – their strengths, their weaknesses, whether they become Black Mamba or channel C-Webb in the clutch, and what kind of team they would best fit with at the next level.
With that said, our next submission is from our favorite Longhorn blog, Burnt Orange Nation. PB over there brings it hard with his tough love for his Texas squads. Here is BON’s post on one of our favorite players of the past two years in college basketball (despite the fact we made fun of him here), DJ Augustin.
Augustin Has Long Arms (btw, this is not a carry)
One of the mistakes fans frequently make when discussing NBA Draft prospects is an over-emphasis on a player’s height, be it with shoes or without. Logical though it is, hoops junkies know from experience that it’s a player’s reach and wingspan which greater define his build in the vertical dimension.
That’s a critical distinction to make when introducing Texas point guard DJ Augustin, who is still waiting to read a draft profile which doesn’t begin by noting that he’s a shorty. (For the record, he measures at 5′ 11.5″ in his sneakers.)
But if you dig a little bit, you’ll find that many pro scouts aren’t nearly as dismissive of Augustin as one might presume just based on his standing height. Though he remains one of the most vertically challenged players in this year’s draft class, DJ’s standing reach measured out at 7’10.5″, which as ESPN.com’s Chad Ford wrote this week, puts him among company who’ve already proven they can play the NBA point:
So while some fans are worried that Augustin is only 5-foot-10 in socks, that’s not the key for NBA front offices. They want more info. What is his wingspan? What is his standing reach? How explosive is he athletically? All of those variables factor into the equation. In Augustin’s case, he measures out as a legitimate point guard prospect with a standing reach that exceeds Chris Paul’s by an inch and a half and matches Mike Conley’s and Jordan Farmar’s.
See that, hater? He’s better than Chris Paul! Already!
Okay, maybe not… And if it’s too simplistic to grade DJ Augustin on his standing height alone, I’ll mention a more pressing concern I have after watching him for two years at Texas: his struggles against teams that play physical perimeter defense. I’ve seen DJ torch tall guys and quick guys alike, but his worst games as a collegian were always against guards who muscled him around.
As a freshman, Augustin was in February bottled up badly by the physical guards of Bob Huggins’ Kansas State Wildcats, then again in the NCAA tournament against Tim Floyd’s strong-men at USC. DJ was a vastly improved player as a sophomore, but again experienced legitimate difficulties when the opposition body-banged him a bit; if DJ wasn’t getting whistles against such teams, he had trouble being effective.
That’s worrisome considering the defensive competition Augustin’s about to face as a pro. Many of his counterparts will be as quick as he is; even more will be stronger. Is a player with a potential weakness like that worth a selection in the lottery?
Given the rest of his profile, I think the answer has to be yes. Casual fans probably think of DJ Augustin for what he was: a candidate all season for National Player of the Year, one of the nation’s top point guards, and the best player on what turned out to be an unexpectedly outstanding Longhorns team. But as he starts his transition to the professional ranks, I think of him for what he wasn’t. That is, after watching him for two years at Texas, it’s my impression that DJ Augustin still has a lot of room left to climb on the development curve.
As good as he was this year, you could see from watching him play twice a week that he was just coming into his own as a point guard. He’s always had great vision, but he showed tremendous improvement playing the point guard position even from December to March of his sophomore season. So much so that it very much seems like he still has a significant amount of room to grow and improve. He’ll soon be playing under the instruction of professional coaches 12 months a year and strikes me as a player who will steadily develop in that environment for some time to come.
Considering the advanced level where he’s already starting, he could turn out to be one of the league’s best point guards in 3-4 years.
Perhaps not, but that room for development and his demonstrated ability to improve rapidly with experience gives him the magic upside. Which means on draft day, believing anything about his future remains possible.
He could be better than Chris Paul!
(Okay, maybe not anything…)