When DJ Augustin was signed, the move led to a few questions and eyebrow raises. For a Lakers team with such glaring needs for a big man and for a wing on the perimeter, an undersized backup point guard felt like a signing of want and not need.
But Monday was a shining example of the value Augustin can bring to the table for the Lakers. While LeBron James took most of the headlines with his 38 points and absolute evisceration of Kevin Love, Augustin not so quietly had 20 points off the bench with perfect 6-6 shooting from beyond the arc.
In doing so, he became only the fourth non-LeBron Laker to hit six threes in a game this season (Carmelo Anthony, Malik Monk and Avery Bradley are the others). It’s only the fourth time in team history that a player has made at least six 3-pointers while shooting 100% from beyond the arc, joining Wesley Matthews last season, Kobe Bryant and Nick Van Exel.
It’s not a coincidence that now half of those occurrences in the team’s history have come alongside LeBron, a man renowned for his mutually beneficial partnership with shooters throughout his career.
“Just being ready to shoot, man,” Augustin said when asked what allowed him to have success after the game. “You play with guys like LeBron and Russ, they create so much attention and draw so much attention — and they’re so willing to pass it and find guys — all we have to do is be ready to catch and shoot and just knock it down. So just staying ready, that’s the biggest thing.”
“I’ve always flourished in my career with shooters,” LeBron added. “And DJ is a shooter. He’s a big-time maker. And every time I see him have any split-second of (space), I’m gonna try and find him, especially if I have the ball in my hand. Tonight he was big-time throughout the game.”
Another overlooked aspect of adding Augustin was that he offered a mixture of production and veteran experience, a combination the Lakers haven’t been able to find too often this season. The team has either had veterans that can’t produce — pick your choice of the end-of-bench guys currently on the roster — or players that can produce but aren’t veterans.
And while the latter option isn’t a bad one, there is value to having players who have more veteran knowledge of how to succeed in multiple scenarios.
“I’ve always been pretty good at shooting, so every team I’ve had different roles, sometimes dominant with the ball, sometimes off the ball,” Augustin said. “So I think that’s one of the things that’s kept me in the league a while is being able to shoot and being able to play so many different roles, especially at my size.”
Head coach Frank Vogel has seen Augustin in many of those roles as his head coach at many stops. But even he is blown away with what Augustin has done in his brief time in purple and gold.
“I don’t think he could be any better,” Vogel said. “I think the expectation now is that he’s shown us he can shoot 1,000% from the field and so now we expect him to do that moving forward. He’s not allowed to miss any more shots. Joking, obviously.
“DJ is a heck of a player. I’ve coached him in the past, I’ve seen him grow even in the years after I was done coaching him in Orlando. I have a tremendous amount of confidence in his floor game even though he’s undersized defensively, him knowing how to get through different situations and mismatches on the defensive side of the ball, and he carries the threat to really shoot the lights out like he did tonight, and he’s a really good pocket passer. There’s just a calm to our offense when he’s in the game. It’s not just about makes or misses with him. He gives us a great deal of confidence, and he was huge in the first half and throughout. A big part of the win.”
Even prior to Monday’s showing, Augustin had proven to be a valuable commodity for the Lakers. His 18-36 shooting from beyond the arc since his debut is both the best percentage for the Lakers and the fourth-most makes in that span. That success has let Augustin prove his value to the Lakers in record time, and dispelled any doubts about whether or not adding him was the right call.