Welcome to our annual Lakers season in review series, where we’ll be taking a look back at every player on the team’s roster this season, evaluating their play, and deciding if they should be a part of the organization’s future. Today, we take a closer look at D.J. Augustin.
How did he play?
After a tumbleweed-laden trade deadline and with bigger names opting for other teams in the buyout market, D.J. Augustin ultimately ended up being the Lakers’ sole veteran addition during what was a critical closing stretch to their year.
And while he was not the season-saving acquisition fans had hoped to the team to make, Augustin was essentially everything you could realistically want him to be given his strengths, weaknesses and age.
Perhaps even more importantly than his actual on-court play, however, is that Augustin may have also served as a potential dry-run for the type of point-guard archetype the team could look to pursue this offseason after the failed Russell Westbrook experiment. This is because in many ways, Augustin is stylistically — and spiritually — the antithesis of Westbrook when it comes to their roles on the floor.
Throughout his career, Augustin is likely best known for his ability to space the floor from the guard spot. And for good reason. According to Cleaning the Glass, the 34-year-old has finished in the 89th percentile or better in 3-point efficiency within his position in three of his last five seasons. With the Lakers, his shooting numbers only improved.
In the 20 games he spent wearing purple and gold, Augustin canned 44% of his chances from beyond the arc (when removing garbage time/heaves), and in his last 15 contests, he knocked down 47.8% of his wide-open looks and exactly half of his catch-and-shoot opportunities.
But beyond the spacing disparity Augustin provided compared to Westbrook, his utilization was also vastly different. Specifically when considering how it much more closely aligned to previous backcourt players LeBron James has thrived with in the past.
For example, Augustin posted a minuscule usage rate of 11.6% (a career-low) with the Lakers, and — outside of the occasional pick and roll — he was primarily used off-the-ball to cash in on James’ drive and kicks. This came in direct contrast to the more ball-dominant approach from Westbrook (30.4% usage rate).
It’s also worth noting where Augustin was slotted on the floor when he was on it. Unlike most other point guards, the veteran spent considerable time in the corners to both create and allow for more playmaking opportunities for others.
With the Lakers, an absurd 30% of Augustin’s shot attempts came from the corners, which not only was a career-high and ranked in the 100th percentile compared to others who played at his position this year, but was also 19% higher than what he posted with the Houston Rockets earlier in the season. By contrast, only 4% of Westbrook’s shots came from the corners this year.
However, while Augustin’s offensive fit was a familiar ingredient to the recipe of types of players James has found success with in the past, his weaknesses were arguably just as loud as his strengths, if not louder.
Standing at just under six feet tall, and being a few steps slower now in his mid-thirties, Augustin’s defensive liabilities somehow still were able to stand out on a team that struggled all year on that end. The Lakers ultimately ended up being a -10.5 in the minutes Augustin was on the floor this season, largely due to the atrocious 123.7 defRTG they posted when he played.
While not all of the issues on that end during those minutes could be blamed on Augustin specifically, it does speak to a larger problem this roster had in prioritizing offense over defense, and the limitations that come with deploying players with very specific strengths.
So although Augustin may have been prototypical in terms of the types of players — namely point guards — the team may look to pursue this summer, they must also account for the dangers that came with leaning too far in one direction. If nothing else, Augustin was a perfect representation of both those positives and negatives during his short stint with the team.
What is his contract situation moving forward?
Like most of the roster, Augustin’s future with the team is murky at best.
After considering other squads, he ultimately signed a minimum deal with the Lakers on March 1. Augustin is set to be an unrestricted free agent this summer, and will likely attempt to land on a contender ahead of his 35th birthday in the early portion of next season.
It’s still to be determined how much interest the veteran guard is able to drum up given his aforementioned age and weaknesses, but between his shooting ability and locker-room presence, he may still be in line to help a team if given the opportunity.
Should he be back?
It is difficult to imagine the Lakers will retain from this roster given their disappointing record. This may even be the case for players who performed well.
And while Augustin mostly met the expectations the team had for him, if not exceeded them, it will likely be in the club’s best interest to use the roster spot and minutes they gave him on a veteran who provides more utility on both ends, or on a young player who needs more reps.
This is a reality Augustin himself recently acknowledged.
“Man, this is a business. I’ve been playing for 14 years in the league,” Augustin said in his exit interview. “I know how this goes. Hopefully we do have some type of conversation this summer, but at this point you never know. You know Coach Vogel was let go today, which was kind of a big loss for our organization and guys that knew him. So that’s one thing that happened, and there’s probably other things that may happen. And those things are probably more important than I am. So when that time comes, hopefully something is there. I’m definitely open to it. But nothing was said, and nothing was expected.”
It is not completely out of the question Augustin finds himself back on the team given his play as well as the financial limitations the Lakers will continue to have when trying to flesh out a roster. However, if he is back, it will likely be in both parties’ best interest that he do so in a more limited role and with better surrounding talent that can more ably cover for his weaknesses when he does play.