Arguably the most important position on the court, point guard, is one that many believe the Orlando Magic have big questions at.
Lacking one of the premier point guards in the league, the Magic are once again turning to a group that is spearheaded by D.J. Augustin. While Augustin might not be a “sexy” name, or a player you expect to hear in the upper echelon of point guards, the 11th year vet might be the right guy for the job in Orlando.
“He’s detailed, he work oriented, he’s team first,” said Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman when asked about the teams incumbent starter. “He’s the definition of a professional . . . Coaches trust him, staff trust him, and players trust him, so you being there.”
As the only player on the Magic’s roster with 10 or more years of experience, Augustin will likely take on a big role as a leader, especially with a roster that stocked full of young guys. The Texas product knows that being a leader is something that he’ll need to be this season, and is ready to embrace that role.
“Just be a leader off the court for my younger teammates,” said Augustin when asked about what he wants to improve on individually. “We have a lot of young guys on this team, even the guys that are returning are still young. Just being a good role model for them, on and off the court. Showing them how to work hard, come early, leave late, do the right thing, just so I can sit back one day and still watch them playing in the league. That’s my biggest thing for myself this year, is being a great vet.”
Aside from taking on a big role as a leader, Augustin is going to play a key role for the team on the court, especially offensively.
Coming off one of the better seasons of his career, Augustin is once again going to have to get off to a strong start. Before suffering a hamstring injury that cost him seven games, Augustin helped the Magic get off to a fast 6-2 start with strong shooting performances, and great ball movement.
Despite the injury, Augustin came back to put together one of the best seasons of his career.
“I think D.J. had a season that kind of went under the radar last year,” said Weltman. “I believe he was in the 96th percentile in true shooting percentage. I know he was number two in the NBA in his pull-up three percentage, for those who attempted 100 or more, [and] that’s a very important statistic for a guard. Our defense was significantly better with him on the court, rather than off.”
With a roster devoid of shooting, Augustins’ importance quickly rises when you look at the numbers from last season.
The 6-foot point guard led the Magic in three-point percentage last season, shooting nearly 42 percent from beyond the arc. His ability to hold a defender on the perimeter will open up more driving lanes for guys like Aaron Gordon, and Evan Fournier, and when the defense collapses, his ability to knock down the open shot, will be huge.
Despite having the clear advantage to earn the starting job, Augustin isn’t taking anything for granted going into training camp.
“Nobody’s told me I’m starting, nobodies said that to me yet,” said Augustin. “I don’t have that in my head yet. I’m coming in to earn everything. That’s how I’ve always been as a player, even through college. I always earned everything I got, as far as minutes, and that’s the same attitude I’m coming into this season with.
“Just try to earn as [many] minutes as I can, earn the coaches trust. I’m mostly excited about starting the season with the group of guys we have, to do something different this year. Instead of not making the playoffs, our goal, as a team, is to make the playoffs. I’m excited about that opportunity that we have in front of us.”
Keeping himself honest could be a key for the veteran. Holding the same mindset that’s gotten him to where he is could lead to him building off of last season, and proving a lot of critics wrong.
While he might not be one of the biggest names at the position, Augustin has earned his chance to be the Magic’s starter, and has the chance to thrive in that position.