With the 9th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, the Charlotte Bobcats select Kemba Walker out of the University of Connecticut. I'm sure we all remember the night NBA commissioner David Stern uttered those words at his world famous podium. I'm sure as hell D.J. Augustin does. It's the very same night that the entire world realized that the team's front office had lost faith in Augs and that within a matter of months, he would be the point guard for a different organization.
I was somewhat perplexed by the Bobcats deciding to go this route. Augustin had no doubt been our best building block remaining on the team after the team decided to go into full rebuilding mode at the deadline when they dealt Crash away for draft picks and cap room. Why exactly did we need another point guard when we had other major holes on the roster to fill, particularly at small forward and center? Finishing the season 6th in the league in assist to turnover ratio and averaging over 14 points per game, Augustin appeared to be making the transition to starting point guard a lot more painless than any of us ever expected him to. In previous years, for me at least, Augustin was always that streaky role player who was a shooting guard masquerading in a point guard's body. Confidence issues, mostly stemming from Larry Brown and even some teammates being so hard on him, were beginning to take a toll on him and the patience of the fan base. And his defense made Raymond Felton look like one of the all time greats in that department. That is, of course until Paul Silas took over.
Fast forward to January 17th, 2012, and a lot of the fan base is asking why is Augustin still on the roster. He is still a very streaky player and horrible on defense, but I have an extremely hard time placing much of the blame on Augustin. It's hard to do that when you look up and see the kid is averaging 15.4 points, 7.4 assists, and 3.4 boards per game. But I digress. Each day, there are more and more people wanting to trade him despite his success. Which seems like it stopped mattering after June 23rd of last year when Kemba became a Bobcat.
And that's cool, in a sense. Does it make sense to trade him? Yes. Absolutely. I wouldn't dare dispute that. You have a PG of the future on the roster and D.J. is going to be due for a contract pretty soon. But does it at all make sense to keep him? Well, that my friends is where the line in the sand has been drawn for members of the site. But I remain firmly on my side that depending on what type of offers we get, we probably should. Let me explain our options and why I feel the way I do (though I'm sure you've heard it all before).
We Can Re-sign Him
This is by far the least popular option amongst the community and I do understand why it would be so. But at least let me explain why it should remain in the realm of possibility and why I feel our front office isn't as hell bent on trading him as some of the fan base believe they are.
1. Point blank and simple, Augustin is a good player. He has at times looked effective on the offensive end to be considered one of the elite scoring point guards in the NBA. Now of course, he's a very streaky player, but you can't take away the fact from him that he's very talented. And at 23, we still have another 5 or 6 years before we see the very best Augustin has to offer.
2. Augustin is a RFA. This is one point that I've made several times but yet no one seems to care. Either way, I'll make this point again so there is no confusion. We, the Charlotte Bobcats, do have a right to match ANY offer that D.J. Augustin receives. I know everyone already realizes this so I won't go any further than that with explaining the rules of restricted free agency. And I also know that the organization is in rebuilding mode and are trying to eliminate long term contracts from the payroll. But what gets me is that a lot of fans now only care about saving money. And that's cool to a certain extent. But there is also an extreme difference between keeping your team in a position to add young players like Augustin through free agency and being cheap. And from my perspective, I'm starting to feel like some of us are taking the player's actual basketball talent aspect out of the equation and are only thinking of the best ways for us to save money. And I have no interest in becoming the new age Clippers of the NBA in those regards. I also worry about what kind of discussions we'll be having about Gerald Henderson, or Walker, or Bismack Biyombo when it comes time to re-sign these players. Are we going to keep trading them every time they are due for an extension because we fear over paying for them? I hate to say it, but someone is going to have to get paid eventually.
By NBA rule, teams are required to spend at least 85% of their salary cap. The salary cap for this year was reportedly just a tad over $58 million meaning we'll have to remain at the minimum of $48 million just to abide by the rules. With the way the team is currently constructed, and assuming D.J. Augustin signs his qualifying offer of $4.39 million next season, we are still sitting at $8 million (minus whatever our 1st round pick makes) below the level we HAVE to be at. That number jumps even higher if we decide to use the amnesty on Desagana Diop or Corey Maggette or if either are traded before the deadline this year and we don't take on any additional salary. For those that have completely thrown out the idea of re-signing Augustin, my simple question to you is what moves do you foresee us making just to get back to the minimum? At that stage, assuming no other big roster moves have been made, Tyrus Thomas, Kemba Walker, Reggie Williams, D.J. White (who is also a RFA next year), Gerald Henderson, Byron Mullens, Bismack Biyombo, Matt Carrol, Diop and/or Maggette would still be occupying roster spots. For this dream scenario, let's also assume that we're able to retain Corey Higgins and Derek Brown on minimum level deals again and that D.J. Augustin signs his QO. That's already 13 players under contract with only 2 roster spaces open (1 which would be our first round pick) so at the least we are going to have to sign a bench warmer to a $4 million or more deal just to reach the minimum. Are we prepared to do so?
I know Rich Cho is a numbers guy so I'm just thinking about the numbers here. There are 5 positions in basketball, everyone knows this. And for the best way to manage those positions against the good of a team, talent and salary should be as evenly distributed as possible. So, let's just do some more simple math here and assume we're going for the minimum. That $48 million dollar we have to spend divided amongst all 5 spots puts us at $9.6 million dollars being dedicated to each position. Assuming D.J. Augustin signs his QO, that means we still have only $6.91 million of funds allocated to the PG position with Kemba Walker not being in line for an extension until 2015 at the earliest. And I can also pretty much bet the house on it that no team will offer Augustin more than $8 million a year so even if we are forced to match an offer for him, we are still only putting a little over $10 million into our PG position. Just a little something to think about for those that have such a huge fear of resigning him and having two starting caliber PGs on the roster.
3. D.J. Augustin is one of the longest tenured Bobcats we have on the roster now. That means that the fans of Charlotte have identified with him more than anyone currently on the team. And with former Bobcats like Tyson Chandler coming off of a championship win with the Dallas Mavericks and Raymond Felton and Gerald Wallace enjoying great success with the Portland Trailblazers thus far, is it really good for fan morale to see another Bobcat traded away only for them to enjoy more success on a big stage? Especially for strictly money purposes? Just a little something to consider. I know we have Kemba, but who is to say that Walker will ever be as good a player as D.J.? Or who is to say that neither can come off the bench which would immediately give us one of the stronger benches in the NBA? Or who is to say they can't coexist even though they've put that theory to bed with their play while on the court together? I'm also hearing some people talking about D.J. wouldn't be happy in Charlotte anymore. Why is that exactly? I haven't seen any attitude problems before and am not sure why they would start after the team went out of their way to show they wanted him around a little while longer. I mean, let's just think about it for the second. If we supposedly have all of these players of the future, at one point do we focus on building chemistry with the fan base and the team? We've got our PG of the future in Walker, our SG with Hendo, probably a SF with our pick next year, and the rotation of Bismack, Mullens, and D.J. White to represent a big part of our front court. At some point we're going to have to stop shipping players in and out and establish some continuity. It's a lot harder to bring in talent then retain it. And Augustin is definitely a talent worth building on.
We Can Trade Him
Now none of my ranting above is to say that we shouldn't trade D.J. Augustin if the right deal came along. Hell, by that theory, everyone on the roster should be deemed trade-able if it's in the best interest of the team and there is a clear upgrade. But the frustrating part about all of this is that fans have been throwing out deals that would be completely unfair for us (25th pick in the draft?) because they are so intent on trading one of the few bright spots on our team because it's time for him to be paid. I've also heard several unrealistic scenarios concerning certain teams offering D.J. a boatload of money in this point guard heavy league, but haven't taken into account that not everyone has money to spend or are looking for an upgrade at the point. So, here is a little rosterbation to see what we're really up against here using all the other 29 teams in the NBA...............
Atlanta Hawks- They have a Kirk Hinrich who is expiring and Jeff Teague who they seem to like a lot. They may be in the market for a point if they decide not to bring back Hinrich, but will still be over the cap making it impossible for them to make an offer to D.J. They also have no one that would interest the Bobcats if we are going according to plan. You can cross these guys out.
Boston Celtics- The Celtics have Rajon Rondo as their point guard of the future who is locked up an an escalating contract through 2015. They could use a backup with Keyon Dooling coming off of the books, but they'll have so many other holes in their roster that I doubt a backup PG would be a top priority.
Chicago Bulls- Derrick Rose will no doubt sign an extension there and the Bulls will be way over the cap next year. The only deal we would be remotely interested in is a D.J. for Omer Asik deal, but I'm not sure Chicago would be ready to part with the young big man.
Cleveland Cavaliers- The Cavs can be crossed out before we even start talking about them. Kyrie Irving is their clear point guard of the future and they also have Daniel Gibson and Ramon Sessions backing him up. They are deep enough as it is.
Dallas Mavericks- The Mavericks are one team that could possibly make a run for D.J. if they fail on their plan of signing Derron Williams. Problem is, even if they don't, Jason Kidd and Rodrique Beaubois are on the roster as well so they are ok there. I think Dominique Jones and a 1st round pick would be a sufficient return for D.J. though if they ever went that route.
Denver Nuggets- Ty Lawson and Andre Miller occupy spots in Denver right now. They could have a hole if Miller leaves and he has suggested that he's not happy at all being a backup so that may be the case. They have a lot of salary issues to work out, but I could see us trading D.J. and Maggette for Miller, Corey Brewer, and Kosta Koufos.
Golden State Warriors- Seth Curry, Monta Ellis, Nate Robinson and Klay Thompson fill up the talented but bad on defense back court for the Warriors. Mark Jackson is trying to change the culture of the franchise so I doubt he's in the market for another undersized player, but if they wanted to Ekpe Udoh would be a sufficient return at this stage.
Some point guards like Kyle Lowry of the Rockets are becoming franchise players
Houston Rockets- The Rockets already have Kyle Lowry, Goran Drajic, and Johnny Flynn under contract. They will be way under the cap next year, but will also have a lot of players to resign. With Lowry looking like their PG of the future, they won't be throwing out "starter money" in free agency, but Flynn will be locked up for an extra year on his rookie salary so if the front office feels the same way about D.J. as a lot of fans though, a trade for him may be one of our only lateral options in the league.
Indiana Pacers- The Pacers have Darren Collison and George Hill under contract, but could very well be a threat to sign D.J. in free agency as they look on improving their team. I just don't see these guys offering much more than than our qualifying offer for him though. I doubt he would come in and be the starter over Collison who is pretty good himself, but I could be wrong.
Los Angeles Clippers- I don't even have to say anything about these guys. They have Chris Paul, Mo Williams, and Eric Bledsoe, and Chauncey Billups on the roster right now, so they won't be looking at point guards in free agency. What they need is a real shooting guard.
Los Angeles Lakers- The Lakers desperately need an upgrade at the point, but they are NO THREAT to sign D.J. away from us because they'll still be millions over the cap next year. There also isn't a player on their roster the Bobcats would be remotely interested in. But for the sake of the trade D.J. Army, Matt Barnes, Devin Ebanks, and a 1st round pick should be the very least we ask for D.J.
Memphis Grizzlies- Mike Conley is the point guard of the future for the Grizzlies and just signed an extension not too long ago. They also have a few players like Mareese Speights, Darrell Arthur, and O.J. Mayo to work out extensions with of their own, so I don't see them diving into free agency to pay a backup point guard starter money. They also don't have anyone they would be willing to part with or we would be interested in for compensation for D.J.
Milwaukee Bucks- Brandon Jennings, Shaun Livingston, and Beno Udrih all occupy spots on the roster. But Shaun Livingston and a 1st round pick for D.J. would be a good trade for us both in the present and the future as we'll get that lock down defender back on the perimeter. Other than that though, I can't see them spending their precious little cap room on a backup PG in free agency. Jennings is still high on the Buck's confidence list.
Some teams, such as the Wolves, won't be in the market for a PG at all
New Jersey Nets- The Nets could become a SERIOUS threat to sign D.J. away if they lose Derron Williams in the opening days of free agency. This is a team ready to spend and spend big. If they're able to retain him, I think they'll shift their attention elsewhere is Jordan Farmar is a decent backup. But I think they'll do everything they can to keep him and don't believe they will lose him. Therefore, I can't see them trading for D.J. but I can see them making him an offer in free agency.
New Orleans Hornets- The Hornets are no doubt what I feel are the biggest threats to sign D.J. Other than him being a Louisiana native, they also only really have Jarrett Jack running the point and will be a good bit under the cap next year. If Rich Cho is worried about them though, I think a straight up trade for Al-Farouq Aminu would be good for both teams.
New York Knicks- The Knicks have a spot open for a quality starter on the team, but don't have any money to do it. They'll be stuck with Toney Douglas, Baron Davis, Mike Bibby, Iman Shumpert and whatever other point guards they can find for the minimum because they killed themselves by signing Chandler. They can be eliminated as a threat though I believe Mike D'antoni would have D.J. in consideration for an All-Star appearance.
Oklahoma City- Russell Westbrook is clearly their PG of the future and Sam Presti isn't about to throw out big money for a backup PG. Not happening.
Orlando Magic- The Magic have Jameer Nelson and Chris Duhon locked up for a couple of years and are way over the cap. I can't see them trading away any quality players for D.J. and they can't sign him as a free agent. Earl Clark and Daniel Orton for D.J. would get the job done for me though.
Philadelphia 76'ers- This team has Jrue Holiday (pretty good player on rookie contract) and Louis Williams (decent backup making over 6 million per) locked in for a little while so I can't see them throwing big money at D.J. in free agency or making a trade for him.
Phoenix Suns- The Suns could also become a huge threat to sign D.J. if Steve Nash leaves town when he finally has the opportunity next year. Sebastian Telfair and Aaron Brooks (eventually) will factor into the equation, but they could be left with a big hole at the point. Jared Dudley or Robin Lopez for D.J. would work for me.
Portland Trailblazers- Could D.J. be the third former Bobcat to join the Blazers will Felton and Wallace? Maybe. They'll have room. But I doubt Chad Buchanon is bold enough to throw big money at Augs. Plus with Patty Mills always around looking for a spot on the team, I think they could be considered a threat, but a very minimal one.
Thompson would be a sufficient return for Augustin
Sacramento Kings- They don't have any true point guards really, and could be deemed a threat to offer D.J. a contract in free agency as well. They have a glut of players I would take in a trade for D.J. if we felt compelled to deal him this year though. I would take Jason Thompson straight up, Donte Greene and a couple of 2nd round picks for D.J., or even Travis Outlaw or J.J. Hickson.
San Antonio Spurs- The Spurs have Tony Parker entrenched as their starter has they have for the past several years and aren't about to pay anyone more than $6 million per year to come off the bench. Especially when they have to get Tim Duncan signed back to a more reasonable deal so that they can continue adding to their core.
Toronto Raptors- The Raptors are in a good space financially and could offer Augustin a good deal, but with Jose Calderon and Jerryd Bayless already on the roster, I don't think they go out of their way to offer a backup PG starter money. However, when you look at their team and see players like Andrea Bargnani, DeMar Derozan, and Ed Davis, and their rookie Jonas Valanciunas on their squad, you can see that they are getting close to the point of adding free agents around their young core. They can be deemed as a possible threat. But if they ever offered Davis or Derozan for D.J., it would be great deal.
Utah Jazz- Devin Harris' future in Salt Lake City seems to be a bit murky, but at this point in his career, he could still be considered a better player than D.J. Harris makes $8.5 million next year, so I'm not sure if it makes sense that they sign D.J. to starter money to come off the bench. They do need a backup, but that's why people like Jaamal Tinsley and Earl Watson are in the world.
Washington Wizards- John Wall is the future of the Wizards at point and drafted Shelvin Mack earlier this year, so they can safely be crossed out as anyone looking to sign D.J. to a starter's salary though they would have the room.
So, in conclusion, the teams who are threats to steal D.J. away from us are- Dallas, New Jersey, New Orleans, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento, Toronto, and Utah.
However, we also have to consider that Augustin won't be the only point guard on the market. Hoopsworld has put a list together of all the free agents available next year.
So, let's all discuss exactly what should we do with D.J. Augustin.