There aren’t too many teams that can boast having two point guards who have been starters in the NBA.
The Toronto Raptors will have that luxury this season.
D.J. Augustin, a former starter with the Charlotte Bobcats, gives the Raptors some much-needed depth as they try to improve on their 34-48 record from last season.
“D.J. has a very steadying effect and he’s an excellent floor general,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said.
Augustin, a New Orleans native whose family was forced to relocate to Houston by Hurricane Katrina, was a McDonald’s All-American in high school. He appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a star guard at the University of Texas, and went on to be was selected ninth overall by Charlotte in the 2008 NBA draft.
However, he seemed to have lost his confidence last season, recording career lows in scoring and field goal percentage and starting just five games as a backup in Indiana.
He’s looking for a fresh start in Toronto.
“It’s just about getting an opportunity, getting a chance,” he said. “Here I’m getting a chance to play, and I’m just trying to get comfortable and keep playing well.”
Augustin was impressive in the Raptors’ intrasquad game last weekend in Halifax, leading the black team in a win over the grey squad that was led by starting point guard Kyle Lowry.
Augustin, who played almost 30 minutes, was the straw that stirred the drink for the black team. He notched five points, but doled out seven assists and did a great job distributing the ball, consistently finding DeMar DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas in the paint.
“The more we practise, the more I get comfortable, the more confident I am and my teammates are confident in me, so that helps me out.” said Augustin.
Augustin had a shakier outing in Toronto’s 97-89 preseason win over the Celtics in Boston on Monday, finishing with four points and three assists in 18 minutes. Augustin was the subject of one highlight-reel play that saw Boston’s Jeff Green leap over Augustin’s head on a hard block.
With last season’s deal that sent Jose Calderon to Detroit, it was obvious that the Raptors needed to acquire a point guard in the off-season. New general manager Masai Ujiri signed Augustin as a free agent in the summer could give the Raptors a great backcourt duo.
With Augustin and Lowry, the Raptors can expect solid play from the point guard position for 48 minutes each night, Casey said.
Augustin, a five-year NBA veteran, plays a “driving” style and describes himself as a pass-first point guard who shoots well enough to keep defenders honest.
The 25-year-old, who has started 147 games in his career, doesn’t expect to be a starter again this year. He said Casey has mentioned the idea of pairing him with another point guard to provide some ball movement if the team needs it, but he’s prepared to play any role.
“Whatever coach needs me to, whatever the team needs me to do,” Augustin said. “This is all about opportunity and I think here, I’m getting a chance.”
The Raptors’ trip to Boston marked their third city in almost as many nights, as they held camp in Toronto and then Halifax before opening their pre-season against the Celtics.
Casey said he wasn’t worried about the hectic travel schedule.
“It’s good because it’s like an NBA season,” he said. “It gives us a feel of how it’s going to be.”
The Raptors continue the preseason Wednesday when they host the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Air Canada Centre.
Former Raptors No. 1 draft pick Andrea Bargnani returns to Toronto with the New York Knicks on Friday.
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