After Raymond Felton left the Charlotte Bobcats this past offseason, the keys to Charlotte's offense were handed over to D.J. Augustin. Augustin took them, and at the All-Star break, he is having the best offensive season of his NBA career. He has not only seen his Offensive Rating jump from 106 to 116, but his True Shooting Percentage is up (from 51.6 percent to 55.6 percent), his assist percentage is up (21.7 to 31.8), and his turnover rate is down (13.1 to 12.5).
When breaking down the game tape, you notice that this offensive success has come from Augustin's play in the pick-and-roll game. According to Synergy Sport Technology, Augustin uses a pick as a ballhandler 45.1 percent fo the time (this number combines his passes and shots as the PNR ballhandler). What makes Augustin so successful with the pick-and-roll is because he mixes things up very well. When coming off of screens, Augustin looks for his offense 49.5 percent of the time and he passes out of it 50.5 percent of the time. Because he doesn't have a tendency, he is definitely a hard cover.
When looking to score, Augustin has the most success dribbling off of the screen (as opposed to taking an early jumper, going away from the screen, or splitting the defenders). He is 20th in the NBA (out of players with 30 PNR possessions) in terms of points per possession when dribbling off of a screen, posting a PPP of 1.02. He takes a dribble jumper 75 percent of the time when he dribbles off the screen, hitting 41.2 percent of his shots and posting a PPP of 1.00, good for 27th in the NBA.
Augustin does a very good job of staying on balance, reading the situation, and pulling up for a jumper when he sees the defense playing off of him:
Here, as Augustin comes off of the screen Kevin Garnett tries to show hard on the hedge, trying to disrupt the path of Augustin. However, Augustin is able to get around that easily. Ray Allen doesn't close out on him and Rondo is late returning to Augustin, giving him the space to pull up for an open jumper that he knocks down.
On this possession, Augustin comes off of a screen that catches his defender. Monta Ellis, the man covering the screener, doesn't step up and hedge quick enough, leaving space between himself and Augustin. Augustin quickly recognizes this space and pulls up for a jumper almost immediately.
Despite the quick pull, this is a great look/shot because Augustin has that ability to go from coming off of a screen to getting his feet in position and pulling up for a jumper very quickly. This means that if there is just a little space or a late close on him he is able to get a jumper off.
We saw the quick pull, and now we get to see Augustin's patience. With basketball, you can be patient but still be quick, and that is what Augustin is right here. He gets the basketball on the wing and waits for Kwame Brown to come over and set the screen for him. When the screen comes, Augustin pauses slightly, forcing the defense to show their hand with regards to how they are playing the screen. Augustin sees that Steve Nash is going to be going under the screen, takes one dribble, and pulls up for the jumper.
Another reason why Augustin is so successful is because he doesn't force things, instead opting to take what the defense gives him. Here, Augustin comes off of a screen, and the Hawks switch it. He starts to try to take his new defender, Josh Smith, off of the dribble, but Smith plays off of him a bit. Instead of forcing the issue, over-penetrating and most likely getting blocked by a bigger Smith, Augustin pulls up for the jumper that he knocks down.
Because Augustin is so successful when pulling up for jumpers off of screens, the defense is forced to respect it, giving Augustin driving and passing lanes that wouldn't be there if he had a below-average jumper. Augustin is able to take advantage of these lanes and makes passes that lead to scoring opportunities for his teammates:
Here, Derrick Rose goes over the screen being set for Augustin because he has to respect Augustin's jumper. This forces Carlos Boozer to step up and close out on him but he gets caught flat-footed and Augustin blows right by him. Once Augustin gets to the paint, he stays under control, keeps his dribble alive and hits his teammate cutting towards the rim for the easy layup.
On this play, Augustin comes off of the screen and his shooting ability forces Andrew Bynum to switch onto him (versus hedging and returning to his man), freeing up the roll man. With the roll man free, Pau Gasol has to sink into the paint, leaving Boris Diaw open on the perimeter. Augustin, who does a fantastic job of keeping his head up, spots Diaw and hits him for the open jumper.
Here, we see Augustin coming off of another screen against the Boston Celtics. Garnett still plays it by showing hard, but unlike last time, Rondo rushes to close out on Augustin before he pulls up for a jumper. Rondo quickly returning to Augustin is what frees up Diaw on the roll, allowing him to get the layup.
Augustin is successful working off of the pick-and-roll not just because he mixes up what he does off of it well, keeping the defense from picking up a tendency, but also because he makes smart decisions. When the defense plays off of him, he pulls up for a jumper making sure he gets set and uses proper form. If the defense respects the shot and focus on him, he has the vision to kick the ball out. If he continues to keep the defense off balance, he will maintain his success when playing the pick-and-roll.
Sebastian Pruiti is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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