While PB does an outstanding job summarizing the strengths of Dogus Balbay
, I wanted to put his post under the microscope and bring up some further discussion points...
I still vividly remember reading the original post
about Durant's departure and allowing myself to become excited about the least ballyhooed member of our incoming recruiting class. However, with the "Iron Curtain" nature of basketball and baseball off-seasons, coupled with Balbay's untimely injury, none of us have actually seen Balbay in action, the YouTube clip
non-withstanding. As a massive Texas basketball fan, it's maddening to be unable to truly dissect Balbay's game in conjunction with our offense through any real video clips or in-depth scouting reports. Basically, we have a YouTube clip, anecdotal evidence, PB's source, and a few scant articles. As PB said, that's not very much. To be fair, the reports on Balbay seem pretty consistent, labeling him as an aggressive PG with a sketchy jumper. For the sake of this article, we'll work with that assumption.
Going away from the largely unknown, we can head back towards something much more familiar. To analyze Balbay's role within the context of the offense, we must recap the impact of DJ Augustin, the man Balbay will replace. PB has already broken down Augustin's weaknesses, but I want to focus on two of his strengths in conjunction with Balbay's attempt to replace him--his outside shooting and dribble penetration.
In the half-court offense, the Texas offense was fueled by DJ's ability to penetrate against (almost) every defender put in front of him. By slicing into the lane, Augustin's excellent vision coupled with the rotations of his teammates provided many wide-open jumpers for AJ Abrams, Connor Atchley, and eventually Gary Johnson. As has been heavily discussed at BON, both Abrams and Atchley struggle in creating their own shots, with AJ sometimes needing double screens to shake free, and Atchley's three-point barrages mainly contingent on him being left alone. Augustin's drives also created pick-and-roll opportunities, leading to some easy lay-ups and dunks for the big men. In fact, without the effect of Augustin, how many of our players demonstrated the ability to create their own shot last season? Damion lethally shot over defenders after some head fakes, Atchley teased with a hook shot, Gary Johnson flashed a few low post moves, and Sexy Dex drank the milkshakes of several defenders. But, by and large, the team's success revolved around Augustin. Based off these strong looks created by DJ drawing the attention of multiple defenders, look at the 3 Point Percentages
of some of the starters last year.
James: 41.3% (92 attempts)
Atchley: 41.3% (104 attempts)
Abrams: 38.2% (309 attempts)
Perhaps equally important, Augustin himself shot 38.1% on nearly 200 attempts. After getting burned off the dribble, I remember several defenders trying to neutralize DJ's penetration by playing off of him. DJ's willingness and ability to drain three-pointers off the dribble kept these defenders honest, creating the ultimate Catch-22 which drove the Texas offense. Guard DJ tight, and he'll penetrate and find AJ coming off two screens or deftly slip a pass to one of the big men on the blocks. Take a few steps back, and he'd robotically rise up to shoot a three. With the reports of Balbay's sketchy jumper, I can't help but wonder about the trickle-down effects on the offense, especially considering the three-point line is moving back this season.
While it appears Balbay will be able to attack the rim and create opportunities for his teammates, his shooting will need to be better than reported for the offense to have a similar rhythm to last season. With the deeper three-point line, I worry about teams playing off of Balbay and forcing Texas to either work the perimeter or try to force the ball inside to their big men. Each of Texas' key components on offense has limitations, several of which would be adversely impacted by this arrangement. As previously discussed, DJ's penetration worked to the strengths of our starters. Barring low-post development from the big men, AJ being able to shoot over bigger and longer defenders without the benefit of multiple screens, steady contributions from J'Covan Brown, and more offensive fluidity from Gary Johnson, we might see the 'Horns initially struggle to find an offensive identity.
On the plus side, I think we'll see our defense create a bevy of fast-break opportunities, which render the previous concerns irrelevant. Furthermore, I think we will continue to see the steady development of our returning players, many of whom flashed new talents following their diligent workouts last off-season. This post hasn't even mentioned Justin Mason, who hopefully will become more assertive on the offensive end. I just wanted to remind everyone of the true greatness of DJ Augustin, and how the departure of his multi-faceted skill set compares to the arrival of his successor. I'm happy to have Balbay, but I'm worried about watching a stagnant half-court offense lacking the pure offensive genius of KD and DJ Augustin...