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DJ Augustin's NBA Dilemma

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Even though the Texas Longhorns’ season ended just a day ago, it is not too early to start talking about next season. As PB mentioned in his post game comments, next season will be significantly shaped by what DJ Augustin and Damion James decide to do over the next couple of weeks. James is not showing up on too many mock NBA draft boards, so let’s take a look at Augustin’s decision.

Reasons to Stay:
1) Texas has a chance to be an elite team once again next season. If both DJ and Damion return, Texas would return all five starters from an Elite Eight team without losing any players of significance (only JD Lewis and Ian Mooney were seniors). There is also a chance that a seldom used player could elect to transfer, which would allow Texas to sign another highly rated high school senior to go with incoming freshman guard, J’Covan Brown. (I’ll write about the high school seniors who are still undeclared and are potential Longhorns later this week.) Even without the addition on another freshman, Texas will add depth at point guard with the healthy debut of Dogus Balbay and another frontline bruiser in Matt Hill, who missed all of this season with a foot injury. Think about how much better DJ, AJ Abrams, Justin Mason, and Connor Atchley were this year compared to last, and then think about that same evolution occurring with Clint Chapman, Alexis Wangmene, Gary Johnson, and Dexter Pittman over this off-season. Even with sub-six foot guards, the 2008-09 Texas Longhorns would definitely be a pre-season top five team and favorites for the Big XII title and the Final Four. The opportunity to win a national championship alone may be enough for DJ to stay. Augustin won back to back state titles during his sophomore and junior seasons at Brother Martin High School in New Orleans. After moving to Houston, he said that he was very disappointed that he wouldn’t have an opportunity to go for the three-peat. If DJ returns, the Longhorns would have a realistic chance at a national title.

2) One year closer to degree. Augustin is not just an outstanding player, he excels in the classroom as well. In addition to being named first-team All-America, Augustin was also first-team Academic All-America after a 4.0 fall semester. Education has always been a priority for the Augustin family. From a DJ Augustin spotlight on,

As far as individual accolades go, Augustin has only on priority. He wants to be an Academic All-American "That is my ultimate individual goal," Augustin said. "It’d mean a lot to me and my parents, my whole family."

He has already accomplished that goal, but I’m sure his parents wouldn’t mind seeing DJ continue to work on his degree as well.

3) The amazing depth at guard in this year’s draft class. Underclassmen have until April 27th to declare for the NBA draft. However, many guards are so highly touted that it would be more of a surprise should they were to return to school rather than take the more likely road and jump to the NBA. Memphis’ Derrick Rose, Indiana’s Eric Gordon, USC’s OJ Mayo, and Arizona’s Jerryd Bayless are all likely early entries and all likely to be drafted ahead of Augustin. If UCLA’s Darren Collison and Bryant Russell Westbrook and North Carolina’s Ty Lawson also declare early, the 2008 NBA draft may be one of the deepest guard drafts in the association’s history. If Augustin returns for one more season, he could be the first guard selected. If Augustin declares now, he would likely be no better that the fifth guard taken.

4) Chance to improve jump shot and conditioning. As good a season as Augustin had, his freshman shooting numbers were slightly better than his sophomore ones: 45% vs. 44% from the floor, 84% vs. 78% from the free throw line, and 44% vs. 38% from behind the arc. If DJ were to improve the quickness in his release as well as his accuracy, some of the questions about his ability to be an effective NBA scorer from the perimeter could be answered. Second, another year of conditioning under the tutelage of strength coach, Todd Wright, would significantly improve his already solid conditioning.

Reasons to Turn Pro:
1) Near certain NBA Lottery pick. Of seven mock NBA drafts, six have DJ projected as a top 12 pick. Only has Augustin projected outside the lottery as the 21st selection. The others: – 11th, – 12th, – 8th, – 11th, -- 11th and -- 9th. Very few potential NBA lottery picks return to school.

2) Stock not going much higher. Today Augustin was named first-team All-America by the AP. He has already earned first-team All America from Sports Illustrated and will certainly earn a spot on the first-team by every other publication which picks a team. Without shoes, Augustin stands a legitimate 5-10 ½ inches. Short of growing a couple of inches, his stock is not going to get any higher than it is right now. TJ Ford was in a similar but slightly stronger situation after having won most national player of the year awards during his sophomore campaign. Ford turned pro and was selected 8th by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2003 draft. If DJ turns professional, I’d expect him to be selected just outside the top ten.

3) Chance to improve against NBA caliber competition. DJ could easily return to the 40 Acres, work his butt off, and get a lot better. Practicing against Justin Mason will make DJ better as will playing against Big XII competition. But nothing will make DJ improve faster than practicing and competing against NBA talent on a daily basis. Augustin would also improve faster if he didn’t have to balance both school and basketball. That may not be the most politically correct thing to say, but it is obviously true. Augustin’s strength, athleticism, quickness, conditioning, and timing would all improve greatly by working with NBA trainers on a full time basis.

What do I think? I’d love to see him return next season and lead the Longhorns to a national championship, but it’s hard for me to see him coming back and I don’t think it’s in his best long-term interests. Vince Young, Kevin Durant, and TJ Ford all made the right decisions by turning pro early and I expect DJ Augustin to do so as well.

List of who is in and who is out of the NBA draft.

Important Dates:
April 27th—deadline for underclassmen to declare for NBA draft
May 20th—NBA draft lottery
June 16th—last day for underclassmen who have not hired an agent to pull out of NBA draft
June 26th—NBA Draft