D.J. Augustin gives Orlando Magic positional flexibility with first-round pick

With D.J. Augustin under contract next season, the Orlando Magic should not feel pressure to select a lead guard they are not completely sold on.

It is no secret the Orlando Magic have been searching for that on-ball creator who can initiate an offense by setting up teammates or themselves for a while now. The Magic have been cycling through veteran point guards, from C.J. Watson to Shelvin Mack to now D.J. Augustin, since Jameer Nelson left the team in 2014.

D.J. Augustin has played 234 games for the Magic in the last three seasons, including starting 81 games for Orlando this season. Augustin has been reliable if not overlooked. And with the Magic’s group of point guards, Augustin’s consistency was extremely valuable, giving the team a sense of balance.

The rest of the Magic’s point guard depth is in flux. That would suggest the team at least needs to consider eyeing a point guard at some point soon. Perhaps even in this year’s draft.

Jerian Grant played 15.7 minutes per game in his 60 appearances this season, his first with the team. Isaiah Briscoe played 39 games before being waived on April 4 after suffering a knee injury. They did, however, add two more point guards to the fold midseason.

Michael Carter-Williams was signed to a 10-day contract after the Houston Rockets traded him to the Chicago Bulls, then waived him immediately. Michael Carter-Williams played well enough to receive a second 10-day contract then was brought on for the rest of the season, including averaging 18.4 minutes per game in the playoffs for the Magic.

The Magic played better with Carter-Williams on the floor, playing at an increased pace.

But Augustin was always the rock. And now even he enters a contract year now, making the Magic at least ponder the position.

That is true too with the likely backup and only point guard with a long-term contract still looking to find his way.

The team added Markelle Fultz in a trade with the Philadelphia 76ers at the deadline. The former top overall pick was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome last year. That severely limited his playing last year as he shut himself down in December to get the diagnosis and begin rehab.

The price for getting Markelle Fultz, despite being an unknown moving forward was well worth it. A package of Jonathon Simmons, a top-20 protected pick in the 2020 NBA Draft and the 33rd overall selection in the 2019 Draft is a gamble worth taking.

The Magic will not rush Fultz back on the court and understand it was a long-term move that could pay massive dividends if Fultz regains close to full-motion in his shoulder.

Which brings the Magic back to square one this offseason. They still have a long-term need at lead guard to add to their promising frontcourt trio of Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac and Mohamed Bamba.

There are some free agent options, and some reasons to be aggressive this summer. But at least they have a lead guard under contract for one more season.

Augustin is a safe fall back for the team. And they are clearly comfortable with him running the show, passing on popular short-term picks to improve the position last summer.

Augustin was a stable player for the Magic. He led the team in assists per game (5.3), averaged 11.7 points per game, shot 42.1 percent on 3-pointers and did a great job of running the offense.

Augustin did the little things well for initiating an offense, such as making timely entry passes to the post or finding shooters exactly where the want the ball, leading to quick catch-and-shoot opportunities.

One of the highlights of the Magic’s season was Augustin’s performance in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Toronto Raptors. The one where he scored 25 points, including drilling the game-winning three with 3.4 seconds remaining. A result that looks more impressive by the day.

The luxury of having Augustin under contract for one more season comes into play with Orlando’s draft strategy.

They still need a shot creator and point guard. But they should not feel pressure to gamble on a prospect they do not feel certain about with their 16th overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

The top point guards in the draft will likely be gone well before Orlando comes on the clock barring some medical red flags or character concerns, which would sway most teams from drafting these players in general.

But the Magic may not love the guards that may be there at 16, such as Kevin Porter Jr. and Romeo Langford. Those players are far from sure things and the Magic need to nail this draft pick.

Orlando also has a need on the wing that could be addressed with their first-round selection, and having Augustin on the roster gives them a placeholder to draft or acquire a guard during the season or next offseason.

Adding a 3-and-D wing or combo guard in the draft fills another hole on the team. We know how much this front office loves their long, defensive talents, such as Nickeil Alexander Walker from the Virginia Tech Hokies.  Orlando could then use the 46th overall pick for a shot creating guard and have him groom for a year behind Augustin.

If the Magic lose Nikola Vucevic to free agency, they will need veterans to continue to guid the young players’ progression. It is a bonus when your young players are developing creators and your vet is a solid pick-and-roll handler (81.5 percentile in NBA) like Augustin, especially with so many athletes around him to take advantage of running towards the rim.

Giving Evan Fournier and Aaron Gordon more responsibility is not the best strategy for offensive success.

Gordon still needs to improve his handle. Playing with Jonathan Isaac and Mohamed Bamba moving forward means he will have an increasing ball handling/decision making role.

Gambling on a point guard a team is not fully sold on is not smart, especially when the 2020 Draft Class has a lot of guard talent. Not to mention Fultz remains in the background for the team to develop and grow.

The Magic are in a good spot with Augustin there to continue building the team’s positive trajectory. That frees up the Magic to add a player to address other areas in need of improvement on the roster.