James Augustine NBA Draft Scouting Report

James Augustine NBA Draft Scouting Report
Apr 13, 2006, 01:53 pm
In terms of physical attributes, Augustine has an ideal package of what scouts usually look for in an NBA power forward. He is a lefty with good size at 6-10, an excellent frame, a nice wingspan, and more than enough athleticism to get the job done. Augustine is extremely agile, running the floor well--especially in transition--having good quickness and footspeed and being able to get off the floor swiftly to rebound, block shots and especially dunk.

Offensively, he has a few decent moves he can go to in the paint, but gets most of his baskets simply by being in the right place at the right time, often in transition. Moving off the ball is where Augustine truly excels, and it would not be a surprise at all to see him end up becoming an excellent player to run the pick and roll with. He’s a fairly intelligent player with good hands and quick feet, so once he sets the (very solid) pick and rolls to the basket he will usually finish emphatically around the hoop if he’s not being too fiercely contested.

Augustine’s go-to move is the left-handed jump-hook. It’s a move he’s practiced to the point of perfection, spinning quickly to his right shoulder, elevating slightly off the floor and releasing it fluidly with a nice touch. Augustine doesn’t take too many shots, but the ones he takes he converts at a very high rate, 62.4% on the season and 61.7% in his career, which puts him in 1st place on the all-time list at Illinois.

A place where he shows plenty of potential is in his face-up game. The same nice touch he shows inside the paint extends to a certain extent outside the paint as well. Augustine was never a prolific mid-range shooter in college, but he did show sparks of potential here to knock down open shots with range out to about 18 feet when given the chance, particularly in the last few months of his career at Illinois. He also has an excellent 1st step for a big man with flashes of some ball-handling skills. It’s not out of the question that he could mold all these skills into a legit high post game, which would make him, along with his raw post moves, versatile enough offensively to see legit playing time in the NBA. The fact that he is a decent passer only adds to this initial impression.

Augustine finished his career as the best rebounder in Illinois history, pulling down over a thousand in his career. He relies mostly on his wingspan, hands, quickness and leaping ability in this area, not being incredibly prolific but definitely getting the job done effectively.

Augustine is also the winningest player in Illinois history (tied with Dee Brown), which should tell you something about the experience he brings to the table and how intriguing it is that he still has legit upside to continue to improve. He’s been to the NCAA tournament multiple times, and helped his team reach the National Championship game with a very solid showing in the 2005 NCAA tournament up until that game.

In terms of intangibles, Augustine’s appear to be fairly strong. He has a cool and calm demeanor on the floor, and has a similar reputation off the court as well, never being one to cause problems for his coaches or teammates. He was named to the Big 10 all-academic team his sophomore year.

Most of Augustine’s weaknesses revolve around the mental side of the game, not his talent or physical attributes.

The most frustrating thing Illinois fans will tell you about Augustine is the fact that he just doesn’t seem to want the ball in the post that much, as he appears completely content being a role player. When he does get the ball in the post in position to score, it’s not rare to see him pass up a clear opportunity to take his smaller or less talented matchup one on one and score on him. At times he can be very hesitant and tentative with the moves he makes when he does try to do something positive, not taking the ball strong enough at his opponent at the rim. The question of whether he is soft, either mentally or physically, is something that will be brought up in NBA war-rooms on draft night, and this is something that Augustine will have to prove people wrong about in individual workouts.

Besides his somewhat passive nature, Augustine could anyway still stand to add some more moves to work with in the post. His length, quick feet and soft touch aren’t utilized often enough since he seems to lack fundamental footwork beyond his go-to jump-hook shot. Being able to create offense for himself rather than having everything created for him is a sure-fire way to earn more fans as his NBA career progresses. His potential is the type that will probably only be extracted by a good, patient coach, as Bruce Weber managed to accomplish up to a certain extent at Illinois.

In terms of his face-up game, Augustine shows nice sparks, but nothing consistent enough to get all that excited about right now. Continuing to improve his ball-handling skills and getting his 18 foot jump-shot down pat could go a long way in determining how long he sticks in the NBA for. After shooting just under 75% from the free throw line as a junior, his numbers for some reason fell to 65% as a senior.

Defensively, there is still a lot Augustine can improve on in this area, although he can be quite solid here as he’s shown when he puts his mind to it. He seems to have all the tools to be a very nice defender, but is probably lacking some of the proper fundamentals and necessary aggressiveness to really take advantage of them. You would think that a player with his size, length and athleticism would be able to block more than 0.7 shots in his senior year, although this has just as much to do with Bruce Weber’s defensive game-plan as it does with Augustine. Bigger and stronger players don’t have too much of a problem backing him down in the post, so Augustine will have to continue to fill out his nice, but underdeveloped frame to help him with that in the NBA. Just being tougher and more active would help him out immensely. This comes out in his rebounding as well, where he tends to rely too much on his natural physical attributes to get the job done rather than being fundamental in boxing out.

Augustine was not considered a top 50 recruit coming out of high school, but still had a pretty long list of team’s that were recruiting him in the Mid-West. He started getting playing time right off the bat under Coach Bill Self, starting in 29 of 32 games his freshman season and playing 22 minutes per game. With Self leaving for Kansas and Bruce Weber being hired from Southern Illinois, Augustine started every game for Illinois from that point on in his career. He took a bit of a backseat at times over his sophomore and junior seasons to the fantastic 3-guard combo of Dee Brown, Luther Head and Deron Williams, but still played an important role in his team’s success. His performance in the National Championship game, being completely outplayed by Sean May and fouling out in 9 minutes without a point to his name is clearly a game he would like to forget. Up until that point he was actually have a nice tournament by his standards, with the highlight being a 23 point, 10 rebound outing against Nick Fazekas in the 2nd round.

With Deron Williams leaving early for the NBA (#3 overall pick) and Luther Head graduating into being a first round pick himself, Augustine’s role expanded his senior year and he responded by putting up 13.6 points and 9.1 rebounds a game, good for 1st team All-Big 10 honors. Illinois made it to the 2nd round of the NCAA tournament, matching up with Washington, and Augustine looked like he was on his way to the best game of his career on this huge stage (see links: spotlight article). He scored 19 points in the first 15 minutes of the contest on 7-9 shooting from the field, but never got another field goal attempt for the next 25 minutes and ended up seeing his team lose.

Augustine’s draft stock heavily depends on whose being asked. No other draft outlet even considers him a prospect as late as mid-April. Augustine obviously has the size and tools the NBA looks for in a PF, and a solid showing in the NBA pre-draft camp in Orlando could solidify his place in the first round. Otherwise he would be an excellent pick anywhere in the 2nd round.

Coaches First Team All-Big 10 in his senior year. Third Team All-Big 10 as a junior.

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