By Panos Katsiroumpas/ email@example.com
CSKA Moscow are one of those teams that have very few things they need to change, since most of their players are staying on, the chemistry is once again going to be exciting in the new season and the talent will be overflowing for yet another year. If something was missing from the European champions that was one more big man so that Hines can take a few breathers, since Freeland had a year full of injuries and wasn’t able to contribute in any substantial way, while Korobkov, who had some good games, is at a lower level than the rest.
So, quite sensibly, Dimitris Itoudis went out on the market and bought the most ideal player for the puzzle of his team. The acquisition of James Augustine is a huge deal, as the Muscovites add in their machine a player who is going to help them in a multitude of ways that we are going to analyze below.
The 32-year-old American played college basketball in the very good program of Illinois, being one of its cornerstones. He was the first player in the university’s history to have 1000 points and 1000 rebounds. He was selected with the 41st pick in the draft by the Magic but wasn’t able to consolidate himself in the NBA, playing very few minutes in the two years he stayed there.
As it made sense then, he turned to Europe, the first stop being a great European recruiting team, Gran Canaria. He spent two years with the Amarillos before moving to Valencia, a team that made him more widely known to the fans of the sport throughout Europe as he played at the top level. This was followed by a year with Murcia where he played amazingly well, making a record in his averages, only for Khimki to see him and decide to add him to their roster, a team where he spent the last four years playing great basketball. Since recently, he belongs to CSKA, in what is the crowning moment of his career so far.
What he can offer
Dimitrios Itoudis’s team has two of Europe’s best guards in their backcourt, Teodosic and De Colo, two players who are excellent under any conditions in the pick-and-roll. The circumstance could not be more perfect to be matched with one of the best pick-and-roll executioners, who is none other than Augustine.
The American forward-center worked wonders with Khimki in this part, producing excellent collaborations with Tyrese Rice primarily, a fact that catapulted him in the offensive part, especially from the Top 16 onwards. Augustine had more than 12 points on average, most of them after a pick-and-roll. After all, the 74% in two-point shooting in the Top 16 is no coincidence.
Overall, Augustine can screen very well on the ball, while his dives inside the paint are very good and at the right timing. He receives the ball well in his cuts to the basket, he’s steady with the ball in his hands, and attacks the basket directly, executing with both hands, something that makes it hard to deal with him.
Aside from the good penetrations that he makes in the paint, he also has a good short roll in his repertoire, as he can shoot well from 3-5 meters, while last year we saw him shoot several three-pointers as well, successfully too. Sometimes we might see him pop out in order to get a shot from long-distance. More rarely we’ll see him receive the ball for a post-up game, while, even though he’s not accustomed to it, under certain circumstances, he might put the ball on the floor. He’s equally excellent in transition, whether in offense or in defense.
Aside from his exceptional ability in several areas of the offensive game, he’s pretty good in defense as well. He can play switching defense, certainly not with the success that Hines does it, but let’s not forget that Hines is one of a kind. He’s a good blocker while in the post game too he knows how to position his body in order to make things harder for his opponents.
In the way CSKA play, they are going to benefit a lot from Augustine because their opponents are going to try to involve third players in order to defend the pick-and-rolls. If they don’t, the guards as well as the big men are going to find a lot of room in which to operate, since they’re all very talented in this mode of offense.
If help arrives from other parts of the court, the defenses will be forced to take risks on the shots. And this is something that CSKA punishes with frequency, since they have many good shooters. Fridzon, Higgins, Vorontsevich, Milos and De Colo all had more than 40% last year, while in terms of shooting, solutions were also provided by Kurbanov throughout the year, as well as Khryapa in the last crucial games.
The only thing for certain is that the Russians have added one more weapon in their arsenal, while they’ve retained their main body, a fact that makes them the top favorites to repeat the triumph in Berlin in the coming year.