The Indiana Pacers have spent this offseason looking to upgrade their bench. They started off their reconstruction by replacing a junior with a junior: C.J. (Charles Junior) Watson will now take on the role of George Hill’s understudy while D.J. (Darryl Junior) Augustin will try to find a job somewhere in this transitioning NBA landscape.
The Pacers signed Watson to a one-year deal slightly above the $1.1 million veteran minimum, which is a better value signing than D.J. Augustin’s one-year, $3.5 million deal from last summer.
Going beyond the salary aspect of this deal, C.J. Watson is a considerable upgrade over Augustin.
In his one year in Indiana, Augustin performed poorly even though he was advertised as a solid ballhandler and distributor. Augustin struggled to find his role in the Pacers’ offense. His outside shot failed him, he failed to defend, and generally he failed at everything except for free throw shooting. While he did have some positive moments during the playoffs as a spot-up shooter in a few games, he was a big failure overall and ended up hurting the Pacers more than helping.
Watson isn’t a great playmaker, and that hurts the Pacers, as they have no elite/proven playmakers on the roster at the guard position. Watson can play a lead ballhandler, but Indiana probably should play him at that position in specific spots.
When Watson played in Brooklyn he was primarily used as a secondary ballhandler. The primary 5-man line up that involved Watson the most, featured Watson and Deron Williams in the backcourt according to 82games. When Watson played in Chicago, he was a primary ballhandler giving Derrick Rose a rest. Watson rarely played together with Rose and was forced to be a lead ballhandler and distributor.
Watson is decent in that role, but he experienced a generally more efficient season in Brooklyn, where his role was mapped out as a spot-up shooter. Watson became a reliable outside threat last season shooting 41% from behind the arc. Last season, 147 of Watson’s 229 3-point attempts were spot-up attempts (64%) according to Synergy sports.
This is intriguing because of the Pacers situation concerning Danny Granger and Lance Stephenson. One of those two players is going to start, and many expect Granger to regain his starting role if he’s fully recovered from his knee ailments that held him out of the lineup for the majority of the season.
If Stephenson ends up in a sixth man role, he could be a key to the success of Watson and the other bench compadres. Stephenson is creative, a little crazy, but he loves to push the ball and that can benefit Watson, Chris Copeland, and other teammates with his ability to get into the teeth of the defense and find open shooters or cutters in transition. Obviously, Stephenson has to be able to reign himself in a little bit to make this into a possibly spectacular situation.
Last year’s Pacers bench was boring, lacking creativity, and a lack in talent was a big part of that. The additions of shooters, and the addition of Stephenson to the reserves could alter the Pacers bench from a weakness to a strength.
Watson’s not going to wow fans, but he will do a solid job on both ends of the court. He’s a complete upgrade over D.J. Augustin, but one has to wonder if the Pacers could have found a guard with the ability to penetrate and create, and who could provide stability at the defensive end. The truth is that a lot of that has to do with the price tag. Watson’s a solid, but more importantly a cheaper alternative as a point guard and gets the job done.
Tags: Free Agency