Pistons cross 2 more off SVG’s wish list in Butler, Augustin

In Caron Butler and D.J. Augustin, Stan Van Gundy has added two more players who fit the job description he posted before the Pistons ventured into free agency.
Layne Murdoch (NBAE/Getty)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

When the Pistons brought Chauncey Billups back last year, they did it with the expectation he would be on the floor in the lonely moments at the end of big games and his presence there would spill into the locker room to accelerate a young team’s learning curve. But injuries kept Mr. Big Shot in street clothes nearly the entire season and that diminished his impact off the floor to a similar degree.

When Stan Van Gundy pitched another free agent known for thorough professionalism on how he could help transform the Pistons, he emphasized what he could do between the lines first.

“You get veteran leadership with guys, but it doesn’t work when guys aren’t playing,” Van Gundy said on a day the Pistons introduced both Caron Butler and D.J. Augustin as their latest additions. “You have to play to lead, especially when you’re with a new group because they’re looking to follow you. Not just what you say, but what you do. And if you’re not on the court, I don’t think it works.

“I love what Caron brings leadership-wise, but we wouldn’t have brought him in if I didn’t think he could still get the job done on the floor.”

Butler and Augustin clearly fit the job description Van Gundy posted before free agency began: well-respected veterans known as tenacious competitors who can shoot.

A 12-year veteran, Butler broke into the NBA with Miami when Van Gundy was an assistant coach there. The Pistons are his eighth NBA team. He averaged 10.5 points and 4.1 rebounds in 25 minutes a game last season. He’ll likely share minutes with Kyle Singler at small forward and he’s another player – much like both Augustin and Jodie Meeks, introduced as a Piston on Monday – who’ll help the Pistons improve on their 29th-place ranking in 3-point shooting.

Butler, 34, has played on teams that made the postseason seven times, playing in 65 playoff games over his career, 18 last season as a key reserve for Oklahoma City.

“I see the potential and with coach Van Gundy at the helm of things now and what he’s going to insert on the defensive end and the offensive end and a little more consistency, we can shock a lot of people,” said Butler, who gives the Pistons a second UConn Huskie to go with Andre Drummond. “We can do something extremely special and we can build on that.”

Augustin, 26, is a six-year veteran coming off his best season when he helped Chicago recover from the loss of Derrick Rose. Augustin played more than 30 minutes a game and averaged 14.9 points and 5.0 assists in 61 games for Chicago while shooting 41 percent from the 3-point line.

“We were, quite honestly, surprised to have the chance we did to bring D.J. here and very, very excited about it,” Van Gundy said. “I think he fits very well with the way we’re going to want to play. He’s one of the best high pick-and-roll players in the league. Obviously, we think we’ve got three front-line guys who are very good in the pick and rolls themselves. Brandon (Jennings) plays well out of pick and rolls. D.J.’s one of the best, so I think we can really establish that type of game.”

The fact Augustin flourished in Chicago under Thibodeau, a coach who matches the profile of Van Gundy, suggests he’ll continue his career ascendancy in Detroit.

“I just got an opportunity,” he said of his time with the Bulls after it appeared his career had stalled. “The last two years I didn’t get an opportunity to play as much as I did in Charlotte. When I got to Chicago, coach Thibs gave me an opportunity to play and play a lot of minutes. I don’t care how talented you are, if you’re not playing a certain amount of minutes every game, you’re not going to play as well. Just getting the opportunity to play and just feeling comfortable and actually getting into a system that fits, it felt good. I feel I have a chance to do that here.”

Jennings is the incumbent starter at point guard, but Augustin’s play for the Bulls tabs him as more than just a backup point guard.

“He’s a great player,” Augustin said of Jennings. “I’m his teammate, so we’re going to try to push each other, make each other better and do whatever it takes to make the team win. As point guards, that’s what you have to do. It’s not about us or anything like that. We have to do what makes the team better and helps the team win.”

Signing Meeks, Butler and Augustin certainly addresses critical needs and makes the Pistons better. Van Gundy’s history of fitting pieces into a puzzle suggests those players, indeed, will help them win more often, as well.