Watching the Dexter Pittman weight loss piece on College Gameday got me thinking about a different disappearing act when they mentioned that Pittman was likely a second rounder in the upcoming NBA draft.
Pittman's swift fall from NBA grace reminded me of the recent disappearances of Connor Atchley and Justin Mason's games going from up and coming heroes to Senior, bled for the program zeroes. Is Pittman trending the same way? Well, yes. But why?
Why does Connor Atchley go from NBA first round pick and pop guy to playing for the Chiappas Diablos in the Mexican League? Why does Justin Mason go from Mase in yo' face to handling and shooting the ball like he has, literally, been maced in the face by a member of the Aggie Equestrian team?
Dexter Pittman? We'll get to him in a moment.
Starting with Connor Atchley you'll see that the problem ain't complicated. We don't have to rearrange the stickers on the Rubik's cube. Atchley was a 6-10 semi-athletic forward with terrific range his junior year. He ran the pick and pop with DJ Augustin to perfection as the big forward guarding him, uncomfortable on the perimeter to begin with, would over hedge because DJ Augustin, a 5-11 ballhandling/shooting witch, had the ball.
On the weakside wing was arguably the best deep range shooter to ever wear burnt orange in AJ Abrams. The weak block forward? McD's all-American Damion James. Say what you want about the tenets of Socialism. At least it's an ethos. Ethos or not, you're not going to allocate help to Connor Atchley with those other players on the floor. I don't care if your AAU team was the Petrograd Fighting Bolsheviks, you aren't giving equal attention to Connor Atchley. So it's safe to assume that Connor's junior year 54% from the field was an aberration built on wide open shots vs. half-hearted help rotations. It was a product of the talent surrounding him, namely DJ Augustin. A Craig Hodges fantasy if you will.
If Connor Atchley was living on Fantasy Island, then AJ Abrams and DJ Augustin must have looked like Tattoo and Ricardo Montalban to Justin Mason. The presence of AJ and DJ allowed Justin Mason to play a damn competent point guard. Seriously, JM had a 3 to 1 assist to turnover ratio as a sophomore.
Think about that for second.
Again, he was the beneficiary of being surrounded by shooters and playmakers including the most complete point guard to ever play for Texas. Mason was getting the opponent's third best perimeter defender and was able to operate on an open floor that looked like a football field compared with what he saw in 2009. DJ Augustin, imo.
So coming full circle we're sending out a search party for Dexter Pittman. Through the first 13 games of the season Dexter did the following:
15.4 points per game, 74.3 percent FG shooting (81 of 109), 7.6 rebounds per game, 55.9 percent from the free throw line (38 of 68), in 20.5 minutes per game.
--Since conference play has started, Pittman is averaging ...
5.9 ppg, 50 percent shooting (20 of 40), 3.8 rpg, 47.8 percent from the FT line in 19.1 minutes per game.
Well not much from a personnel standpoint, and yes I get that DJ Augustin hasn't played a minute for the Longhorns this year. On the other hand, opposing coaches have watched film and have figured out how to minimize Pittman's impact by sagging off of non-shooters like Mason and Balbay. It's not complicated and yes, it all goes back to DJ Augustin or not having a DJ Augustin. Or a Tommie Mason-Griffin for that matter.
As Bartoncreek so aptly pointed out: My Kingdom for a Point Guard.
For now all we can do is surround Dex with as many shooters and players as possible to open up floor. At least as many as defensive match-ups allow. And do it from the opening tip to give the big fella a chance to hit a couple of buckets and get some confidence early. I'm hoping Brown gets the starting nod for these very reasons as Scipio (speaking of search parties) points out in his minute allocation post. Hell I'd settle for Hamilton if it means Mason isn't on the floor.
But long term, let's recruit complete point guards that can shoot a little.
DJ Augustin will do.