D.J. Augustin, Darko Milicic

D.J. Augustin’s quasi-validation

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In my preseason mind, D.J. Augustin was destined to have a pretty crummy year for the Bobcats. He was coming off of a poor-shooting sophomore campaign in which his confidence was shredded by Larry Brown, and it was hard to imagine D.J. leading the ‘Cats to a successful season. Even if Charlotte somehow made the playoffs, it seemed likely that Augustin would merely be along for the ride.

Some of that was correct, and some of that is wrong. But to Augustin’s credit, he’s quietly put together a pretty impressive season so far. It’s just unfortunate that the same can’t be said for his team.

Augustin has made a full offensive rebound. His shooting percentages have started to trend toward his rookie season numbers, and his assists per 36 minutes have jumped from 4.7 to 7.5. Augustin isn’t a terrible offensive player, and it’s good to see him recapture some of the elements that made him such a fun rookie. But despite how impressive Augustin’s play has been, the Bobcats’ offense is as stagnant as ever. In relative terms, Charlotte’s offense jumped from 24th in the league last year to 21st this season, but they really only improved by 0.3 points per 100 possessions. I’ve got nothing against improvement (even of the marginal variety), but even Augustin’s offensive talents aren’t enough to compensate for Charlotte’s depressed defense.

The best defense in the league last season is currently ranked 15th overall, and Augustin is a part of that. His overall season may be better than expected, but Augustin’s defense is as poor as previously thought. He tries, he’s just too small to effectively challenge shots and tends to get caught on screens. It’s a bummer because Augustin’s heart really is in the right place (even if it’s clear he doesn’t value defensive possessions to the same level he does offensive ones), he’s just not well-suited to defend NBA point guards. Augustin can’t be blamed for the entirety of his team’s defensive drop-off, but there’s a distinct difference between Raymond Felton’s defense and Augustin’s.

So kudos to Augustin for his three straight games of 10 assists or more. Good on him that he has the highest assist-to-turnover ratio of any point guard in the league. It’s just not enough. The finer end of the floor calls Augustin to collect debt, and despite all that he’s earned on offense, he and the Bobcats still struggle to turn a profit.

Spurs demolish Thunder to take Game 1 of second-round series

SAN ANTONIO,TX - APRIL 30: LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the San Antonio Spurs scores over Steven Adams #12 of the Oklahoma City Thunder during game one of the Western Conference Semifinals for the 2016 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center on April 30, 2016 in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that , by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
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The second round was supposed to be when things got exciting. Instead, the San Antonio Spurs put on an absolute clinic at home, blowing out the Oklahoma City Thunder, 124-92 to take a 1-0 series lead.

Just about everything went in for San Antonio, particularly for LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard, who combined for 63 points. How dominant were they?

Aldridge in particular got anything he wanted against the Thunder. Oklahoma City’s stars were quiet, with Kevin Durant scoring just 16 points and Russell Westbrook 14. San Antonio controlled the game from the start and Oklahoma City never recovered from the opening punch.

It’s hard to imagine Durant and Westbrook are this ineffective again, and hopefully the rest of this series will be a little more competitive. But the Spurs did what the Spurs do, and did nothing to shake the feeling that they’re the favorites to win the west, now that Stephen Curry‘s status is unknown.

Hawks get another playoff shot at King James and Cavaliers

at Philips Arena on April 1, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
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ATLANTA (AP) A year ago, Atlanta’s magical season ended with a resounding sweep by Cleveland in the Eastern Conference final.

Now, the Hawks have another shot at LeBron James and the Cavaliers.

Feeling confident after an opening-round victory over Boston, the Hawks returned to practice Saturday to begin preparations for the best-of-seven series.

Game 1 is Monday night in Cleveland.

The Hawks were the top-seeded team in the East last season after a record 60-win campaign. It didn’t do them much good against the Cavaliers, who steamrolled Atlanta in four straight games.

Even though they slipped to 48 wins and fourth in the conference, the Hawks actually sound a bit more confident heading into this matchup, largely because of their improved defense and rebounding.

Report: Warriors to replace Luke Walton from outside the organization

MILWAUKEE, WI - DECEMBER 12: Interim Coach Luke Walton of the Golden State Warriors talks on the sideline during the second quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks at BMO Harris Bradley Center on December 12, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)
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For the second consecutive year, the Warriors have lost their lead assistant to another team. When the Pelicans hired Alvin Gentry during last year’s playoffs, Steve Kerr promoted Luke Walton to associate head coach and added former journeyman big man Jarron Collins to the bench. Now that Walton is headed to the Lakers as their next head coach, the Warriors will go outside the organization to find a replacement, according to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein. And one name that will likely not be in the mix is David Blatt, who very nearly became an assistant under Kerr in 2014 before being offered the Cavaliers’ head job.

Given Walton’s success this season as interim head coach while Kerr recovered from back surgery, this will undoubtedly be the most attractive assistant job in the league.

Report: Luke Walton’s Lakers contract is for 5 years, $25 million

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 13:  Interim head coach Luke Walton of the Golden State Warriors leads the team against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on January 13, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Nuggets defeated the Warriors 112-110. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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In the last few years, NBA head coaching salaries have skyrocketed, and new Lakers coach Luke Walton is no exception. According to the Los Angeles Times‘ Mike Bresnahan, Walton is getting $25 million over five years, which is the same as Steve Kerr’s deal with the Warriors, now-former Knicks coach Derek Fisher’s deal in New York, and Fred Hoiberg’s deal with the Bulls.

This kind of money has become standard for head coaches who don’t also have front-office power. Tom Thibodeau and Stan Van Gundy both get between $7 and $8 million annually to do both jobs. Given how good Walton’s current situation with the Warriors is, the Lakers probably had to be on the high end of the coaching spectrum to get him to leave.