I have a love/hate relationship with Jeff Teague.
After Dennis Schröder’s performance at Las Vegas Summer League, there were several questions about how long Jeff Teague would be in an Atlanta uniform. Teague’s contract that he just signed — $8 million per year for four years — appeared to be a bit of a bargain, making Jeff a soon-to-be “trade asset” in the minds of many. I was one of those people, thinking that Jeff probably had two more years in Atlanta before the reins would be handed over to Schröder.
Now I’m not so sure about that and my thought process leans more towards Teague being the point guard for the future of this Atlanta franchise.
Early in the season, I was singing high praises of Jeff. Teague looked invigorated and was playing like an All-Star point guard. He was undergoing a bit of a shooting slump at the time, but his play looked well improved from the previous season.
In December, he continued his great play as his shooting numbers started to rise. At the time, he was averaging about 18 points and nine assists per 36 minutes with his shooting percentages still a little down because of his 3-point shooting woes. Still, it appeared that Teague had a legitimate chance at making the All-Star game in New Orleans.
However, a lot of the success that Teague had built to that point came crashing down when Al Horford suffered a season-ending injury on December 26 against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Horford had always been Teague’s security blanket; the guy he could turn to when the team was struggling. I love Paul Millsap, but the Teague-Millsap pick-and-roll just does not have the same effectiveness and versatility of the Teague-Horford one. Obviously Teague was not entirely dependent on Horford while running the offense, but the team was starting to blossom and Horford’s injury really stunted the progress that the team had made.
Because of this, Jeff struggled heavily in January. After averaging 17 points and eight assists per game through December, Teague only averaged 14 points and less than five assists in the opening month of 2014. His true-shooting percentage, which ended up at 54.1% for the year (about the league average), was just 46.8% in January, which is absolutely abysmal. Teague’s struggles continued until the All-Star game, an event he likely did not attended because of his one-and-a-half month long super-slump.
However, these struggles after Horford’s injury might have been the most important part of Jeff Teague’s career. Eventually Teague learned to play without Horford and his development turned more towards scoring rather than dishing. Teague’s assists per game dipped from 7.2 before the All-Star break to 5.8 after, but his scoring spiked from 15.6 to 17.9 with a true-shooting of 59%.
Teague’s efficiency dipped a little in the playoffs (expected), but he was still the driving force behind the Hawks taking the Pacers to seven games, where he averaged 20 points per 36 minutes. He only averaged five assists per 36, but I honestly think that may have been more on Jeff’s teammates — Pero Antic shot 17% in the playoffs — than on Jeff.
So back to my love/hate relationship… currently my thoughts are on “love”. Teague finished the season extremely strong and showed some great improvements to his game in the absence of Al Horford. Barring a major trade, it appears that the Hawks will have the entire starting five back next season. Jeff will have another offseason of work with this coaching staff under his belt, plus he will likely have an improved Horford.
I’m excited to see what Teague will do in the 2014-15 season and every other Atlanta Hawks fan should be excited, too.