Analyzing the Hawks Dual Point Guard Lineups

David Vertsberger —  March 15, 2013

In today’s NBA, teams are finding tangible success in playing two of their point guards on the floor simultaneously, with some squads even opening games with these types of lineups. Some examples include the Los Angeles Clippers with Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups and the New York Knicks with Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd, to name a couple. Kyle Soppe of Hardwood Paroxysm published an article detailing his studies of dual point guard lineups since 2010 around the league, and what factors dictate whether they work out well or not. Using this and some findings of my own, I will analyze the Atlanta Hawks’ use of Jeff Teague and Devin Harris when they both take the floor together.

First, some basic facts about Hawks head coach Larry Drew’s usage of Jeff Teague and Devin Harris together:

  • The two point guards have played 534 minutes of game time together, and have been on the court with eachother in 40 different games.
  • Barring injuries sidelining either player, this combo could have played in 46 games together, which means they’ve seen on-court action as a duo in roughly 87% of games when possible.
  • This tandem is the Hawks’ 18th most-played two-man lineup on the season minute-wise, but is 3rd in that category when only accounting for two backcourt players.

One quarrel with Larry Drew mentioned often is his managing of rotation and lineups, which he deals with rather erratically. A certain quip that can be made is his refusal to play Harris and Teague together more often, especially when looking at the team’s statistics when they are on the court at the same time. However, be wary of the small sample size trap laid out. (Note: 500+ minutes is hardly a small figure, but it cannot fully represent how players would perform if that number was say, doubled.)

“As we approach the midway point in the 2012-2013 season, 52.8% of qualifiers have a positive impact on the game, continuing the upward trend over the past few seasons.” Kyle Soppe explains in his article. Dual point guard lineups are steadily become more and more effective, only adding extra incentive for coaches to use them with more regularity.

“As long as you don’t have a supremely talented point guard who requires the ball in his hands, a dual point guard lineup is a nice change of pace… As the NBA continues to shift toward a star driven league, the implementing of two game managing/role playing point guards could continue to increase in the near future.”

In Atlanta’s case of Jeff Teague and Devin Harris, choosing not to increase emphasis on these types of lineup is a huge miss, which I will get into later. First, I will turn to Soppe’s article to pinpoint the trends in point guard duos that most pertain to the Hawks.

You can read Kyle Soppe’s full piece on dual-PG’s in the league here, or you can read below for a quick sum-up of some glaring positive and negative trends of two point guard lineups:

  • The most effective dual point guard lineups play a pace between 95-96 possessions per 48 minutes in regards to NetRTG, or Offensive Rating minus Defensive Rating. You can see this visually here:

Courtesy of Kyle Soppe

  • Point guards ranking in the top-10 in either points per game or assists per game don’t flourish in dual point guard lineups, unless they are paired with a savvy veteran point guard.
  • “Ideally you’d like your second guard to be a threat from distance, especially if you have a slashing option as your top guard.”

Starting off with the first bullet, when Teague and Harris take to the hardwood together the Hawks play at a pace of 95.08, which is right on the money. Their NetRTG is a monstrous 9.8 when playing simultaneously, which tops any other Hawks duo that has played together for at least 500 minutes this season. The Hawks’ ORTG and DRTG both eclipse their season numbers, and it’s not even close. Atlanta owns an ORTG of 102.1 and a DRTG of 101.3 on the season, which are very much outmatched by their numbers when Teague and Harris take the court, with an ORTG of 106.4 and a DRTG of 96.6. That ORTG would be good for 8th highest in the league, and the DRTG 2nd highest.

Next, neither Devin or Jeff rank in the top ten among point guards in points or assists per contest. However, Teague is very much knocking on the door in both categories, ranking 11th in PPG and 12th in APG. Even with this, it’s extremely difficult to argue that Teague is an elite passer or scorer, he’s simply very solid at both.

As for the final point, although Teague would undoubtedly be labeled Atlanta’s “top guard,” he is the best option form long range between Harris and himself. Another problem remains, as both are far from stellar from downtown. Teague has a 3PT% of 38% and Harris is firing at a 32.6% clip, neither marks are all too impressive. The solution here would be for Harris to drive and Teague to spot up. Harris shoots 61.5% from anywhere inside of the arc when Teague is on the floor per, while Teague’s 3PT% takes a bit of a leap to 40% when on the floor with Harris.

Moving on to a few other notes, Teague and Harris have been in the same starting lineup on 23 different occasions, with their overall record as a starting tandem standing at 15-8, translating to a winning percentage of 65.2%. This percentages bloated up over 82 games gives the Atlanta Hawks the second-best record in the Eastern Conference. Don’t let this number fool you, as when broken down between teams over and under .500, these starting lineups fall flat. Against teams over the .500 mark, the Hawks are a plain 6-6 when starting Teague and Harris, and are 9-2 against those under the .500 threshold.

The biggest of weaknesses for the Hawks are their offensive rebounding woes and their turnovers, they rank 27th and 24th in the league in those respective advanced statistics categories. With Teague and Harris in the game, only one of these issues are ridden of. The Hawks TOV% of 15.9% on the season drops to 14.3% when their dual point guard lineup is in, but their OREB% plummets from 22.6% to 18%. Running a two-PG lineup knocks players like Zaza Pachulia and Anthony Tolliver out of minutes, both players who when on the floor increase the Hawks offensive boarding efficiency.

In conclusion, the Hawks have run their dual point guard lineup with success when used in spurts, not for the majority of a basketball game. Although Jeff Teague and Devin Harris fit the bill pretty darn well for an ideal two point guard backcourt, the two starting haven’t shown us nearly enough to warrant them solidifying their tandem in the starting five. A good amount of people will dismiss the aforementioned statistics with the “small sample size” excuse, but I see a satisfying amount of evidence to advocate the continual, practical but mediated use of this lineup by Larry Drew, especially when the Playoffs come around and the Hawks are in desperate need of an energy boost.

David Vertsberger