Throughout the season on behalf of HawksHoop.com I’ve been tracking Hawks point guard Jeff Teague’s chances of being named to the 2014 NBA All-Star Team. When we last corresponded, I had this to say about Teague’s chances ahead of a tough January schedule:
I believe it is going to take a determined effort on the part of Teague’s teammates to have his back and not allow this team to slip in the standings, despite the brutal schedule that lies ahead in January.
For January, the Hawks are 2-6. The feared slip in the standings has transpired with the Toronto Raptors supplanting the Hawks as the 3rd seed in the East. While January’s schedule has been unkind to the Hawks, Toronto beat the Milwaukee Bucks Monday night in the 3rd of a series of seven consecutive games against sub-.500 competition.
Nonetheless, the NBA is a “what have you done for me lately” league. In Teague’s case, his performance has slipped dramatically as the competition has stiffened. For the month of December, Teague averaged 16.6 points and 8.2 assists on 45% shooting from the field and 40% shooting from 3-point range. By contrast, the starting point guard for Hawks’ opponents averaged 13 points and 6.9 assists on 36% shooting from the field and 29% shooting from 3-point range.
Since the January meat grinder started cranking, Teague has averaged 14.7 points and 5.5 assists on 38% shooting from the field and 14% (!) shooting from 3-point range. Teague and his counterpoint starting point guard have gone in opposite directions in almost every category. For the month, starting point guards for opponents have averaged 13.5 points and 5.7 assists on 45% shooting from the field and 23% shooting from 3-point range.
Those numbers are slightly skewed in Teague’s favor by the January 4th loss in Chicago in which Kirk Hinrich started and had 5 PTS and 3 AST in 20 minutes, while D.J. Augustine played the bulk of the minutes at point guard off the bench. In 29 minutes for the Bulls, Augustine had 11 PTS and 7 AST.
Hawks’ opponents in December were an agregate 31 games below .500. Eight games into January, the Hawks have played teams with a combined record of 130-95. Last season, coaches received their instructions for voting on All-Star reserves on January 18th. After tomorrow’s game in London against Brooklyn, the Hawks won’t play again until January 20th at Phillips Arena against the Miami Heat.
Simply put, this showcase game across the pond is a must-win for Teague’s All-Star chances. Kyrie Irving and Dwyane Wade, barring an upset, will be named All-Star starters for the East. In my preseason look at the Wizards, I mentioned how much more hyped John Wall was than Teague. I believe Wall will be named to his first All-Star team as the NBA’s star-making machinery gives the nod to the former #1 overall pick. That means Teague is likely competing with Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry for a potential 3rd point guard nod on the East squad.
For the season, Teague is averaging 16.6 PPG, 2.8 RPG and 7.8 APG on 42% shooting from the field and 26% shooting from 3-point range. Lowry is averaging 15.9 PPG, 4.1 RPG and 7.3 APG on 43% shooting from the field and 40% shooting from 3-point range. Their stats are incredibly close with Teague taking a slight edge in PPG and APG while Lowry gets an extra rebound per game and is clearly the superior 3-point shooter. What will be the separating factor for Eastern Conference coaches as they make their votes? Most likely it will be where the two teams sit in the standings.
The Hawks maintained 3rd place in the East for most of the season until Toronto’s win over the Bucks on Monday night. If Lowry gets the nod over Teague, all of those close losses will come home to roost. It won’t just be wins the Hawks left on the table.