With his blistering on-ball speed and a change of pace that leaves defenders in the dust, it’s no mystery as to why many Hawks fans agree that an aggressive Jeff Teague is the best Jeff Teague. Shooting 38% from mid-range and 32% from downtown, logic would presume the optimal method of attack for Teague is getting to the basket instead of settling for jumpers.
However, on some nights we’ll see a timid Teague, one refusing to take advantage of his talents and instead doesn’t actively look to get into the paint. Being the only Hawks starter with a dribble-drive game, this Teague stagnates and diminishes spacing on an offense that is predicated on ball movement and is third in (pace-adjusted) three-point attempts per game.
At least, that’s what the “eye test” suggests. Statistics on the other hand convey that not only is Teague consistently assertive, but he’s actually one of the more hungry attackers in the league.
Per SportVU, Teague ranks fourth in the NBA in drives per-36 minutes, with “drives” being defined as when a player dribbles the ball from 20-feet out to within 10 feet of the basket. According to this, Teague not only consistently looks to find gaps in the defense but does so more than a vast majority of the NBA. The kicker? Atlanta’s netting 10.7 points per game on Teague drives, which ranks 7th in the league.
So what is creating this image of Teague only being aggressive on certain nights?
Could it be that although Teague is near the hoop so often, he isn’t always looking to score from that range? This doesn’t seem like the case. 60.9% of Teague’s shots have come in the paint and he ranks 13th in free-throw rate among guards who have played at least 60 games this year.
Teague looks to get into the thick of the defense often and shoots plenty once he’s there, but does he connect on these shots at a very high clip? It depends on the attempt, and here is where the disorientation occurs.
Teague shoots a respectable 56.5% from the restricted area, but a brutal 38.9% from the non-RA paint area. This poor clip is magnified because 40.8% of Teague’s field goal attempts in the paint came from outside of the restricted area. This would explain why Teague can be perceived as hesitant at times, taking this large of a chunk of his shots from the in-between area.
Does this mean Teague should cut down on floaters and instead try to make a beeline directly to the rim more often? Not at all. Every guard needs the short mid-range shot to effectively score over the league’s best shot blockers such as Roy Hibbert, who Teague will be facing off with in the first round.
This is simply a matter of Teague’s shooting from this region succumbing to the inconsistency of his entire offense this season. It’s no surprise that his worst and best shooting months from the non-RA paint area and from the field as a whole correspond.
The Hawks will need Teague to be at his best in the coming weeks to have a chance at topping Indiana in the first round. Although “best” in Teague’s case means “most aggressive” to some, what it should mean is making the plays Hawks fans know he can make but has struggled to for months at a time this season.