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Shook Ankles: Jeff Teague Is More Than A Slingshot

February 11, 2012 Leave a comment

 

How the Atlanta Hawks have managed to stay afloat this season is a bit of an understated miracle. Before getting hit with several key injuries and after losing one of their best players to free agency, the Hawks already stood as one of the league’s oldest teams, fighting a valiant, uphill battle with a slingshot to the rest of the playoff worthy team’s machine gun artillery. But when Jeff Teague happens to be the rock you’ve placed in the elastic, well, you might just have a puncher’s chance.

As a change of pace speedster, Teague has started 27 games this season. He’s shooting 45% from deep (good for second highest in the league among starting point guards. Also: not a misprint) and trails only Nash, Curry, Rose, and Paul in TS%. But, when it’s all said and done, efficiency means very little when placed beside actual production on a grading scale. Right now Teague averages fewer points per game than Jarrett Jack, D.J. Augustin, and Brandon Knight. He’s attempting, and making, as many shots at the rim as Tony Parker, but the middle of the floor is really where he’s struggled to consistently manufacture offense. If Teague wants to take his game to a higher level, he’ll establish himself as one to respect out in no man’s land. He’ll have confidence in his jump shot. Once he does that, the Hawks may have something a bit more dangerous than a sling shot on their hands as they head into nightly battle.

 

 

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Commentary: Atlanta’s Secret Weapon?

In an all-time, symposium inducing trade deadline to trump every trade deadline that ever was—two franchise players were dealt, resulting in a seismic, anti-exploratory geographic shift from west to east,and a top flight championship contender traded its starter who most embodies said team’s tried and true, gritty identity—he’s been called the most treasured piece acquired. Not Carmelo Anthony, Deron Williams, Kendrick Perkins, or even Jeff Green, but Kirk Hinrich. A solid, unspectacular point guard who’s limited athletically and wears funny goggles. This was, in one coach’s eyes, the most prized possession; the difference maker capable of partially leading the hapless Hawks past the first round and into uncharted waters.

And now, just as the Hawks finally defeated their personal Dwight Howard/Goliath, Hinrich’s done, hampered by an ill-timed hamstring injury. Normally the loss of a proven defensively adept guard would be a death blow for any team facing a point guard able to wreak as much havoc as Derrick Rose, but what if this injury turns into a blessing for Atlanta? An injury to Hinrich opens up the door for two possibilities: 1) Second year pro Jeff Teague gets the nod as a starter, is thrown into the playoff’s already burning fire, and is held partially responsible for defending Rose, or 2) The Hawks first round leading scorer, Jamal Crawford, is thrust into the starting lineup for the first time all season, seeing more minutes, more shots, and sticking Teague into the role of dynamic bench scorer. Either way the Hawks have an unknown entity on their hands which isn’t exactly what they’d like heading into the Semifinals, but it shouldn’t put a smile on Thibodeau’s face either. This from the league’s Coach of the Year in a recent AP piece looking at Atlanta’s second round chances:

“They have quality depth,” he said. “Crawford has played a lot of minutes. Teague has played extremely well when he’s been in their rotation. He’s a guy that you can’t overlook. Joe Johnson has the ability to handle the ball. They’ve got a lot of depth in their backcourt. Their perimeter guys are really skilled.”

There’s a good chance that on the defensive end Atlanta deploys a hefty dose of the longer Joe Johnson on Rose, but this strategy can’t be a four quarter solution or Johnson will likely see himself get in a wee bit of foul trouble. But on the offensive end, maybe this turns into the most pleasant of surprises for Atlanta. Maybe Teague’s speed and athleticism give Derrick Rose and his not so great perimeter defense an unexpected headache. Maybe he’s able to push the envelope and force Rose to the bench with his own foul trouble quicker than the Bulls would like.

The Bulls can’t win a championship unless Rose averages 35 points a game. This hypothetical theory is of my own creation thanks to Boozer’s expected forfeiture of offensive responsibility (his splits against Atlanta this year are an unmemorable 8.5 points and five rebounds, his lowest scoring total against all teams) and the Bulls’ brittle reliance on Rose to take over in the fourth quarter. I’m not saying Atlanta will win this series, but with Teague they have somewhat of a secret weapon. A player with blazing speed, great handle, and an aggressive attack the basket mentality. The series will more likely come down to how well Josh Smith and Al Horford can handle Joakim Noah and Boozer, but today’s game ends in the backcourt. Ironically, given Hinrich’s injury, it’s where the Hawks could have the unexpected advantage.

Shook Ankles: Jeff Teague Is Really Fast

Watching a 20-year-old Jeff Teague turn the ACC into his personal playground was electrifying. But now, after two straight “meh” seasons in the League, I’m not sure what to make of him. He struggles for consistent floor time—in 66 games this year he’s logged over 20 minutes only 10 times—on one of the league’s most athletic (albeit inconsistent) teams, but strikes me as Atlanta’s future first guy off the bench replacement for an aging Jamal Crawford. Not saying Teague will ever be as dynamic, but he could. He has serious speed, and his field goal and three-point percentages both saw little surges this year. The days of him taking over basketball games are most likely over, but who’s to say he can’t take over a quarter?

 

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