We were not far into the off-season before Larry Bird and the Indiana Pacers finally acquired a “true” point guard, which had been a topic of discussion in the front office for the last few seasons.
On June 22nd, one day before the 2016 NBA Draft, the Pacers traded one hometown hero for another by acquiring Atlanta Hawks guard Jeff Teague in a three team deal that sent George Hill to the Utah Jazz.
It is no secret that Teague brings a different style of play to the Pacers. But what does he do well, and what could he improve?
The 28 year-old former All-Star’s biggest strength is his ability to get to the rim as one of the fastest players in the NBA. Getting to the rim opens up opportunities for high percentage shots, creates open shots for his teammates and allows him to draw contact and earn points at the line.
Utilizing his quickness, Teague excels in the pick and roll and can beat just about anyone to the rim. Watch how Teague leaves Russell Westbrook standing in his tracks and then beats the weak side defender, Kevin Durant, to the hoop:
But it’s not just the pick and roll where he excels. Teague can get to the rim simply by shifting past his defender. Here, he crosses-over his brother in the open floor:
Although he misses a layup that he probably could have made, his speed and ball handling allow him to get right where he wants to be: the rim. His ball handling also allowed him to break his little brother’s ankles in front of millions of people. Harsh.
So just how often does Teague get to the rim? The speedy point guard averaged 11.1 drives per game last season - good enough for fourth in the NBA. In addition, 37% of his shots were within three feet of the basket, allowing for high percentage field goal attempts. This is where Teague has made his living in the NBA for the last seven years. To put these numbers in perspective, the Pacers leader in drives last year, Monta Ellis, averaged just 5.4 drives per game and George Hill shot 22% of his shots within three feet of the basket.
This is huge for the Pacers. Not only do they have a player who puts pressure on the defense by getting to the rim, it creates space for shooters like Paul George, C.J. Miles and Myles Turner, who all shoot around 40% on catch and shoot attempts, by drawing in the defense. Though not all of Teague’s assists come off of drives, Teague averages 7.5 assists in 36 minutes of play evidencing his ‘‘true’’ point guard talents in which the Pacers, or at least Larry Bird, has so long desired.
By getting to the rim, Teague also often draws a considerable amount of contact. In the 2015-16 season, Teague drew 125 shooting fouls, giving him an opportunity to go to the line where he has shot 84% over his career. How many shooting fouls did George Hill draw? 50.
Teague’s playmaking ability will surely give the team a new look and add to that uptempo offense they'd like to adopt. Pacers fans can expect a much more aggressive point guard this season.
That’s a word that Pacers fans know all too well. Game by game it seemed that Coach Frank Vogel and the Pacers did not know which George Hill came to play. Aggressive George Hill was not around much last year. However, that is what they wanted. That is what they needed. That is what they hope Jeff Teague will be.
That’s the new word Pacers fans may become very familiar with. It seems that Teague has an on/off switch for his aggressiveness. Sound familiar? It's ironic, really. Though Jeff Teague is more aggressive than the Pacers former point guard, he doesn't bring the intensity night in and night out... much like George Hill.
In discussions with Kris Willis, Brad Rowland and an article featuring Jason Walker, all authors of Peachtree Hoops, each of these individuals mentioned consistency as Teague’s biggest drawback. Do not want to take their word for it? How about his former Head Coach Mike Budenholzer:
‘‘Now we'd love for the whole group to be more consistent, for Jeff to be more consistent regardless of who he's playing. He steps up and obviously Reggie Jackson is at a high, high level. I think for Jeff to take that on and know how important it was for him to play well, to compete on both ends. It was a good night for Jeff."
How about his former teammate Kent Bazemore:
‘‘That Jeff, that’s the Jeff we need every night. Not too many guys in the league can stay in front of him. When he puts his head down like that, when he’s aggressive, it helps us out tremendously.’’
Let’s hope the Indiana Pacers see a lot of ‘‘that’’ Jeff this upcoming season.