Jeff Teague has plenty of motivation to prove himself this season as the starting point guard of the rebuilt Atlanta Hawks.
Teague will be a restricted free agent in the Summer of 2013. That means that the better he plays this year, the more money he will get from interested teams that could drive his price up and either force the Hawks to match it or let him go.
Let’s play a fun little game, shall we? I will present you the stats of two different point guards so far this season.
Granted, we have a small sample size of games, but take the numbers for what they tell you so far and decide who you would give a contract extension to.
Player A: 29.3 MPG, 13.3 PPG, 6.4 AST, 1.6 STL, 2.8 Turnovers, 94.1 FT % (16-17)
Player B: 36.9 MPG, 12.3 PPG, 7.3 AST, 2.0 STL, 3.3 Turnovers, 58.8 FT % (24-41)
Pretty similar, right? Player A is Teague, who did not get a contract extension from the Hawks earlier this month. Player B is Ty Lawson, who did sign a four-year, $48 million extension with the Denver Nuggets at the end of October.
Now, you might say Lawson is a proven four-year veteran and you know what you are getting from him. So is Teague.
Teague just started being a full-time starter for Atlanta last season. Well, so did Lawson in Denver.
They are so similar, that they both have posterized unsuspecting opponents with amazing, oh-my-god–did-he-just-do-that dunks.
Ty Lawson on DJ Mbenga in 2009…
Teague on Kevin Durant this season…
The main difference in the end is speed, since Lawson is probably the fastest point in the NBA. However, I would take court and ball security over speed any day. Possessions are precious commodities in today’s NBA.
So what are the Hawks looking for from Teague in order to warrant a long-term commitment from them? Let’s check out the main areas where the 24-year-old Wake Forest product has made progress so far this year.
Points per game
Teague is averaging high 13.3 points per game this season as he gets more comfortable with his role as the team’s offensive orchestrator.
The hardest thing for a point guard to do is to balance between assisting and scoring, and Teague seems to be finding a groove in that aspect of his game.
One remarkable aspect of the way he plays is that he doesn’t necessarily settle for the jump shot despite his lack of size
As you could see on that play against the Thunder earlier this season, Teague didn’t rush the play.
He studied the defense instead. Intently, slowly, as if time stopped at that moment and everything else stopped around him and Kevin Durant.
There was a point when Teague attacked Durant and could have pulled up for the jumper, but he spun around instead and scored on the floater.
When a point guard attacks the basket like that, it keeps the defense honest and opens up a wide array of options for scoring like Teague did that time or dishing out the ball to a teammate for an open shot.
Teague is averaging 6.4 assists per game so far this season, 1.5 more than in the 2011-12 campaign and a number that triples the two dimes per game he averaged two seasons ago.
Ty Lawson made similar strides going from 4.7, to 6.6, to 7.3 and, again, he has the contract extension Teague doesn’t.
Teague’s assist-to-turnover ratio this season is of 2.29, close to last season’s 2.40, while Lawson’s is 2.20 this year.
Most importantly, Teague seems to have Larry Drew’s confidence, since the ball was in his hands most of the time when the Hawks were trying to come back against the Wizards.
Teague also proved that he can coexist with fellow point guard Devin Harris in the same backcourt when the stakes are high and the game is close.
Field Goal Percentage
Teague currently boasts a career-high 48.7 percent of baskets made while he also attempts more shots than he ever has, 11.3 per game.
Once again, this is another category where Teague has steadily progressed as he becomes a solid NBA point guard.
In the end, the Hawks seem to think that a contract extension isn’t warranted right now and that Teague will have to prove his value on the court this season.
After all, they could match any offer other teams makes in the offseason if he is worth it.
However, that isn’t always guaranteed to be the case, just look at what happened with Jeremy Lin and the Knicks.
The key question the Hawks will have to ponder next summer is whether Teague is the long-term answer for them at the point. The answer will unveil itself in 2013.