Season Review: Jeff Teague
Lucas Armstrong/Atlanta Hawks
After the best season of his career in 2012-13 and re-signing in the offseason, Jeff Teague came into 2013-14 with high expectations. Learning how to run Coach Budenholzer’s offense was the primary task for Teague, but the expectations were that he would thrive in the new system, and he did not disappoint.
Teague averaged 16.5 points (a career-high), 7.2 assists, 2.6 rebounds, and 1.1 steals in 33.2 minutes per game this season. Teague’s 25.7 usage percentage was a career-high by 2.7 percent as he was, for the first time in his career, given the reigns to an offense and asked to run the team. Despite the ups-and-downs of the season and the many changes to the roster due to injury, Teague helped keep the Hawks’ offense steady and keep the ball moving as Atlanta finished second in the NBA in assists per game at 24.9.
Throughout the season, Coach Bud and his teammates pointed to Teague’s aggressiveness as one of the biggest keys for their success at both ends of the floor. This was never more apparent than in the playoffs, when Teague’s usage rate an astonishing 28.9 percent and he averaged 19.3 points per game to help push the Pacers to seven games.
Part of that aggression was a commitment to playing in transition. Teague excelled in transition -- a constant point of emphasis from Coach Bud -- shooting 59.9 percent in transition for 1.19 points per possession and got 21.5 percent of his offensive possessions in transition, per Synergy Sports.
Teague struggled a bit with his shot this season, shooting 43.8 percent from the field and 32.9 percent from three-point range -- both down from the last two years. A drop in efficiency is sometimes expected when a player’s usage jumps as much as Teague’s did, but he did well to create opportunities for himself at the free throw line to help counter that dip in field goal percentage. Teague averaged 4.8 free throws per game -- a full two free throw attempts more than his previous career high -- and he shot a very solid 84.5 percent from the stripe. This was directly attributable to Teague’s aggression and him being put in more driving opportunities in pick-and-roll play.
When Teague was not attacking the defense and probing the lane, the Hawks offense suffered as a whole. Teague was not the team’s leading scorer, but he was the engine that made it all run. When the Hawks were at their best, Teague was attacking downhill on pick-and-rolls, getting himself opportunities at the rim and drawing defenders and facilitating to the open man. Teague certainly took a step forward this year as a leader on the court, becoming more comfortable in his role as the season wore on.
Teague’s comfort early in the season was, as was to be expected, was in working with long-time teammate Al Horford, but after Horford’s injury Teague built his relationship with Paul Millsap, and the two became a formidable pick-and-roll/pop combination. Horford’s injury was devastating for the Hawks, but if there were any silver linings, they would be in the opportunities they opened up for others to step into different roles. Teague and Millsap’s chemistry together was a beneficiary of this, and with Horford returning next year the trio figures to be a tremendous offensive force.
Teague also made strides on the defensive side of the ball this season. He stayed more engaged on that end, and as the season progressed he became more comfortable in the Hawks’ defensive rotations and assignments, particularly against pick-and-rolls. Teague’s opponents shot 38.7 percent from the field and 33 percent from three-point range against him on the season, per Synergy Sports. Teague still has areas where he can improve, but he showed this season glimpses of the kind of defender he can be when fully engaged.
Teague showed that he was committed to putting in the work this season to become a better overall point guard, and he thrived in Coach Budenholzer’s offense. The Hawks put a lot of trust and faith in him this season and it paid off as he continued to grow and improve.
Story by Robby Kalland