Jeff Teague's Winning Ways Paying Off For Wolves
The Wolves are undoubtedly a better team when Jimmy Butler is on the floor, but his absence has allowed many other Minnesota players to showcase their abilities in larger roles, and in more difficult situations.
Andrew Wiggins is playing more aggressively and (excepting an off game against the Celtics) has been shooting the ball well. Nemanja Bjelica has looked great in the starting lineup—playing good defense and hitting consistently from deep. Karl-Anthony Towns continues to rack up double-doubles, and carried the team to an impressive win over the Warriors on Sunday.
But Wolves starting point guard Jeff Teague continues to fly under the radar.
Teague is averaging 18 points, 6.1 assists, 4.4 rebounds per game and is shooting 46.6 percent from the field since Butler has been sidelined, but his impact on the Wolves goes beyond his solid numbers. Teague’s value to this team is tied more to the performances of those around him than his individual stat line.
Teague has demonstrated his ability to adjust his role to the needs of the team. This season, Teague is scoring less than he usually does, averaging only 13.6 points per game compared to his 15.6 points per game over the last five seasons. However, when Butler went down, Teague recognizes that the team needed him to score more and has stepped up.
Teague is a good ball handler. Against Golden State in particular, there were several instances where his dribble penetration set his teammates up for open shots, or put Warriors defenders on their heels, unable to react to Wolves drives.
He can make highlight reels too, who could forget this circus shot?
Daylight Saving Time has no effect on Jeff Teague. pic.twitter.com/H3wIBeYd30
— Kyle Ratke (@Kyle_Ratke) March 11, 2018
A nine-year veteran, Teague has made the playoffs eight times and started 55 postseason games over the course of his career, more than anyone else on the team.
This experience is one of the reasons Teague is so valuable to the young Wolves squad. Having players in the locker room who know what it takes not only to make the playoffs, but to win in the playoffs is an important aspect of creating a culture and expectation of success. Coach Tom Thibodeau emphasized Teague’s winning ways in his introductory press conference, and doubled down on his comments to the Star Tribune in January:
“Jeff has been around a long time and Jeff has done a lot of winning,” he said. “That’s probably the most important thing.”
Teague is also very durable—he has not missed more than ten games in a season since 2011-12.
Whether it’s in his passing ability, scoring, or simply his experience and competitiveness, Teague’s teammates know he will do whatever he can to help his team win. In the final weeks of an NBA season that has provided plenty of adversity, the importance of having someone who has been in these types of situations before cannot be overstated.