Today I take a look at another prime draft prospect, the dynamic guard from Wake Forest, Jeff Teague. In the first five editions of this series, I've looked at Ty Lawson, Gerald Henderson, JaRue Holiday, DeJuan Blair, and Jonny Flynn....you can find those threads elsewhere on this site.
Jeff Teague is a high level prospect that would be a popular selection with local fans, as he and his family are from Indianapolis. Teague played at Indianapolis Pike High School, and his brother is currently being recruited by the likes of Rick Pitino and Tom Crean. The deep Hoosier ties are no factor in this evaluation, other than it would be a nice story, perhaps could bring some extra fandom into Conseco Fieldhouse, and with easing the adjustment to NBA life that otherwise could be overwhelming.
Like almost all players in this draft, evaluating Teague is a mixed bag. Teague has major things to like about his game, and he has some flaws as well, the biggest question being exactly what position he will play in the league, as there is some doubt over whether he is a point guard at the next level, or just one of many smaller shooting guards. At barely over 6'2", being a traditional shooting guard will be difficult unless surrounded by players who compliment him in special ways, which is hard to do. The potential to maybe become a point guard is what he will be drafted on by some hopeful franchise.
Playing last year for the Demon Deacons, Teague was asked to attempt to learn the point guard position. The Deacons coaching staff didn't make this easy to do, as they played a brutal schedule and the quickest pace in college basketball, or at least one of the quickest. How highly you think of Teague almost solely is determined by how well you thought he adapted to this role, and his likelihood of continuing that development at the next level.
Teague definitely has an extreme amount of talent in many areas. I would rate him as one of the best scorers in this class, particularly at shooting off the dribble. He shoots a high percentage off the bounce, and particularly is blessed with great balance when doing so...he doesn't drift to his left or right like so many players do. He has good hangtime when driving, and seemingly is able to score in situations when it looks like he won't be able to. His size limits him here a bit, but there were no guards in college basketball that he played who could consistently stay in front of him and keep him from driving. Teague has such a great first step with the ball that it really stands out on film...no false steps/baby steps, covers a huge amount of ground with his first dribble, explosive, and able to pull up or drive to the paint.
Sounds really good so far I bet, doesn't it?
Unfortunately, Teague gives you almost no value on offense unless he has the ball. Away from it, he doesn't cut well enough to get open against good defenders, he lacks size to shoot over people when coming off screens, and seems to lack the patience to set up people, read screens, and get free. He also doesn't shoot as well off a pass from the low post or an offensive rebound back out to the perimeter....he seems like he is only in rhythm to shoot if he has a dribble to get himself started. With a dribble he is a weapon, with no dribble he is a bricklayer.
People always talk about wanting a "true" point guard. By that I guess they mean they want a Mark Jacksonesque "pass-first" type of player to man this critical position. Teague is so far from a pass first point guard it isn't even funny! Teague has a swagger I love to see, and plays with a bit of a chip on his shoulder, also a good trait. But that swagger also means he has the tendency to try and do way more than he is capable of in terms of taking shots. In my coaching vernacular, Teague is a player we say who "shoots til he gets hot, then keeps shooting". Teague likes to make and take big shots, and deliver the "dagger"....he definitely likes to be center of attention I think.
I'm not saying I think Teague has a bad attitude or is selfish, let me be clear about that. In fact, I like Teague's attitude and body language. Self confidence is a great thing! It's just that a true point guard thinks about more than just going to the basket and trying to score for himself somehow, and Teague doesn't do that....Teague is a loaded gun out there, for better or worse Teague is going to try and score himself.....any good pass he may make looks like an accident to me. Teague is not a point guard in the traditional sense.
Someday, I think Teague will be a major offensive weapon as a scorer in a screen/roll situation. He already has all the artillary to be great at this in the NBA, except he needs to learn nuances, like how to set up his man to be screened, and how to wait til the exact right moment to attack. On tape, Teague likes to take off before a ball screen gets to him, hurting himself by moving too quickly. He also has an alarming tendency for some reason in this play to drive the ball way too wide going around the screen, thereby letting his man get thru the screen too easily. Despite those current flaws, I think Teague can be coached up in this area by some smart NBA assistant coaches.
As a passer, Teague will never be that good...it just isnt in his makeup I don't think. He has all the prerequisites to be, but I don't think its in his DNA. Teague makes bad decisions all the time in games, throwing to the wrong guys on a fast break, leaping into the air with no idea what he's doing, and just making sloppy and inaccurate passes. In fact, "sloppy" is a word you can use to describe his passing and ballhandling against pressure. Most teams backed off Teague to respect his quickness, but I actually think he doesnt handle the ball well against pressure or physical defenses.....I think he can be turned over and rattled with really good defense up in his grill. Teague plays too fast when pressured, and lacks the critical ability to think clearly under deress, and the willingness to slow down or even back up his dribble. When under strain, Teague plays faster and more out of control than normal, which is bad because he is borderline out of control on a good day.
Like many point guards in this draft, Teague right now is much better suited to a team that plays up tempo. But unlike Lawson and Flynn, I think Teague will have enough offensive game to someday be a fine offensive player in a halfcourt oriented game....that just isnt right now. Lawson and Flynn I project to either play in fast break systems or fail, I don't think that harshly of the Wake Forest scorer.
Defensively, I think if he is coached up big time, that Teague should be able to be a serviceable NBA defender of point guards. He is a defensive liability guarding anyone else, so he needs to be able to get much better on defending the ball. The entire Wake Forest team last year played like it was double parked outside the arena, and Teague was a main culprit defensively. He likes to gamble, and simply loses interest after a team made about 3 or 4 passes in a given possession.
Teague basically has every physical tool to be a reasonably good point guard defender, he just needs to make it a priority and dedicate himself to it. Clearly last year it was not a priority to him at all.
So, if you are looking for a point guard to make the steady play, lead your team, make your teammates better, and play calm in crisis, Teague just isn't it I don't think. I know there are many talent evaluators who think Teague will be a very good NBA point guard, but right now I just don't see it.
But what I do see is a confident kid who plays with a gunslinger mentality. Absolute no fear of making a mistake or missing shots, Teague looks like he plays with no remorse out there....."relentless" is a word that comes to my mind when I think of his offensive game. Unfortunately, another good word to describe him is "reckless".
To me, clearly Teague is a 2 guard who was trying to play out of position due to his lack of size and stature. Thats what he still is to me today. That isn't the death sentence it used to be, and coaches have figured out many ways to get around those limitations. You can call alot of set plays with Teague in there so he doesnt have to make decisions, you can coach him up then use him a ton in high pick and roll situations, or you can isolate him and let him drive. Teague clearly will have a role in the league, and I predict a prominent and successful role as big time explosive scorer off someone's bench, although likely an inconsistent one from game to game. Despite his limitations, Teague is going to be a guy who once a week scores a lot of points off some smart teams bench, but struggles otherwise.
Not completely in game style, but think of Teague as someone's JR Smith (without the attitude). Teague looks like the kind of guy who would be a wildcard in a playoff series, who might get hot and win a game for you....maybe like an Eddie House does (although they are different offensive players to a degree).
I think the best NBA comparable to me of Teague's long term game playing style and role would be :
Jason Terry, G, Dallas Mavericks.
A scorer off the bench for a good team, not a point guard really, but a guy who can score the ball some of the time. Louis Williams of Philadelphia is another one that is a a close comparable to the modern NBA I think.
I'm struggling to come up with a very good NBA "past comparable" for Teague, maybe some of you can help me list one. [EDIT] It's been suggested to me that Kenny Smith would be a decent past comparable, and since no one else came up with one better, I'm going to go with it. [EDIT]
If Teague is there for Indiana at #13, he wouldn't be the worst selection the Pacers ever made by a long shot. I can see Teague helping us win the occasional game just by being an offensive force for a few minutes a game every now and then. Teague would have to be paired with Jarrett Jack or some undetermined bigger point guard however to maximize his abilities. A combination of Ford and Teague would make no sense...each has ot have the ball to be effective, and Teague would then be forced to guard bigger guards, which he absolutely cannot do.
Teague would be a decent for Indiana's fast pace, but a poor fit for Jim O'Brien's outside shooting style passing game. As TJ Ford sometime struggled playing an offense whereby he had to move without the ball, Teague would be lost in a style like that unless major accomadations/simplifications were made for him. Because of this and his other limitations, I think after careful analysis the Pacers probably should and will pass....although like I said earlier, it wouldnt be the worst thing to have a dynamic bench scorer who grew up across town. And there is always the chance that I'm wrong and he ends up being a great scoring point guard in 3 years. I don't think I am of course, but it's not impossible.
Teague looks to me like a very good fit for Dallas at #22, being groomed to take Jason Terry's role, or even in a wacky lineup playing together with the Jet. Depending on what they do otherwise in the draft, Sacramento at #23, Portland at #24, or Atlanta at #19 look like the most likely landing places for Teague.
As always, the above is just my opinion.