Today we are just 20 days away from NBA 2012 draft night, and the pace is picking up. The combine is currently taking place, and the executives of each team not still playing are locked in conference rooms, trying to decide on who their future players and stars might become. Ive already previewed 4 players this year so far, you can find the draft profiles of Arnett Moultrie, Fab Melo, Moe Harkless, and Jeff Taylor elsewhere on this site.
For the 5th installment of this years series, we take a trip to Lexington Kentucky to look at Indianapolis Pike graduate Marquis Teague. Measuring in at 62, Teagues size is nothing special, but his wingspan is an outstanding 67 plus, giving him an athletic advantage at his position for the foreseeable future. Currently a slender 180lbs or so, Teague will need to add a little strength and bulk at some point, but there is no reason to believe that he will not do that as he matures into his body.
The biggest attribute Teague has as a basketball player is his explosive and dynamic first step. Teague is a man that with space can blow by his man and get into the paint with ease, as his ability to make a catch and just blow by a defender with one step is an NBA type skill. Off a catch, he is very much a right foot, right hand guy, as he likes to just explode in a straight line with a giant step, rather than try to cross you over or make some other misdirection type of move. In this regard he is very very similar to our own Leahandro Barbosa, another player who is very fast in a straight line with the ball.
Unfortunately, I just described the one and only real above average offensive skill Teague possesses currently as I see it, and even that will only take him so far. He has an annoying tendency when getting by a defender (as many young players do) of dropping his head when he makes his move, instead of keeping his head looking at the rim or at oncoming defenders. This dropping of the head hasnt been a giant issue yet, but NBA point guards who dont see the rim or the help defenders headed their way often find themselves unemployed soon if they dont fix that flaw, so we will have to see if Teague can change that part of his game.
Because he loses track of the rim, where the help is coming from, and where his own players are moving to, Teague is a very inefficient player with the ball, especially given his natural talent and gifts. At this point Teague can neither pull up and take a jumper accurately, nor make the little floater that so many guards at the NBA level make with regularity. Instead, he ends up having to try and find the rim again while adjusting to defenders moving that he doesnt see coming. What that produces are a lot of off balance, awkward looking shots in the paint, or turnovers on poor passes.
I do not believe Teague is overly selfish, but this dropping of the head takes away any natural point guard skill he may have when he beats his man, and also severely limits his ability to finish his own drive.
Kentucky did not set many ball screens, but when they did, Teagues success usually depended on where exactly he recieved them at. As long as he had enough space on the floor, he could usually get his head up fast enough to recalibrate himself and make something good happen. But from the side or if they werent spaced well, he usually got himself in trouble. Teague is a guard who right now has trouble in traffic of all aspects, and needs extra room to be able to play effectively, more room that the typical NBA point guard.
As long as he could pass the ball to the roll man, Teague did a fine job of delivering that pass accurately and on time. But if he had to make a more creative pass than that, Teague struggled I thought with reading the 2nd and 3rd rotations of a defense, and would cough it up.
I dont like Teagues pull up jumper of set 3 point shot much at all. For a very good athlete, he gets very little lift on his jumper, mainly because he gets really poor balance, with his weight on his back heels more than the balls of his feet.
Because of that he tries and self correct with his arms and shooting elbow, which in turn makes him shoot a low trajectory line drive like shot much of the time, and it also slows his release down quite a bit. I think to ever be an effective NBA shooter from beyond 18 feet, he is going to have to go through an entire rebuild of his jump shot, something that is often very difficult to do .though not impossible. Rajon Rondo similarly had no jump shot coming out of Kentucky, but he had the work ethic and desire to keep working on his weaknesses and conquered them for the most part. But other players have gotten drafted and never ever gotten any better. Time will tell what category Teague falls into.
Right now, Teague will be a major drag for any team that plays predominantly half court basketball, as his skills will almost certainly be better in the full court type of game. In this way, the NBA style of more wide open play will help him, as his pure speed with the ball will play more than in a half court type of game you often see in college.
In the halfcourt, right now at least, Teague will be pretty easy to guard for NBA teams. Lacking the floater and a consistent jumper, along with having poor vision of the defense, will make him pretty ineffective offensively early in his career. A team that drafts Teague needs to have a lot of patience, probably rebuilding his game for at least 2 years as he sits behind veteran guys.
Defensively, Teague has a ton of potential, but that is all it is. The outstanding lock down defense youd think hed be capable of really hasnt shown up yet on the floor.
Teague guards the ball well in the open floor, but that is about it. Of course, I highly value that skill more than most, so it isnt all bad. But man, Teague really more than most guys really relaxes when his man gives up the ball. Very often he gets up out of his stance upon release of the ball, which leaves him very vulnerable to basket cuts, and will leave him in bad position to guard the follow ball screen.
Many guys with great talent relax away from the ball, so that isnt a dealbreaker, but it did aggravate me watching Kentucky tape. But what infuriated me more was Teagues inconsistency in contesting a shot right in his face.
Lets face it, a player with Teagues athleticism and giant long arms should be a nightmare to ever get a shot off against. Sometimes when Teague was motivated and engaged, he contested shots very well. But in non marquee games and in situations where UK was playing with a substantial lead, often Teague would stay grounded, not even bothering to lift one hand high, let alone two.
If you cant stay motivated playing for John Calipari in Rupp Arena defensively, then how are going to play in the middle of a 5 game road trip in the middle of January on a Tuesday night? That concerns me quite a bit. Of course, UK really didnt have a quality backup point guard, so Teague really had no fear of getting benched .but while that may explain it some, it doesnt mean I like it or want to accept that excuse.
Going forward, I think Teague COULD end up being a really good point guard defender, but I really doubt that that happens, as I just dont see the level of concentration needed on that end of the floor.
Teagues background does merit some mention.
On the good side, he has an NBA brother playing in Atlanta in Jeff Teague, who also was a short term college player, at Wake Forest. So, you would think that Marquis would have more knowledge than the average player of how things work in the league, and could learn from some of the mistakes his brother has had to learn from his game.
On the other hand, Marquis has always struggled a bit with a sense of entitlement. I can speak to that a little, since I saw Teague play both in high school and in AAU quite often. You might be surprised to know that while Teague was a top recruit for the premier college team in the nation, that his high school team (the Indianapolis Pike Red Devils), really underachieved. Teagues unwillingness to play hard and be coached in that setting really hurt his team at Pike I thought. It was in the much more wide open and undisciplined AAU circuit that Teague really became well known and appreciated. At Pike, he often really struggled when adversity hit, and when teams sagged or played zone against him he couldnt score. Not scoring often led to him pouting, playing poor defense, showing frustration with himself and his teammates, and ultimately being benched.
For a great player, Teague really had a mediocre at best high school career. Now does that really matter now? That will for teams themselves to figure out. I can tell you from my point of view watching him that he was one of my least favorite players to watch play in that class. Take that for what its worth.
So, what do we have in Marquis Teague?
I think we have a guard with many flaws in his game, but who has all the physical attributes of a quality player except that right now he is very limited and I have character concerns with him personally. His lack of fundamental skills and natural point guard instincts lead me to believe his upside is limited, unless you are willing to almost rebuild his game and sit him for a couple of years while you do so.
Solving the ducking of the head would solve a lot of problems, but I think that might be harder to do than you think. And I have real doubts about how effective he will be when he finally reaches a level of play where he isnt by far the best athlete on the floor at his position. His shot is poor, though fixable, and none of his flaws are beyond repair .so I guess it comes down to if you have patience and an ability to build his game and work him in slowly, much like Atlanta is trying to do with his brother. (many disagree, but I think Jeff is better than Marquis personally, we will see)
But I do think the potential is there to be a very good defender, if he is willing to be that kind of role player and concentrate on that more than his limited skills offensively. I just dont know for sure if he can do that, or quite frankly if it is worth the time and effort to draft him and develop him for that long ..is his ultimate upside high enough to be worth all the effort?
In my view, the answer is no. Id pass on Marquis Teague if I were running the Pacers at pick #26. I think he is a poor fit for how we play, and I just simply dont like the player or his style of play for us.
My guess is that the Pacers front office will agree with my assessment, but we will see. But I think we can still be sure that Teague will go either in the latter stages of the first round or perhaps early in round two. Some teams that might like him better than I do and hed fit better with Memphis at #25 (as a backup for Mike Conley), Oklahoma City at #28, or perhaps some team will trade back into the late 1st round to take him. At the end of the day I suspect Teague will be a Denver Nugget on draft night, either at pick #20 or at some other spot they may end up in. George Karl thinks he can motivate anyone, and I am sure he will value his straight line speed more than I will. Denver is a very good fit for Teague, as they play so up tempo and fast, and space the floor better than most teams. For his sake, I hope he ends up there.
Current NBA comparable: Keyon Dooling
Former NBA comparable: Quinn Buckner
As always, the above is just my opinion