Jeff Teague is no star. He’s a second-year guard who isn’t great at initiating the offense, and isn’t much of a perimeter shooter. He isn’t the type of talent who demands playing time, but merely suggests it politely with each correctly executed possession. He makes mistakes, doesn’t often induce awe, and clearly has a lot to learn.
He also deserves more minutes, at the expense of Mike Bibby and any other player that Hawks coach Larry Drew deems a point guard. But Teague doesn’t get them; he’s averaged just 11.8 minutes per game this season, and as noted by Ken Sugiura of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, has been particularly underused of late:
Guard Jeff Teague has stayed on the bench for seven of the Hawks’ 45 games. Three of them have been in the past four games, including Saturday night’s. In each, he was the only Hawks player coach Larry Drew kept on the bench…After Saturday night’s game, Teague said he and Drew hadn’t talked “in awhile” and wasn’t sure what was limiting his minutes.
“If you get in there, you’d better do what you can do,” Teague said. “If he doesn’t put me in, I’ll cheer for my teammates and hopefully they’ll do well.”
Bibby is on his way down and out, making Teague the team’s one legitimate long-term option at the point. Isn’t that reason alone to at least give him the occasional burn? Can Drew not find a handful of minutes to throw Teague’s way as an investment in the young guard’s future?
If the Hawks had a legitimately productive starting PG, then Teague’s marginalization would at least be understandable. Yet Bibby is completely useless as a defender, and not terribly effective offensively, either. His adjusted plus/minus puts him at -2.38 for the season, and Bibby’s 12.3 PER is a career low. That PER mark — in addition to Bibby’s higher turnover rate, disappointing points per minute average, etc. — is particularly troubling. PER best measures a player’s offensive contributions and efficiency, and thus should tilt in Bibby’s favor. After all, he’s an offensive player who isn’t forced to do a lot with the ball, and shoots more than half of his attempts from behind the three-point line, an inherently efficient zone. Yet according to his PER, Bibby is inefficient and below average on the end of the court that’s supposed to be his strength. If he’s obviously subpar on offense, what does that make Bibby on defense?
And, the icing on the cake: Teague, despite often running with reserves, has posted a 12.9 PER this season, already a few ticks better than Bibby. Unlike most young players, Teague’s definite strengths lie on offense; he’s much more equipped to defend opposing point guards than he is to run plays, and more capable of defending a quick perimeter opponent than pull up for a jumper. Teague is an obviously incomplete offensive player, and yet by one metric, he’s still superior to the defense-first Bibby.
It’s great that Drew can go to Jamal Crawford as a back-up point guard, but Crawford can surely find his minutes elsewhere. The Hawks have plenty of wings that can slide over to cover several positions, and thus finding time for Teague wouldn’t preclude Crawford from getting his appropriate burn. The central obstacle between Teague and freedom is Bibby, and yet Drew is obviously reluctant to lean on the more capable overall player due to a futile cling to veteran savvy or somesuch.