Which Team Is the Best Fit for Jeff Teague?
That is trade deadline day in the NBA. We sit less than two weeks away, and it appears we may be headed for a day this year. Even if there is much inactivity this trading season, one name that has been bandied about as a likely player on the move is Atlanta Hawks point guard Jeff Teague.
Why would Atlanta be willing to part with a key cog to their 60-win season last year? The answer is multi-faceted but starts with Dennis Schroder.
In just his third season in the league, the 22-year-old Schroder has shown he is capable of running Mike Budenholzer's system on par with Teague, making the seven-year veteran expendable.
While Schroder has been gaining steam, Teague, on the other hand, was fallen back a bit from the All-Star level he was playing at last season.
The veteran point guard is also under contract until 2017 for only $8 million per year, making him an attractive trade target for many point guard desperate teams and providing extra incentive for Atlanta to deal him now. If they wait, their return may not be as great.
Utah, New York, and Boston are the top three teams widely rumored to be looking at acquiring the Atlanta point guard. Let's break down the trio plus a couple of Lone Star squads and see which team offers the best fit for Teague.
Utah has suffered a multitude of injuries this year. Rudy Gobert has missed 20 games, Derrick Favors missed 17, and Alec Burks has missed 20 games and counting. Before the season even started, Dante Exum went down with a torn ACL, leaving the Jazz short-handed at the point guard spot. In his Exum's stead, Brazilian rookie Raul Neto has started all but one game.
Coming off the bench in a reserve role has been third-year guard Trey Burke. While Teague's nERD rating of 0.1, has been disappointing this season, it would still be a marked improvement over Neto and Burke, who hold a -3.3 and -0.8 rating respectively.
This season, Gordon Hayward is not only the Jazz's leading scorer with 19.8 points per game, but he is also their leading distributor with 3.7 assists per game. In fact, Neto and Burke combined have only 5.1 assists per game, less than Teague by himself.
Jazz coach Quin Snyder's familiarity with Teague, he was an assistant under Budenholzer in 2013-14, would help the point guard's transition to the Jazz offense. Even at only 27 years old, Teague would bring a wealth of experience to the NBA's youngest roster (24.3 years old on average).
His addition would give the Jazz a well-balanced offense to go along with one of the league's top defenses. A lineup of Teague, Hayward, Favors, and Gobert may not defeat the Warriors or Spurs in the first-round of the playoffs, but they definitely can give them a challenge. With Teague under contract for next season too, the Jazz could become a playoff staple for years to come, much like they were in the 90s.
New York Knicks
The Knicks are 23-29, nearly five games out of the final playoff spot in the East. Despite being a trendy pick to make the playoffs this past preseason, New York seems destined to be on the outside looking in come May. On pace for 36 wins and a 19-game improvement over 2014-15, the Knicks can already see this season as a success. Add in the emergence of rookie Kristaps Porzingis and there seems like no reason to make a move. However, with the win-now pressures of being in the Big Apple along with the prime years of Carmelo Anthony winding down, the Knicks may be looking to make a move to spark a playoff push.
According to Charles Barkley, the Knicks would be a lock to make the postseason if they acquired Teague. While I wouldn't go that far, point guard is an obvious point of weakness on the Knicks, and Teague would be an immediate upgrade.
The trio of Jose Calderon, Langston Galloway, and Jerian Grant are not cutting it on offense. Anthony, just like Hayward in Utah, leads the Knicks in assists from the small forward position with 4.2 per game. The addition of Teague would immediately improve the team's ball movement, critical in the Triangle offense. His ability to hit the three or mid-range jumper as well as being able to drive and kick are crucial to the flow of the offense. With 14.8 points per game, Teague would be the Knicks' second-leading scorer as well as the leading assist man.
With 13.3 points on 40.4 percent shooting on 11.4 attempts per game over the last three weeks, Porzingis has been slumping as of late, contributing to the Knicks' 3-7 record in their last 10 games. Teague's presence in New York would take pressure off of the 20-year-old Zinger to be a leader on the offense.
One of the first rumors involving Teague was about the Celtics inquiring about receiving Teague and Al Horford in some sort of package deal. While the Celtics by far have the most to offer in terms of draft picks and young talent, we are here not to speculate on the makeup of a trade but how well Teague would fit on the new team. The answer with Boston is not well at all.
A move for a highly talented big, like Horford, would make more sense for the Celtics than a trade for a point guard. Boston's lone All-Star this season, Isaiah Thomas, mans the point and does a pretty good job at it.
While Thomas is not your ideal point guard per se, it's hard to imagine coach Brad Stevens moving him out of the starting lineup or shifting him over to the two guard. That would mean Teague would either have to play shooting guard, something he has done less than 10 percent of the time in his career, or come off the bench. For Boston, the cost of trading for Teague and then sticking him on the bench would be a waste of the stockpile Danny Ainge has been amassing in New England.
Houston and Dallas
Both the Rockets and Mavericks are in line to make the playoffs, albeit in the bottom half of the bracket in the Western Conference. They also have weaknesses at the point that could be solved by making a move for Teague.
Houston acquired Ty Lawson to run the point this summer, and the results have been a disaster. Due to his poor shooting, less than 40 percent, and turnstile defense, Lawson has been benched for Patrick Beverley. A decent guard in his own right, Beverley has been dealing with his own injury issues this year and has played more like a three-point specialist than a floor general this season. Bringing in Teague would be an immediate upgrade and would be a nice pairing with James Harden in the backcourt. However, with the Rockets' offense running through Harden and his 32.5 percent Usage Rate and the failure of the Lawson trade, the Rockets may be better off finding a wing or stretch four instead of bringing in Teague.
Dallas has been one of the more pleasant surprises this season but, in all honesty, are looking straight at a first-round exit this postseason. A trade for Teague would be more of a deal for next season than it would be for this one. While they have a competent point guard at the moment, Deron Williams, they face the likelihood of D-Will opting out of his modest $5.5 million per year salary to try and find one last big contract elsewhere. That would leave them searching for a point guard to team up with a promising duo of Chandler Parsons and Wesley Matthews. With Teague under contract for another year, he would fit perfectly with Dallas as they give Dirk Nowitzki a fighting chance to go out on a winning team. But with zero assets and the trade for Rajon Rondo fresh in their memory, Dallas dealing for Teague isn't very likely.
Teague to Utah makes too much sense for it not to happen.
The glaring need at the point is shared by both New York and Utah, but the Jazz's young lineup plus Teague's familiarity with the system make the Jazz the best fit for Teague.
But whether Utah has the right assets to get a deal done is another story.