If you ask fellow HoopData analyst and Wake Forest alumni Tom Haberstroh, the answer to the titular question is a simple equation:
Demon Deacon = Hall of Famer
But of course we should delve a little deeper. With Mike Bibby a liability on defense, and losing more lateral quickness by the day, and Jamal Crawford a perpetual tweener with an erratic shot that works better on the bench, there’s opportunity in Atlanta for Jeff Teague to step forward and take on more of a role this year.
In the preseason, he’s played one game and scored 20 points on 8-13 shooting, with six assists, four turnovers, two steals, one rebound and no threes. Not quite the sample we need. Let’s use last year’s numbers to see if the rate statistics show us what kind of point guard he might be.
With the team about 2.35 points worse on defense with Bibby on the court, the most important part of Teague’s game might be his defense. According to Basketballvalue.com, the Atlanta defense was .81 points better with Teague in there last year, so the switch between guards looks significant. Teague was also thought of as an excellent defensive guard at Wake Forest – though steals aren’t necessarily the best indicator, his 1.9 steals per game were impressive, and John Hollinger has shown that hustle stats often carry over fairly well from college. Teague should be the better defender, and provide fantasy teams with more steals than Bibby ever did.
Joe Johnson is the focal point of the offense – so much so that it’s often termed the “Iso-Joe” late in games. He’s got the highest usage rate on the Hawks (26.35 last year) and a decent assist rate for a shooting guard (18.28 last year, 16.55 average for at the position). The ideal point guard next to him might be a good defender that can shoot well from long distance and move the ball without a huge usage rate, it seems.
Teague? His assist rate was above average for point guards (29.01, 27.25 was average), and his usage rate last year (19.15) was spot-on average for point guards (19.05). So far so good. Unfortunately, Teague also shot 21.9% on threes last year, which isn’t ideal. Then again, it was on half an attempt per game, and he shot 42% from three in college, so that could improve easily.
What other point guards have this sort of package but played more minutes than Teague last year? Raymond Felton sits right next to Teague on the assist rate leaderboard (29.03 last year) and also had a 19.15 usage rate last year – and with his inconsistent shooting from three (32.7% career, despite 38.5% last year) and nice steals numbers (1.4 per game career), he seems like a great comp. Felton only shot 37.5% from three in college, so Teague has the chance to be better, too.
Teague won’t be a Steve Nash (39.28 assist rate) or even a Deron Williams (34.92 assist rate), but he creates assists at an above-average rate, is an above-average defender, and if his shooting improves, he can be a good scorer with an average usage rate. That’s a very valuable piece for a contending team (especially at his cost), and a great fantasy sleeper (especially late in the draft).