In his first season with the Indiana Pacers, Jeff Teague is having one of his best overall years in the league. Assists, rebounds and free throws are all up for the eight-year point guard.
Last offseason, the Indiana Pacers made a big change to the point guard position. After years of stability, solid three-point shooting and crafty defense from George Hill, the Pacers opted for something a little different.
For many, the Teague acquisition did not seem like much of a league shaker. He had been a solid point guard for years in Atlanta. But, a lot of that had to do with the unselfish, fluid offensive system that allowed many Hawks to shine and contribute.
Teague only made one All-Star team. That was the 2014-15 season when Atlanta put together an unbelievable 60-win season. Teague’s All-Star nod that season was as much of a nod for the whole team and front office as it was for his individual performance.
The Wake Forest product has always been on the outside looking in at the top 10 point guards. He’s never been a great three-point shooter. Only one year did he crack 40 percent from the beyond the arc.
His assists have consistently hovered between five and seven per game. His smaller size has made it difficult for him to be a plus defender, too.
Still, Jeff Teague is a viable NBA starter who thrives with his speed and handles. The Pacers should be happy with what he’s given them so far this season.
Indiana can’t buy a winning streak right now, but not for lack of Teague’s efforts. He’s averaging 15 points per game on 43.7 percent shooting while adjusting to a new team and style. His three-point shooting is right around his career average of 35.4 percent.
He’s smartly taking less than three per game. Even his steals and blocks numbers are right around where you’d expect them to be.
The biggest, most thrilling aspect of Teague’s current season—one that maybe even the Pacers didn’t predict—is how varied his overall game has become. He’s averaging career-highs in assists (7.9), rebounds (4.3) and free-throw attempts (5.1).
Even with fewer points and shots, it’s clear that Teague’s maybe more active than he ever has been.
Digging even deeper, the numbers suggest Teague is wisely varying his game as he nears the end of his prime. The speed and elusiveness that he thrived on will slowly go. According to basketball-reference.com, his PER (Player Efficiency Rating) is at 18.9, only below his All-Star season of 20.6.
Even better, Teague’s true shooting percentage (56.7) is the highest it’s ever been. This is crucial for a streaky shooter like Teague, especially if he wants to stretch his career.
Many great point guards before him have remained starters and contributors despite a loss of speed and acceleration thanks to improved shooting.
His offensive win shares are at 4.1, again only below his All-Star year, while his total win shares are at 6.3. While his defense is still rather average, all these numbers together begin to carry across the idea that Teague is having his second-best season in the NBA.
He could’ve continued to decline following that All-Star season, particularly when joining a new team, but he seems to have been reinvigorated in a lot of ways.
What next becomes crucial for Teague and the Pacers is his playoff performance. Yes, Myles Turner handled himself rather well for a rookie against the Toronto Raptors. But, George was doing the heavy lifting in that series.
The Pacers haven’t yet been able to find any consistency this year, going back and forth between wins. That’s something they’ll need to fix if they want to have any chance of upsetting the Boston Celtics or Washington Wizards in the first round.
Teague’s playoff numbers haven’t been wonderful. For the most part, it’s a clear drop off from his regular season showings. He averages fewer points, rebounds and assists while his shooting wavers, too.
If such a drop were to happen this year, the Pacers probably don’t have a shot at making some noise in the postseason.
However, just the fact that Teague is mixing up his game should be a boon to Pacers’ fans. That does mean he’ll continue to play like that in the playoffs? We’ll see.
But a Teague that’s less reliant on his speed and more capable of effecting the games in various ways sounds like a dangerous guy to face.