The Jeff Teague Blues

Famously, George Hill was a draft day trade. He went to the Pacers and Kawhi Leonard went to the Spurs. The Pacers needed a point guard to take them to the next level. The Spurs needed a young athlete who could score and rebound; their team was getting older. For both franchises, the deal worked although it’s logical to wonder who and what the Pacers would have been with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. But rewriting history never works. You reap what you sow. With George Hill, the Pacers went to two Eastern Conference Finals and were inches away from the NBA Finals.

George Hill had his weaknesses. He was not a true point and his explosiveness was undervalued. He didn’t have Damian Lillard or John Wall speed but he could get to the cup. The same with his scoring. He wasn’t awful but he wasn’t great at it either. He was a below average make players better point guard. But he was an exceptional defender. Five years in his hometown of Indianapolis, Hill averaged 12.3 points and 3.9 assists. When the opportunity for Jeff Teague came up, and it was a win-win for the Pacers, (they could audition Teague for one year because he’s on an expiring deal), Larry Bird took it.

Jeff Teague is quick to the rim and a quality scorer. He is expert at pick and roll and he can create his own shot. Teague has a history of clutch shot making in big games. He has been to the playoffs every year in his career. One of those years, the Atlanta Hawks had the best season in their history, 60 wins.

Teague was schooled in a style of play where ball movement was the identity, not iso-scoring. Teague is a proven NBA talent. Adding him to the Pacers was a game changer.

Or was it?

To put it another way. Be careful about what you think you know.

Jeff Teague is shooting 32.5%, a career low. 23.1% from three, the lowest since his rookie year. 76.0% from the line, a five year low. 11.3 points per game, the lowest total since his second year in the league in 2010-11. Teague is posting super high marks (for him) in rebounds and he is still the point guard, dishing out 6.7 assists. But the Pacers are an underwhelming 3-4. From Teague, they expected so much more and to be fair, this version of Teague is not who Teague has been the last five years of his career. He is playing not like himself.

And what is George Hill doing while Teague is in a funk? George Hill is ballin’.

Career highs all over the board. Field goal percentage (54.1%). 3-Point percentage (43.2%). Free throw percentage (87.5%) Assists (5.0). And most importantly, points. George HIll is a 20 point scorer, 20.4 to be exact, for the first time in his career. The closest Hill ever came to averaging 20 points for the Pacers was two years ago in Paul George’s absence when he averaged 16.1 points.

Hill scored 23 points against the Lakers. 22 points against Sacramento. 25 points against Dallas. 23 against the Knicks. He has an offensive rating of 132 and a defensive rating of 108.(Kevin Durant’s offensive rating is 131 and his defensive rating is 102).

Yes, he is doing it against teams not expected in the playoffs but you have to beat those teams too.

Let’s look at Teague and Hill’s performances against ┬ácommon opponents, Dallas and the Lakers, both home victories for each.

Dallas and Lakers Points (total) FG% 3-Point% Assists(total) Contested FG%
Jeff Teague 29 30.0% 10.0% 14 27.7%
George Hill 48 55.1% 46.1% 7 64.7%

Both Teague and Hill took the same amount of shots. Teague took 30 shots while Hill took 29. They also took the same amount of contested shots. Hill took 17 and Teague took 18. But Hill was far more successful draining shots when he was being guarded than Teague. Hill took three more 3-pointers, 13 to Teague’s 10. But Teague had no efficiency. He made 3 out of 10 threes. And he missed 21 shots overall. In a miss or make league, shot making is the dividing line between good players and not so good.

Recently, Hill injured his hand and he missed Monday night’s game in Philly. ┬áThe Jazz didn’t need him, stomping the hapless 76ers by 25 points.

It must be repeated, this is a very small sample size. Hill probably cannot sustain 55% shooting over the course of 82 games so his point total will go down. Also factor in the revenge factor, that Hill wants to prove something which brings us to this.

What does Jeff Teague want to prove?

Is he trying too hard in his hometown to be everything the Pacers need. He had a Jeff Teague like game against the Bulls. Teague had 21 points and 6 assists and shot 60% from three. It was what the Pacers were expecting. Sometimes it takes the first month to acclimate to the new system. Jeff Teague hasn’t forgotten how to play. Even as he has the luxury of Paul George, he can no longer depend on the bailout of a Kyle Korver or the toughness of a Paul Millsap.

This is a new Jeff Teague day. Larry Bird believed in him enough to pull the deal. Teague has a lot at stake. How he performs this year in Indy, in the East, will tell how much value he has next year, either for the Pacers or anyone else for that matter.

Jeff Teague was supposed to be the difference maker, someone to go up against Kyrie Irving and Kyle Lowry and hold his own. He’s been treading water and at times, drowning, but it’s only November. He has a few months to get his game back on track. Otherwise, in 2017-18, the Pacers will have another point running the show.

photo via llananba