Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Teague Connundrum

We decided to take a break from game recaps because of time AND the fact that they were fun to watch, terrible to blog about, so rather than just blog for blog sake - we waited for something to move us and since it really is the only thing that true Hawks fans are interested in (aside from this relative lofty success the Hawks are experiencing right now)....it's how much should Jeff Teague play and to what end?

And of course, any blog about Jeff Teague should intertwined with a conversation about Mike Woodson and his ability to coach young guards. So, let's talk about the pros and cons of his role:

1. Backup Point Guard - Normally, you wouldn't have high expectations for a rookie point guard to contribute on a contending team esp. one chosen as low (and after as many quality point guards have been chosen) as Teague, but should that change if you only have 1 point guard on the roster. (Note: while we agree that Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford can play point - it's not their natural position nor are they most effective at the position, so why play them there?). So, since we do only have 1 point guard who happens to be lacking in penetration skills and perimeter defense and youth, it stands to reason that utilizing the backup point guard to provide rest, penetration, change of pace, and yes - a better defensive effort would be useful for this team during the season and, should we need it, during the postseason. As the backup to an aging point guard that you will need in the postseason, we would believe that 18-22 minutes would be necessary every single night. Due to the youth of our backup point guard and the fact that he's a rookie, we expected this number to be lower - somewhere in the 13-17 range, but yet still an average of two stints a night. To date, we have already failed to give our backup point guard enough minutes if the goal is to play our starting guards less this season.

2. Future Point Guard - In what was an extraordinarily deep point guard pool in the 2009 NBA draft, the 7th point guard turned out to be a great fit for the Hawks future point guard needs in every place except as a 3pt shooter. With this in mind, the question is how best to develop a young point guard while on a contending team. What minutes are 'winning game' minutes vs. 'development for the postseason' minutes vs. 'development as the 2010-2011 starter' minutes. It's no secret that HS8T has never thought Woodson was very good at finding minutes for young players. We've also been very forthright in saying that under cloak of no new contract - we can see why you may lack trust in a young player to help you win games now, but nothing is a substitute in this league for playing time. If you want to find out whether or not Jeff Teague can be the unlikely player who develops into a starting point guard role from the #19 position in the draft, you're going to have to play him quality minutes (even minutes with starters in order to command the respect that a point guard must command). To date, it could be argued that we are trending in a direction that would fail to play Teague enough to determine whether he's a starter for the future Atlanta Hawks.

3. Rest & Injury Protection - Now, this is where we hoped last year's injury riddled/worn out playoff run would serve as a guide for Teague's development. We hoped that would be the little voice that said trust your rookie until he gives you overwhelming evidence of a lack of readiness in good and bad times. From this quote we wonder whether this was the cause of some of his early season foibles "Before, Teague said, "I just wanted to make sure I didn't turn it over and do anything wrong. Now I think I'm more comfortable. I try to play my game and I think that's what they want me to do." Rookie mistakes happen - that's why they are called rookie mistakes. They have to happen in order to get past them. We'd much rather them happen in the regular season than the postseason, which means the comfort with which we play Teague has to happen now. That wouldn't be a requirement if we had ANOTHER point guard to play while he learns the game, but one way or the other - we must do a better job of managing Joe Johnson's minutes - he should be playing about 35 minutes (i.e. Joe should get about a quarter's worth of rest each game) with the talent that we have at this stage esp. with the scoring punch that Jamal Crawford brings, but that can't happen if you only have a 3 man guard rotation.

Final Analysis:

We hope that Woodson is taking the hint from his own quote on Teague. Said Woodson, "He's been playing pretty good for us. A lot of that is he's getting a few minutes and he's got some confidence going. That's what it's all about." Correct - playing without fear of making mistakes and knowing that he's getting PT builds confidence. It's no coincidence to us that the talent we saw in the preseason grows when you play and wanes when you don't. Teague will not be perfect this season, but he will provide a spark for this Hawks team if you give him the chance. He already has. The question is how much of a chance he should be given and how consistently should that happen. We believe that around 15-18 minutes would do the trick.

An argument has been made regarding shooting and defensive lapses by Teague, but we'd argue that in a season where he's had one of the fewest usage rates amongst all rookies that the sample size is too small to know if that's a 'rookie mistake' that can be learned and cleaned up by more play OR a problem that should pin him to the sidelines. We saved Teague's #s to the end b/c even if Teague didn't have the numbers he does - we'd be advocating for at least 10 minutes a game to develop Teague, but it's the numbers that say - we should be playing him MORE.

Teague's Player Efficiency Rating (PER) is 15.63 - good for 7th amongst all rookies (4th among rookie PGs), better than Mike Bibby's PER of 14.27. His assist ratio is 2nd amongst all rookies behind Eric Maynor and better than Mike Bibby's 29.4. His turnover ratio is 8.8 (almost 4 to 1 asist to tunover ratio) vs. Bibby's 8.2, both are top 10 averages and for rookies - his is the best of all rookie point guards. The only rookies in the first round who have played less are Earl Clark (who hit a major slump and was benched) and Gerald Henderson (who plays for Larry Brown - nuff said). Teague also is leading all rookie point guards in Defensive Rebound Rate, 3rd in overall rebound rate. The only number that is a negative one for Teague is his shooting percentage at 40%, but there haven't been enough shot attempts to render this a very meaningful number yet. So, yes - Teague has messed up some defensive rotations and hasn't hit all of his shots, but what rookie hasn't done that. It's part of the process, a process we hope allows for more Teague play and the appreciation of the fact that his development only makes the Hawks better THIS year and in future years. At the point at which that changes, we ought to sign a backup point guard immediately.

Let's hope the past 3 performances by Teague have provided Woodson enough goodwill to trust him with minutes every night for this team in an attempt to provide the depth necessary to provide options for the postseason when Bibby's shooting, energy, injury, foul trouble, or defensive liabilities require the services of the emerging young Teague. Those performances are going to begin to render less than 10 minutes and the dreaded DNPs unacceptable in Hawks land.


Xavier said...

@ ATL......Numbers don't tell the entire story. I bet the majority of Bibby's PER is against starters in competitive situations while Teague's PER is versus bench players and blowout situations. The same goes for the assist stat also don't you think?

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

@Xavier, you're right and you're wrong. You're right because it doesn't tell the entire story and I didn't highlight it to say it did. I did note that I would believe that he needed more time even if the numbers were bad and I was trying to make it clear that he's getting less time than average output would dictate he get if you're only going to have 4 guards on the roster.

Now, where you're wrong in my opinion is that - the numbers tell every story that says - there's nothing more than Woodson in the way of giving him minutes. He said in an interview that he's gotta do well in limited minutes because he can't give him more than 20-30 minutes in a game. And my point is - why not? If he keeps playing the same way vs. better competition, then why wouldn't he be able to play more. Now, I agree - I don't expect more than good bench production from Jeff Teague. I don't think he should be the starter right now, but I also just don't trust Woodson and the governor I feel like he's going to put on Teague's development. My point in the comments from a few weeks ago was simply that if he keeps getting better (and by all accounts he's had 3 good games in a row) and plays consistent ball, then you keep giving him minutes. FIND the minutes - if we can win and give Teague more time. i think we should absolutely cut Bibby and JJ's minutes as much as we possibly can until the playoffs. Nothing's wrong with playing those guys 30 minutes a game.

So, that's really my point...I want to start seeing Teague in the game with the starters more try to see evidence that he can or can't handle the added responsibilities, so my point was that there isn't anything that's showing that he's going to fail when given a chance and until you see it - keep giving him more and the numbers he has while against second teamers means that it's time to test him against better comp to see whether his confidence and game grows or not. So, the numbers don't tell the story of whether he's better. They do tell the story that he deserves more time and more responsibility being placed on his shoulders as the season progresses. We still are playing JJ too much and Teague's growth can go a long ways to helping with that.

The Casey said...

I think you hit on an important point at the end of your post re: Larry Brown and Gerald Henderson. Woodson is a former Brown assistant, and seems to have shown Larry's reluctance to play rookies. I don't know how much that plays into his reluctance with Teague/Law; or if it's the PG position he is squeamish about.

I also wonder if the roster construction, which has sort of puzzled me this year, is Sund's way of forcing Woodson to play Teague more. I'd like to have another guard on the team in case of injury or foul trouble or something, but that gives Woody someone else to play in front of Teague.

One other thing that bugs me. Why don't the Hawks use the NBDL? Not so much for Teague or Law, but Solomon Jones or Randolph Morris or Othella? It's hard for me to believe that Othella's developing faster sitting on the end of the bench in a suit than he would be actually playing actual games.

Anyway, my two cents on personnel management.

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

@The Casey, I think you are probably right to make some of those assumptions, but I think rookie guards is his blind spot. I don't think he has the patience and trust to allow a rookie guard define his team's ceiling in any way. I think Royal Ivey probably scarred him pretty badly in that regard.

As for being forced to play young guards, I really wish I could talk to Billy Knight about this b/c when he traded for Bibby - Law was the only other PG on the team and with a new PG playing - never saw the court. Now, I know that Law and Woodson didn't mix, but I thought that was pretty damning and may be part of the reason why Knight wanted to fire Woodson.

Finally, THANK YOU! I have yet to figure out what's the problem with us using the NBDL - certainly, Mario West, Morris, Gardner, and Hunter could have used time down there last year. Even this year for all the people who yearned for Mario to stay on the team - the NBDL should be for them. I'd much rather have Teague, Morris, & Hunter playing 35+minutes there than watching here. And i say that with the feeling that Teague can contribute now.

But when I look at Aaron Brooks and the fact that he got some seasoning there at the beginning of his career and that he mirrors Teague in so many ways - I can't help but think that either we give him 15 mpg or we send him down to learn how to run a b-ball team and play defense.