The Runner Sports

What Timberwolves Can Expect From Jeff Teague

The Minnesota Timberwolves unsurprisingly made a change at point guard by shipping fan favorite Ricky Rubio to the Utah Jazz for a first-round pick via the Oklahoma City Thunder. Shortly after, the Wolves signed unrestricted free agent Jeff Teague to a three-year deal worth $57 million and a player option for the final year. The Timberwolves have been constantly linked with the top free agent point guards and the signing of Teague does improve the team but by no means is a home run.

How does Teague fit in Offensively in Minnesota?

A quick comparison of Rubio’s and Teague’s statistics shows that the players are not too different form each other except when it comes to shooting. The reason the Wolves have been looking to trade Rubio is due to his well-documented shooting woes, especially from deep. A lineup of Rubio-Andrew Wiggins-Jimmy Butler-Karl-Anthony Towns is formidable but problematic as the best shooter in that lineup would be the big man, Towns. Having a big man who can shoot threes is great and a powerful weapon to have in your arsenal but ideally, you want Towns in the post showing off his variety of moves and passing out of double teams to open players.

Acquiring Teague helps Minnesota, as he is a respectable 36% shooter from three-point range and more excitingly he is a better shooter off the catch (38%). His shooting off the catch is the most relevant number here as the Wolves will primarily run an offense focusing on cutting and post-ups, which will allow for ball movement, and this should lead to open looks for Teague to catch and shoot.

For the first time in many years, the Timberwolves have a point guard who is not timid at attempting shots and who fans won’t wince at if they shot deep jumpers.  Just the threat of a decent jump shot will force opposing teams to chase Teague off the three-point line and this will cause the defense to rotate, so this will allow for a greater likelihood for miscommunication, which leads to mistakes which will then lead to easy baskets.

The addition of Teague has the potential to make the Wolves offense (already a top 10 offense) even more potent due to his excellence in running the pick and roll. As the primary ball handler, Teague called a pick and roll 41.2% of the time and scored an average of 0.98 points per possession.

In the clip below, Teague drives into the paint and has a good enough handle and poise to stay balanced with Darren Collison on his hip. DeMarcus Cousins knows Teague has the speed to blow past Collison so when Thaddeus Young sets the pick, Cousins goes to double Teague, who has the passing ability to throw a one handed no-look overhead pass to the open Young who finishes with authority.

In the second clip, Teague sells Raymond Felton with his jab step and causes him to gamble and then Teague uses the wonderful screen set by Paul Millsap to step into space and knock down the mid range Jump shot.

Teague’s best years were in Atlanta, where he had the honor of playing with Al Horford and Paul Millsap, who are excellent at setting picks. Teague’s new big man is Karl-Anthony Towns, who can do everything Horford does but at a higher level. Wolves fans should expect a heavy dosage of Teague-Towns pick and rolls and this should be a very successful play call next season. Indiana Pacers big man Myles turner ranked in the top 15 in screen assists with Teague, whereas no Minnesota player ranked in the top 20 with Rubio. Screen assists are when the player sets a screen for a teammate that directly scores. With Towns being such a transcendent player, the defense will likely focus on him in the pick and roll, which will leave Jeff Teague more room to operate.

How will Teague fit in Defensively?

Teague is a downgrade on defense compared to Ricky Rubio, who is an aggressive defender who ranked in the top 5 when it came to deflection; Rubio was smart enough to realize when to press defenders and when to put his hand in the correct passing lane to deflect the ball. Teague has the skills to be a good defender as he is lighting quick but rarely has an impact on the defensive end and ranked 40th among guards in deflections.

During his tenure in Indiana, Teague looked slow on the defensive end and struggled to keep up with his man regularly. This meant that the Pacers’ big men were pulled away from the paint and had to hold up the guard until Teague caught up. This is more favorable for the attacker as you are pulling away rim protectors and it leaves the big man on an island against quick attackers who are happy to take on slower big man. If the big man did not come to slow down the attacker, this leads to open threes which is not a good outcome for the defense. Teague’s defensive woes came to a nadir during the first round of the payoffs, where his lack of understanding and miscommunication led to Teague and Paul George switching on the pick and roll which left LeBron James to feast on the smaller and weaker Teague. Guess how that went. Sweep.

Teague has shown that he can defend as illustrated in Atlanta as he adhered to the strict defensive scheme orchestrated by Michael Budenholzer. His best defensive year was during the 2014-15 season in Atlanta where he forced opponents to connect on 38% of their shots, but last year in Indiana he was lost most of the time. Teague will be playing for a defensive minded coach in Tom Thibodeau who has the cachet to get Teague to expand maximum energy on the defensive end of the court. Alongside Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson, who are rugged defensive warriors who are not afraid to call out anyone, Teague will have all the incentive in the world to play defense.

Replacing Rubio with Teague is not a home run signing and that is not an issue as the Wolves acquiring Butler was their equivalent of a smash radio hit. Teague is elevator music; safe and secure but that is just what a Timberwolves team who has missed the playoffs for the last 13 years need. Teague won’t set the world on fire but he is a vital piece for the most exciting team to watch next season.

Mustafa Noor

Mustafa Noor

Writer at Runner sports
London based writer covering the Minnesota Timberwolves for the runner sports. Mustafa is well aware that the Timberwolves have not made the playoffs for 13 straight years
Mustafa Noor