New Era. New Look. A fitting slogan for both the Minnesota Timberwolves and their point guard Jeff Teague.
Met with mixed emotions, the Minnesota Timberwolves opted to swap out fan favorite Ricky Rubio and bring in veteran Jeff Teague this summer to assume point guard duties. Teague, a former All-Star for the Atlanta Hawks, has certainly played a part in getting the Timberwolves off to a sizzling 7-3 start.
As a table setter to the article, let’s just first establish we are 10 games into the NBA season; too early to draw any resounding conclusions, but some observations can still be made.
Teague’s performance thus far into the season has been, well, modestly positive. He’s averaging 13.4 PPG and 8.4 APG while shooting 42 percent from the field. He has had moments like in the the Oct. 30 matchup against the Miami Heat logging 23 points and 11 assists and making clutch baskets down the stretch. He also had a standout performance on Nov. 5 making four of five 3-pointers, totaling 18 points and 12 assists.
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Teague, like much of his career in Atlanta and Indiana, is the primary offensive facilitator for the team. However, he is presented with a slightly different scenario in Minnesota where Jimmy Butler is assuming a handful of playmaking responsibilities as well. Never before has Teague had a playmaking superstar accompany him in the backcourt and assist in orchestrating an offense.
Butler has been fantastic with the ball in his hand thus far. He has shot 60 percent from the floor in isolation and is second on the team in points created off assists behind Teague. Again, small sample size.
With Butler assuming some playmaking responsibilities thus far, Teague is finding himself off-ball more than any time in his career and looks as if he has yet to adjust to the change.
Teague seems unengaged off-ball, not knowing how to impact the game without the ball in his hands yet. In his defense, he has never really had to learn. Throughout his career, he has never had to play alongside a playmaking star like Butler.
Some of the concerning statistics about Teague’s off-ball play can be seen below.
84.8 percent of Teague’s made baskets are unassisted
Teague is shooting 36.4 percent in catch and shoot situations, averaging only 1.1 attempted per game
12.1 percent of Teague’s shot attempts are in spot-up situations, averaging less than 2 attempts per game
Teague has not recorded a field goal attempt when making an off-ball cut
Teague has yet to make a basket coming off an off-ball screen
You get the picture. Teague will have to make a conscious effort to be active off-ball for him to be a consistent difference maker for the Wolves. Unfortunately, he seems to be trending in the wrong direction in this regard looking back at previous years. Below is a table that shows the percentage of Teague’s made shots that were unassisted.
So, what is the problem with Teague not scoring baskets off assists? If defenses know Teague isn’t a threat when he doesn’t have the ball, they are more likely to help on the ball handler. In turn, making it more difficult to get a high-quality shot for the Wolves.
Some of the film below shows opportunities Teague could take to get himself some easier looks off-ball.
On this play, Andrew Wiggins is bringing the ball up the floor and uses an in-and-out move off of a Taj Gibson screen to hit a pull up jumper. Teague is on the opposite wing being checked by Charlotte Hornet’s point guard Kemba Walker. Once Wiggins begins his move, he draws the attention of Walker who is playing help defense inside the paint. Teague stands still on the wing while Wiggins goes to work. This was a good opportunity for Teague to cut to the corner three spot. This would make Walker make a decision on whether to help on Wiggins or stay home on Teague.
The above video is a designed isolation play for Butler. Once Butler catches the ball, Karl Anthony-Towns clears out from the top of the key. This is an ideal scenario where Teague could use Towns’ body as a ‘pseudo-screen’, coming off ready to knock down a three. Instead, he jogs to the top of the key once Butler knocks top the mid-range jumper.
Both videos highlight Teague is being a bit passive and not putting himself in a position to score without the ball.
Hopefully, Teague improves upon this throughout the season and works without the ball more to find open spots on the perimeter. Considering Teague is shooting an impressive 42.4 percent from beyond the arc, he would certainly make defenders think twice before leaving him open in help scenarios.
Statistics are courtesy of stats.nba.com
Videos are credited to 3ball.io