Minnesota Timberwolves: Jeff Teague has succeeded off the bench

Jeff Teague, Minnesota Timberwolves (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
Jeff Teague, Minnesota Timberwolves (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /

Jeff Teague began the season as the starting point guard for the Minnesota Timberwolves, but he’s recently been finding success coming off the bench.

The Minnesota Timberwolves moved on from longtime point guard Ricky Rubio during the 2017 offseason. Tom Thibodeau and crew brought in Jeff Teague to replace Rubio with the thought that he’d be a better fit in the offense by helping space the floor and operating in the pick-and-roll.

The experiment hasn’t worked out like many had hoped as he’s struggled to find his role and rhythm, and he’s dealt with some injuries as he’s aged. Teague yet to play a full 82 games in a Timberwolves uniform with his highest total being 70 games during his first season with the team.

During his 2018-19 campaign he only suited up for about half the season, but this year he’s remained fairly healthy playing in 27 of the team’s 31 games.

The former Hawk and Pacer began the season as the Timberwolves’ starting point guard, but he has now taken a backseat as the team’s sixth man. The idea was to allow for Andrew Wiggins to flourish as the main ball-handler and scorer alongside Karl-Anthony Towns while Teague comes in to  run the offense on the second unit.

Wiggins has clearly benefitted from this new role, and Teague has been much more productive coming off the bench.

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Teague has played 13 games as a starter and 14 off the bench. Here’s a look at his stats in each of those roles:

  • Starter: 30.5 minutes per game, 13.6 points, 8.0 assists, 2.8 rebounds, 0.8 steals, 43.8 FG%, 36.4 3PT%, 82.3 FT%
  • Bench: 28.3 MPG, 14.8 PPG, 4.9 APG, 2.8 RPG, 0.7 SPG, 46.4 FG%, 39.0 3P%, 89.7 FT%

The biggest change in his numbers has been his assist totals, dropping by a near three assists per game. One reason for that dip in dimes is that he now shares the floor with much less talented offensive players after he would normally start alongside Towns and Wiggins.

He still shares the floor with them at times, but the assist totals dropping isn’t super discouraging considering how poorly Minnesota has shot the ball.

What is encouraging to see is his efficiency shooting the ball. Teague is taking the same amount of field goal attempts off the bench as he did in his starting role (10.0), but his field goal and three-point percentage have jumped by nearly three percent each.

In the month of December, Teague has shot 48.9 percent from the field and 50.0 from three-point range. For as well as he has shot the ball since this move to the bench, it’s odd to see him continue to hesitate to take wide open shots.

Allowing Teague to come off the bench has not only created more efficient offense, but that lineup change has helped Wiggins become the primary ball handler. The former Wake Forest guard has been the team’s third best player and has raised his trade value a bit ahead of the February trade deadline.

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Minnesota is struggling to close out the calendar year winning just one of their last 13 games, but the Wolves should continue to bring Teague off the bench because of the positive impact it’s had on both him and Wiggins.