The debate got me to thinking. I went in search of a late first round point guard that got significant playing time as a rookie for a contending team.
I’m sure there are others but I went back to the 2008 draft and looked at the Spurs selection of guard George Hill out of IUPUI. Hill came into the draft with little fan fare and was a junior rather than a freshman like Teague. He did have the benefit of playing a Summer League season for the Spurs which Jeff Teague did not. Hill was selected with the 26th pick by the Spurs. Teague was selected with the 19th pick.
The Spurs during the 2008-09 season were coming off a loss in the Western Conference Finals and upon the start of the season they basically handed the back up point guard job to Hill. Hill played in 77 games his rookie season. During that time he averaged 16.5 minutes per game. In my opinion on a team like the Spurs who consider themselves a championship contender every season that is a big responsibility for a rookie point guard. Yet Spurs coach Gregg Popovich thrust Hill right into the mix. To Hill’s credit he played well once he was given the opportunity. Had he not then I am sure he wouldn’t have played in 77 games. Still you see a different philosophy at work here.
To date Jeff Teague has played in 52 games and is averaging 9.4 minutes per game. Much of that time is coming in the second quarter and many times Teague is not heard from again. As has been said before Teague is relegated to running with the reserves and often times plays off the ball due to it being in the hands of Jamal Crawford. Let me also point out that there may be more point guard options on the Hawks than there was for the Spurs. The Hawks have Mike Bibby but also have Jamal Crawford and Joe Johnson that are more than capable of bringing the ball up and initiating the offense. The Spurs had Parker and really only Manu Ginobli that were really capable of getting the Spurs started. Ginobli like Crawford was needed to score so facilitating the offense was not his first priority.
The point I really want to make here is the Spurs are probably one of the best teams in the NBA at drafting. Season after season they pick late in the first round, and they do it well. They are constantly coming up with players that fit in with them and contribute. Those players usually find themselves thrust into the rotation and the Spurs still compete at a high level in the Western Conference. One thing I have noticed about the Spurs is if they draft you then you very seldom will be relegated to the bench for a couple of seasons to prepare. They don’t select players that they don’t believe can be an integral part of their team. So if a little know guard out of IUPUI can get picked 26th in the draft and be given playing time for a team that played in the Western Conference Finals then why can’t Jeff Teague who was drafted 19th out of a basketball conference like the ACC get on the floor for the Hawks?
The answer lies in the difference of the two coaches. I don’t know that Gregg Popovich is any better than Mike Woodson at preparing players but I have my suspicions. I do know that Popovich has no problem with throwing a young player into the fire and expecting him to perform. Woodson doesn’t trust young players. He thinks they need to wait their turn when they play for a good team. The Hawks would be better served going into the off season if they knew more about what Teague could do on the floor. However, it seems that those questions will remain unanswered going into next season.