In Michael Cunningham’s most recent blog, Larry Drew states that Jeff Teague has to win the starting point guard spot from Mike Bibby in training camp.
“He’s got to earn that,” L.D. said. “It’s not just going to be handed to him. If he proves it, he has an opportunity. I will come back with the starting lineup we’ve had in the past. Unless somebody clearly, clearly beats somebody out, [then] that’s something I would have to take a look at. But I am going with the normal guys [to start].”
Larry is taking the right approach with this. It makes little sense to just outright give the job to Jeff Teague at this point. You have to put that carrot out in front of him and make him earn the starting job. What this means is that Mike Bibby goes into camp as the starting point guard. This is something that could be both good and bad. It could be good because unlike last year, Jeff Teague will be given a legitimate opportunity to win the starting job. It could be bad because if Jeff doesn’t live up to expectations, then Mike Bibby will end up being the team’s main point guard this season.
Mike has his strengths, but his weaknesses at this point in his career outweigh his strengths. Mike is still a very good spot up jump shooter from the perimeter, and he’s still has a low turnover rate as a player. However, offensively, Mike Bibby cannot create his shot at the mid range level and cannot attack the basket off the dribble penetration drive. Mike is also a tremendous liability on the defensive end and hurts the Hawks in two ways. One, when Mike is on the court, the team typically asked Joe Johnson to guard the opposition’s point guard. Two, Mike really cannot guard any other position on the court either. He’s just a very bad defensive player that doesn’t make up for his lack of defense with steals and blocked shots.
The latter point in the paragraph above is what makes Jeff Teague one of the key players to the Atlanta Hawks for the up coming season. No matter what anyone in the media or on any other fan sites will tell you or try to convince you to believe, the Hawks biggest weakness last season was their perimeter defense. Overall, this team was a middling defenisve team that did not give great effort night in and night out on that end, but for the entire season, they were extremely weak at defending the perimeter. Mike Bibby was a major contributor to that lack of defense, while Jamal Crawford and Mo Evans contributed their fare share of poor defense as well. Unfortunately, this is something the Hawks front office has largely ignored this year. Because of this, there is a lot of pressure being put on Jeff Teague at this point. The fact is, the Hawks need him to play because his length, quickness, and athleticism gives him a lot of potential defensively. If the Hawks improve defensively on the perimeter, it will be because Jeff Teague is performing well. As I stated, they have done nothing else to help out this weakness.
Overall, I’m 50/50 on whether I think Jeff will turn out to be an above average starting point guard in the NBA. I do like his length, quickness, and athleticism. I like his ability to break down the defense and get to the rim whenever he wants to. He showed during summer league action that no one playing in that league could stay in front of him, and I really don’t see that changing against legitimate NBA competition. What makes me hesitate to say that he will be a strong starting point guard is his decision making at times. Unlike Mike Bibby, Jeff Teague is a turnover prone player. He was turnover prone in college, and that has continued during his NBA career. I’m not sure if I see that changing anytime soon, and because of that, it makes me wonder if his long term role will actually end up as being an offensive spark plug off the bench who can defend his position.