My name is Ryan Donoho and I am the new co-editor here at Soaring Down South and the new Lead NBA Writer/Editor for Fansided.com. I’ve been all across the web, including stops at an ESPN affiliate and I am excited to join the team here and bring the best Hawks coverage to you. Follow me on twitter @Donoho_NBA, leave me comments, and let’s talk some NBA. I will be in Philips Arena throughout the season, bringing you all the latest from your team and more.
What a summer it’s been for the Atlanta Hawks. It was widely assumed that Hawks were due for a major face lift, and the days of NTTH (Never Trust The Hawks) were coming to an end. There were a plethora of items on GM Danny Ferry’s to-do list, including hiring a new head coach after letting Larry Drew’s contract expire. Ferry was also faced with the expiring contracts of Josh Smith, Jeff Teague, and Kyle Korver. Ferry found his man, and he knocked it out of the park. Mike Budenholzer, 17 year assistant with the Spurs, was hired on May 28th to usher Atlanta into a new era.
Free agency has come and gone, and by now we have all seen, heard, and read about the job Ferry has done (an excellent one). The last major piece to solidify ended up being the point guard position. Jeff Teague turned down the qualifying offer, and became a restricted free agent. Things then turned into Days of Our Lives.
Teague reportedly was frustrated by the lack of offers from the Hawks, giving the appearance that he has no idea how restricted free agency works. Reports indicated that Jeff had been insulted by the fact that Ferry and the Hawks wanted the market to determine his worth, instead of them coming out firing with a contract. During this soap opera, rumors were rampant about a possible sign and trade for Brandon Jennings, and even the possibility of signing Monta Ellis. Throw in the Mo Williams talk, and you have yourself a mini saga. Ultimately the Hawks made the smart move, and on July 13th, the Hawks matched the 4-year, $32 million deal offered by Milwaukee.
Jeff Teague is an above average, improving point guard. He has seen a rise in all the major statistical categories since entering the league, and even posted 14.6 points and 7.2 assists per game last season. There were times where he struggled with consistency, but overall, it was a strong year for Teague. Now, take yourself back to the draft, and you’ll find the Hawks drafting 19 year old point guard out of Germany, Dennis Schröder. Schröder has received comparisons to the likes of Rajon Rondo, and has a really high ceiling. He’s quick, and has the vision of a player far beyond his age. He showed off his defensive abilities, as well as his speed in the Las Vegas Summer League. Dennis the Menace has created quite a buzz for the Hawks, including NBC Sports claiming Schröder to be the steal of the draft. So what does all this mean? Cynics would have you believe that Ferry and Budenholzer will be testing to see if Teague can prove himself, and if he fails to do so, Schröder is the point guard of the future. Lets all slow down with that talk, but just like all fanfare, there is some basis in truth to that statement. Schröder has a lot to improve on, and he hasn’t stepped foot on an NBA court just yet. He lacks in a steady jumpshot, and his small frame could cause some issues against stronger Eastern Conference point guards like Deron Williams.
This will be the most important year of Jeff Teague’s career, and he will need to be ready to prove that he can take the next step. The Hawks have been a perennial 5th seed contender for quite some time now, and they are eager to get out of the middle of the playoff pack. Under Mike Budenholzer’s system, the train is run by the point guard. When you watch Tony Parker in San Antonio, you can see his importance on a nightly basis, and he really is the key to the Spurs’ success. Parker led his team with a 28% usage rate last season, compared to Teague’s 22.9%. That essentially means we could see a heavier workload for Jeff this season. The other thing that Teague must improve on is his mid-range game. Tony Parker shot 47% overall from mid-range last season, and his 345 mid-range attempts trailed only the restricted area in his shot attempts last season. This system is extreme pick-and-roll heavy, and when Tim Duncan was on the court last season, Parker’s mid-range shot raised to 49%. Using Duncan as the primary screener really opened up that shot, and Parker was deadly. With Duncan off the floor, Parker only shot 41% from mid-range, by comparison. This shot will open up, as the likely frontcourt starters consisting of Paul Millsap and Al Horford will be effective in the pick-and-roll. Both can play the pick-and-pop game, and the Hawks may be even harder to guard on the offensive end. As you can see, Teague could be seeing a lot more of these shots this season:
Teague wasn’t outstanding from mid-range last season, shooting 38.7%, but he took more above the break 3 pointers than he did mid-range shots. It is important to note that Budenholzer may not be running exactly what the Spurs did, but going off Teague’s comments to Robby Kalland for Peachtree Hoops, it will be very similar. For Teague, this year means everything. Not only will it be important to start this contract off with a bang, but saying goodbye to Josh Smith means that Teague will have not only a bigger role on the court, but in the locker room too. Ferry did a great job in signing nice talent while being able to hold on to financial flexibility, and Teague needs to show he’s truly part of the Hawks’ new regime. Schröder could also have a nice rookie season, as his explosiveness coming off screens could cause issues to other teams’ defenses, but the starting point guard position is Teague’s to lose. Having coach Bud run the show should theoretically mean a rise in Jeff’s game. With all the new pieces and atmosphere surrounding the Hawks, Teague’s improvement could mean a lot for the team going forward, as they will need a all-star caliber point guard to run this system. It will be all on his shoulders, and for Jeff Teague, the time is now.