Jeff Teague had his coming out party with the Atlanta Hawks during the second round of the playoffs. With regular starting point guard Kirk Hinrich unavailable with a hamstring injury, Teague was thrust into the starting lineup and more than capitalized on the opportunity. Teague's play in that series very nearly provided a silver lining for Hawks fans who otherwise would have been bummed about yet another second round loss. His play left myself wondering if I could actually believe what I was seeing therefore I instituted a cooling off period of sorts and purposely put his review off until near the end.
After revisiting the Bulls series for a second time I don't feel much different than I did as the series was coming to an end. Teague played at a high enough level to be certain that he can be a starting caliber point guard in this league. In fact his head to head match up with Derek Rose has myself questioning whether or not he can compete at an even higher level. While watching that series live and after re-watching it again later I keep coming back to the conclusion that Teague was the best player on the floor for the Hawks and I don't even think it was that close.
That is quite a jump for a player that averaged just 13.8 minutes and 5.2 points per game during the regular season. Why Teague was saddled as the third point guard behind Hinrich and Jamal Crawford is only truly known by Larry Drew and his coaching staff. His elevated play in the playoffs does nothing but raise the question even more.
How good was Teague in the playoffs? After playing only garbage time minutes against Orlando, Teague was on the floor for more than 39 minutes in five of the six games against the Bulls. The only exception being the final game of the series where he suffered a wrist injury that limited him to just 22 minutes. In those games he scored in double figures five times while topping 20 points three times. All the while shooting 51 percent from the floor in the playoffs. Keep in mind that most of those minutes came with him being matched up against the league's MVP Derrick Rose. This wasn't a case of a player with fresh legs feasting on some aging vet point guard. Teague went straight up with the best in the league and held his own.
If anything the performance gave me a renowned hope for the coming season should it actually happen. My personal preferred situation would have Teague filling the starting point guard role with Kirk Hinrich assuming the sixth man position as an able bodied back up at either guard position. Larry Drew could also elect to go with both Teague and Hinrich in the back court for stretches during a game which in theory would significantly improve the Hawks perimeter defense. Those scenarios are all predicated on Jamal Crawford not returning to Atlanta.
No matter who is on the opening day roster for the Hawks, Jeff Teague has earned his shot. For two seasons now he has sat on the sidelines for two different coaches and many times it wasn't clear as to why. Credit him for being a professional and not complaining or asking for a more defined role. When the team needed him the most he stepped up and played better than anyone could have reasonably imagined. Atlanta simply can't keep Jeff Teague on the sidelines any longer.