Larry over at HawksStr8Talk called me out for my absolute anti-stance over the notion of Jeff Teague starting. He demanded a response, and I aim to please. So here are my thoughts on why Mike Bibby should remain the starter. (This of course is a hypothetical argument because Mike Woodson would probably cut off both thumbs before taking Bibby out of the starting five for Teague.)
Mike Bibby sets up the offense
It may not be all clear and easy to see, but Bibby does make sure people are where they are suppose to be on the court. I know this because I watch Teague. Almost once a game, I have seen Horford or Crawford waive Teague in the direction he is suppose to be. He just does not have the offense down pat. In second or third quarter burns, those offensive sets might not be as important. That spacing not quite as relevant. To start the game though, Joe Johnson is going to curl off a screen, both bigs are going to get a few touches down low, and Bibby is going to hit a baseline jumper. Offensive sets are run. And we may not like those sets. We may find them unimaginative, but they are the sets, and Teague has shown little ability to get the Hawks into them.
The offense is not set up for a slashing and dishing point guard. It can work because that kind of offense always works, but to start out the game, Bibby is a better fit to run the actual offense. It is not ignoring the evil that it is Woody's offense, it is dealing with the reality of the situation. You can't just say "it shouldn't be that way" because it is that way. Next year, hopefully a different story.
Change of pace
Used well, Teague can come off the bench and provide a spark. He can push the pace. He can change the tempo. He can get open shots for guys that cannot create as easily as the starters. Mike Bibby can do none of those things. If Bibby is in with say Crawford, Mo, Josh Smith, and Zaza, one of the other four guys is going to have to create for Bibby to be useful on offense. I don't want Zaza or Joe Smith or Mo or really any bench guy but Crawford to go one on one to create their own shot or shots for others. Basically what is the better scenario, watching Mo Evans or Zaza dribble around trying to create separation or have them shoot open looks? With Bibby in, you are going to see Mo and Zaza creating on their own. With Teague in, you are going to see them catch and shoot.
Mike Bibby is in a shooting slump. It is not like he got old and stopped driving the ball. Well he did, but that was about four years ago. No, Bibby is just not hitting open jumpers as much as he has in the past. It may be partly age, but I think it is more a slump.
On the other side of things, Jeff Teague is a rookie. He has proved nothing. Most of that is Woody's fault, but putting him into the starting lineup at this point is a pretty big unknown. And that is just on the basketball court. Off the court, benching one of your veteran's can have real effects on the team's chemistry on and off the court. Without any real sense of what would happen at all, I would much rather Teague get minutes with the first team in other parts of the game first. So far this season, he has had next to zero.
Finally, in the last five loses, the Hawks have only trailed twice after the first quarter and once by any kind of large figure (10 points against Dallas). Rarely has the first period been an issue. It has been the fourth quarter. Or the third quarter. Or the second quarter.
If you asked 100 people what was a weakness for the Hawks, I think most of those 100 would say Mike Bibby in their top five answers. Yet if you asked the same 100 people how to make the Hawks better, I don't think start Jeff Teague starting would be in their top five answers. The two questions don't dictate correlating answers because Stephen Curry is not sitting on the bench, an unknown is. And for the Hawks, it is known solutions that need to be implemented. More shots for the front court, greater emphasis on rebounding, better ball movement, and more decisive moves into and during isolations.
Jeff Teague might make the Hawks better as a starter, but I can honestly say I have no idea. No one does. Why clamor for a change that is neither proven nor statistically backed up? The perspective is to ignore Jeff Teague's faults as rookie issues and lament over Mike Bibby's faults as unalterable truths. But the fact is, Jeff Teague is not that good yet. He is just not. And one of the reasons the Hawks offense remains in the top ten in efficiency is turnovers. Teague will not help keep Atlanta there. The risk/reward is far too great a gap because, in a best case scenario, Jeff Teague as a rookie is not going to win you multiple more games than Mike Bibby (if we had started Teague would we really be on pace for 60 wins?). Drastic changes to continuity though can lose you multiple games.
The Hawks are a very good team, and at this point in the season, offensive or defensive philosophies are not going to be altered, but subtle changes can occur, should occur. I would love to see Jeff Teague in new and different ways, but putting him into the starting lineup does not stop avoid iso Joe or Jamal, it encourages it. It does not help the Hawks jump shooting, it hurts it.
Next year, with a full summer working with the first team, a year of NBA ball under his belt, and Mike Bibby switching roles and not getting demoted roles, I say yes, give me Teague in the starting lineup. But right now, switching point guard starters is fixing a flat tire while your car is on fire and you have a fire extinguisher in your hand. And all you have is doughnut spare anyway.