The AJC's Michael Cunningham approached the subject yesterday and it got me thinking. There has been countless times this season where I thought that finally it was Teague's time. That this was the opportunity where he was going to become a valuable part of the Hawks rotation. Now my intent isn't to open up the debate once again. The intent is simply stated that if the Hawks are going to have a shot at knocking off the No. 1 seeded Chicago Bulls who just happen to have the likely league MVP in point guard Derrick Rose without a healthy Kirk Hinrich, then Jeff Teague is going to have to play a big part in that.
There was a four game stretch immediately following the Kirk Hinrich trade where we saw a different Jeff Teague. He was a difference maker in those games and that is what Atlanta will need from him this time for a series. Lets look at the other options. Larry Drew has employed a three guard rotation for nearly the entire playoffs. With Hinrich out, there is no doubt that Teague will now join that. In some instances, Atlanta has used Marvin Williams at the shooting guard spot but that doesn't seem to be an option here given that the speedy Rose is going to be a difficult match up. Defending Rose likely comes down to two players. Jeff Teague and Joe Johnson although I am sure that Jamal Crawford will draw the assignment at times out of necessity.
Atlanta can ill afford to ask Joe Johnson to chase Rose around for 40 minutes and expect to be successful and get anything reliable from Johnson offensively. My best guess is Teague likely starts and as difficult as it sounds, has to show that he belongs. How much he plays will likely depend on several factors including how well Jamal Crawford is playing once he comes into the lineup.
Even with the changes that Larry Drew has made offensively and defensively this season, Atlanta is a known commodity. The one x-factor they have is Jeff Teague as they have never been in position to just throw him into the mix good or bad and see what happens. Doing so in a playoff series against the No. 1 seed is no doubt an inopportune time for it but if you are already supposed to lose then there shouldn't be any pressure. Pull out all the stops. Best case scenario is Teague sparks the team the way he did in that four game stretch earlier this season. Worst case is Teague starts plays limited minutes and then sits while Rose carves up everyone from Joe Johnson to Damien Wilkins.
It is foolish to think that anyone on the Hawks team is capable of stopping Rose. No one has been able to this season and in my mind he is a deserving MVP candidate. During Chicago's first round series win against Indiana featured a lot of Rose and not a lot of anything else from the Chicago offense. Rose didn't shoot the ball well in that series and if Atlanta (Teague?) can somehow limit him to shooting jump shots and keep him out of the paint then who knows what happens.