Win or lose in this series, one theme has stood above the others in this second round bout: Jeff Teague is a player.
Over at ESPN.com, Hoopinion's Bret LaGree (among others), take on a real good 5 question survey on this series and among the questions, is the query of biggest revelation for the Hawks in this series, a question which really only provides the avenue to say, "Wow! Jeff Teague! Who knew?"
Michael Wallace, ESPN.com: E. My discovery is that Jeff Teague could be this good and Jamal Crawford could be this bad. Regardless of how this ends, it appears Atlanta has found its point guard for the long haul. Teague has averaged 17 points, 4.4 assists and just one turnover against MVP Derrick Rose. Meanwhile, the streaky Crawford has shot 35.8 percent overall and missed 16-of-20 from 3-point range.
Jared Wade, 8 Points, 9 Seconds: B. Jeff Teague can ball. Who knew? I thought the outcry against Mike Bibby still running an NBA offense in 2011 was due to the fact that he is Mike Bibby. Turns out that he was actually suppressing a backup with real talent. This sounds crazy, but between Joe Johnson and Teague, the Hawks actually might have the backcourt advantage against Chicago.
Braedan Ritter, Bulls By The Horns: B. Jeff Teague can ball. Teague was supposed to be a doormat for Derrick Rose, but he has played great. He has defended Rose about as well as anyone can, arguably better than injured Hawks guard Kirk Hinrich would have, and is averaging 15 points per game. There have been times when the Hawks have gotten away from running the offense through Teague, but really they shouldn't have.
Bret LaGree, Hoopinion: B. Jeff Teague can ball. And, given the point guard play the Hawks got prior to the Bibby/Hinrich trade, said ability to ball could have come in handy for the Hawks much earlier this season. Not just on the court, but in terms of the future value of hanging on to Jordan Crawford and their 2011 first-round pick.
John Krolik, Cavs: The Blog: B. Jeff Teague can ball, without a doubt. He averaged five points on 44 percent shooting in the regular season, and now he is looking like an athletic dynamo and giving Derrick Rose all he can handle on the offensive end. Absolutely shocking.
Over the the AJC, the Real MC also provides a lengthy feature on the same topic, the suddenly stellar Teague:
Since back in December I believed Teague deserved to play more because of his improved production, the team's need for his skills, Bibby's decline and future considerations.
But I'm not going to front and act like I saw this coming.
Teague had some good moments during the season but he's having his best moments on the biggest stage under challenging circumstances. He's making the MVP work to get his, which might be expected given his quickness and defensive potential.
But Teague also has been Atlanta's most consistent offensive player, sometimes showing more poise and better sitational decision-making that his veteran teammates. I mean, he's got five turnovers in 206 minutes, for crying out loud.
Also embedded in Michael's piece is the casual reference from Joe Johnson as to this being Teague's team next year, despite the presence of assumed defensive stalwart/starter Kirk Hinrich (aka "the guy the Hawks traded two first round picks for).
"He's been great," J.J. said. "As long as he continues to work and get better over the summer, sky's the limit. This will definitely be his team to run."
But that implies that Teague will play as sensational day to day as he has in the series, something that even if its not Teague's fault is still an unknown at this point, and that Larry Drew, assuming he'll be back for his second season as Hawks' coach, will allow himself to trust a still young guard (in his mind) over the "proven veteran".
These are serious concerns if you wish to see Teague continue to flourish. How long does Teague have, if he even as the starter, before Drew loses faith? How many mistakes will he be allowed to make? After all, even in a series where he has 5 measly turnovers in 206 minutes, there have been a couple of instances where Drew has yanked him from games after a single egregious error and "coached" him obvious enough for viewers to notice.
How easy it would be to simply insert Hinrich and allow Teague to sit and continue to "learn". Remember also, that Drew didn't even let Teague get steady playing time throughout the season instead leaning on shottaker/shotmaker Jamal Crawford to play out of position at the point.
Should the Hawks advance past the Bulls, and if Kirk Hinrich would return, this question will be asked even earlier. If you believe that Drew would suddenly trust Teague, a guy he has removed from games to coach despite playing lights out in the series, over Hinrich, then you are a master of the power of positive thinking. I prefer the power of looking at the track record, which would have Kirk ahead of Teague and Jeff in a place where Drew clearly feels more comfortable.
"It gives me options," he said. "If it's perceived as now I've got a problem [because] I've got a young point guard played his tail off and now I've got Kirk coming back if we go to the next round, then I would like to have that problem. That's a very nice problem to have."
Young point guard. Therein lies the problem. That Drew qualifies Teague, out of context even (MC didn't ask about young vs vet), tells you where his mind is at. With Hinrich under contract for another year, and LD's seat under constant heat given his lack of long term security, that quick look into his mind tells me all I need to know. Hinrich is the solid vet, and Teague the unpredictable, needs my coaching, young point guard. The minutes played that out this season and gives me no pause to assume it would change in the next season.
Jeff Teague may be both the playoff sensation and the real deal, but unless LD let's go and lets Teague play in a regular role, even with the presence of Hinrich, this fantastic run in this series will be reduced to a footnote and not the revelation it might have been.
NBA.com Video: Jeff Teague goes coast to coast through Bulls' defense