Jeff Teague has been absolutely electric through the first 14 games of the season for the Atlanta Hawks. Teague and big man counterpart Al Horford (among others) have teamed up to lead the team to the 3rd-best record in the Eastern Conference at 8-6, and frankly, there is absolutely no doubt that he is worthy of an All-Star selection for the East if the voting took place today. However, there is a bigger question on the minds of some Hawks fans.
Should Teague be starting in the All-Star Game?
Initially, my answer was no, even with the knowledge of just how effective he has been this season. With a bit more focus, though, there is a real argument for him over some of the “established” leaders in the backcourt for the East.
Off the top, there are several year-after-year candidates for the starting spots that can be quickly eliminated. Chicago’s Derrick Rose just went down with a knee injury and was struggling a bit even before that, which adds to Deron Williams (injury) and Rajon Rondo (injury) on the list of big-time names who are virtually off the list.
After those eliminations, we find a selection of guards in the East with the statistical qualifications and/or high-level play required to be (at minimum) considered for All-Star Selection, and they are as follows.
- Point Guard (alphabetical) -Kyrie Irving, Brandon Jennings, Jeff Teague, John Wall, Kemba Walker
- Shooting Guard (alphabetical) – Arron Afflalo, Bradley Beal, DeMar DeRozan, Joe Johnson, Dwyane Wade
Jeff Teague’s statistical resume stands on its own, and that is never more evident than with where he stacks up against his direct “competition” in the Eastern Conference. For the season, Teague’s PER of 19.70 ranks 2nd among Eastern point guards (behind only John Wall) and 4th among qualified guards overall, while his EWA (estimated wins added) of 2.0 ranks 3rd among Eastern guards.
If you aren’t convinced by the more “advanced” basketball metrics, it’s easy to simplify Teague’s production level into the more basic stats. The 25-year-old point guard ranks 6th among guards in scoring (18.0 points per game), and he trails John Wall by only 0.1 assists per game for the conference lead at 8.8 assists per game.
Teague’s statistical profile soars when compared to the great deal of Eastern Conference guards, and frankly, there are only four guards in the conference who even compare with him statistically in the form of John Wall, Kyrie Irving, Arron Afflalo and Dwyane Wade.
For me, we can immediately cross off Afflalo, as his 62% true shooting percentage exceeds his career baseline in such a way that it screams “unsustainable”, and with him captaining a subpar (at best) Orlando team, that hurts his candidacy significantly. That brings us to a 4-man race between Teague, Wall, Irving, and Wade, and right now, I don’t know if Teague doesn’t win an argument over all of those players.
Against Wall (who is the only player with better numbers across-the-board), there is the pure argument of team success, as the Hawks have a 2.5-game lead on the Wizards this season. In addition, Teague’s team features a much more balanced attack that the Wall-centric Wizards, and that would explain the (slight) difference in productin.
Teague versus Wade is an interesting battle, but Teague gets the nod for me through this admittedly small sample size. Wade has missed 3 of the 13 games that Miami has played this season, and he simply can’t provide the overall “value” when compared to Teague, who hasn’t missed a game this season. I think it’s fairly clear that Wade is the better basketball player when he’s 100% healthy, but those days are few and far between, and it’s a good bet to predict that Wade will miss 10+ games prior to the All-Star break, simply due to maintenance.
Lastly, the Kyrie Irving experience checks in as the final road block, but to be honest, Teague is having the better season. Irving leads Teague in only one category (points per game), and while that is the most mainstream of all statistics, Teague’s overall performance has dwarfed that of the slumping (relatively, at least) Irving this season. Add to that the fact that Irving is currently presiding over a 4-10 Cavs team that seems to be falling apart at the seams and there’s a real argument for Teague.
Jeff Teague may not be the mainstream name that jumps off the page as a player to vote for as an NBA All-Star starter, but his play through 13 games has certainly been fitting of that honor. It’s a big leap to assume this level or production (or better) over an 82-game sample (as Bo Churney of HawksHoop did here), but if Teague can prove that he is this player under the tutelage of Mike Budenholzer, he will permanently join the All-Star debate for more than just a reserve position.