Photo Credit: Don Shell via Flickr.
It’s Sophomore Week! Remember Jeff Teague’s brother?
Marquis Teague doesn’t make our collective eyes pop. He’s deceptively quick but recognizably human; his dazzling moves to the rim leave defenders baffled in the dust yet just a few beats later an off-target rim-rattler forces Teague back to earth. At 19 last season, he was too small, disorderly, inexperienced or most often a combination of the three to finish at the rim— or really, anywhere at all. Here’s his relatively untouched shot chart from last season:
Of course, the caveat of having taken just 113 shots in his short career applies, but anyone watching early on could see that tiny figure didn’t exist without its reasons. For whatever reason, be it a disastrous Summer League showing or dropping from the top-ranked point guard in his high school crop to the 25th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, Teague lacked a certain confidence when it came to letting it fly.
That uncertainty, luckily, didn’t infiltrate his passing game. Teague was the only active point guard on last year’s roster that could effectively, if not impressively, conduct Chicago’s pick-and-roll attack. To that end, Teague stood in stark contrast to Nate Robinson and Kirk Hinrich, easily making him my favourite of the bunch.
Teague’s passing prowess doesn’t end there; his extraordinary array of no-lookers and wraparound passes make even the staunchest non-believers swoon. Problem is, these moments of brilliance are few and far between. Sometimes it feels like Teague straddles the line between awe-inspiring and sigh-inducing with such cognitive disregard that you’d think the two were scarcely different. Unfortunately for an inconsistent rookie, that’s often the case.
His unbelievable speed makes Teague’s potential seems boundless but a few select fractures predict a lower ceiling for him than Bulls fans like myself would hope: Namely, his putrid jumper (go ahead, scroll up and look at that shot chart again) and a tendency toward unnecessary, sometimes out-of-control turnovers. He led (trailed?) every Bull in turnover rate as 16 percent of his possessions ended up as turnovers. Still, he’s just 20 and a much-improved summer league showing, all caveats considered, suggests a matured Teague with an improved— if only nominally— shot.
Teague was drafted, first and foremost, under the expectation that he’d be a long-term project. So the presumption that he’d be able to do nothing in his rookie season combined with the fact he occasionally did something gave birth to a small cult of possibly misguided optimists, including myself. Yet Teague is still developing and progress, while invigorating, is frequently slow and uneven. His potential lies in a gray area and as such, our impression of him is inescapably murky. Both fans and detractors can agree on this: we have yet to see enough of the Kentucky product. Lucky for us (and Teague!), Nate Robinson is now in Denver and Kirk Hinrich is an elongated belch away from shattering. Expect a slight uptick in playing time for Teague this year.
The subtle intricacy and skill in Teague’s successful plays was on display last year, even if it was only apparent for a fraction of a second. In an respectful nod to progress and cautious optimism, let’s see if Teague can notch it up to a fraction of a minute this time around.