When Marquis Teague went to the Chicago Bulls with the 29th pick of the 2012 draft, nobody could quite figure out what to make of it. Some people liked the pick, citing draft experts who pegged Teague as a likely lottery pick in 2013 had he stayed in school and Derrick Rose’s ACL tear, which left a hole at point guard. Others panned the pick, pointing out that Teague couldn’t shoot (true) and that there were more pressing needs elsewhere (also true).
I have a complex relationship with Marquis Teague. On one hand, I was extremely disappointed when the Bulls took Teague rather than Draymond Green (I go to Michigan State), and I still don’t totally know how Teague fits long-term. I’m not really that concerned about his shooting, but I’ll get to that in a minute. On the other hand, I’ve been defending him strenuously since November and think he’s going to be pretty good in a few years.
The criticisms of Teague essentially boil down to “he can’t shoot” and “he’s terrible, have you seen him?” I will freely admit that Teague had a horrible 2012-13, statistically. I will also freely admit that he cannot, at this point in his career, shoot worth a damn. But let’s stop and think about this for a second.
Teague is 20 years old and will not turn 21 until after the All-Star break next season. (He’s actually more than two months younger than I am, which is kind of terrifying to think about.) We have seen Teague play all of 464 minutes in the NBA (including playoffs), which is the equivalent of less than 10 full NBA games. That is a minuscule sample size. If you submitted a scholarly work on any set of statistics with that kind of sample size, you’d be laughed out of the room.
Here’s what we know about Marquis Teague so far. He’s lightning fast — he might honestly be faster than Rose in a flat-out sprint — he can pass the ball and he can run the pick and roll better than anybody else on the Bulls’ roster. There are two very specific things he’s good at: pushing the ball in transition and running the pick and roll. Guess which two things he did least often this past season. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
If you said running pick and roll and pushing in transition, you’re right! More than half of Teague’s minutes came with Marco Belinelli on the floor, and Belinelli would often end up ball-handling in the pick and roll while Teague stood in the corner. Think about that for a second. The Bulls brought in Belinelli for his shooting, but preferred having Teague spot up rather than do what he’s actually good at. It’s staggering.
Also, getting back to the issue of his shooting, just because Teague can’t shoot now does not mean he will never be able to shoot or that he can’t play in the NBA. The knock on Derrick Rose when he came into the league was the he couldn’t shoot. Same with Tony Parker. Also Rajon Rondo. Hell, Rondo still can’t shoot but that hasn’t stopped him from being productive.
This probably isn’t a great comparison, but does anyone remember what Jimmy Butler’s biggest issue was going into last season? He “couldn’t shoot.” Then he got better. It’s almost like if players work on getting better at something, they can get better at it! What a concept!
Anyway, most of you probably think I’m being waaaaaaaaay to generous with the C- I’m giving Teague. But I liked a lot of things I saw from him this year. He wasn’t consistent, but he showed some excellent flashes and as he gets more comfortable in the NBA, I think he’ll turn into a nice little player.
Final Grade: C-