When Marquis Teague was drafted 29th overall by the Chicago Bulls in the 2012 NBA draft — right about two months after Derrick Rose tore his ACL — the move was generally met with head-scratching. Why would the Bulls take a point guard when they already have Derrick Rose? After all, Rose would be back sooner or later, so why draft a guy who figured to spend a good chunk of his career as a backup?
Fast forward to about a year and a half later, and things have become a little clearer. Even after a shaky rookie season — exacerbated by a lack of playing time and not playing to his strengths — there’s plenty of reason to think the Bulls have found another steal a la Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler.
In fact, don’t be surprised if his 2013-14 mirrors Jimmy’s 2012-13. But more on that in a minute.
Teague hasn’t really been around long enough/played the minutes to have extensive game film available. But this video, of his 25-point performance at this year’s Las Vegas Summer League is a nice snapshot of some of the things he does well. Yes, I know it’s just summer league, but I’m not totally sure that matters in terms of seeing some of the skills he’s picked up.
Teague is one of the absolute fastest players in the NBA. Honestly, he might be as fast or faster than Derrick Rose in a straight sprint. I know that’s borderline heresy, but I don’t know what to tell you. It’s this speed that allows Teague to knife into the lane repeatedly even while defenders are playing six feet off of him. Watch him explode to the rim for an and-one at the 1:50 mark in the above clip. He goes away from the pick and then leaves CJ McCollum behind, forcing him to foul.
But one of the things that jumps out from that clip is Teague’s use of hesitation and changing speeds to keep defenders off balance. That’s one of the things Chris Paul has become known for, and it’s one of the reasons he’s the best point guard in the NBA. Look at the very first play in that video, where Teague comes around a screen, stops, crosses over and waits just half a second to get McCollum back on his heels before going past him to the rim. Similarly, check out the play at the 0:45 mark, where Teague stays under control and keeps Thomas Robinson, defending the roll man, from committing to guarding either player. He does it again in the very next play, creating a driving lane by hesitating at the elbow and waiting for the help defender to jump out of the way.
Teague also has great vision and plays unselfishly. He loves throwing wraparound passes like the one at the 22-second mark. At the 9-second mark, he gets into the lane and rather than force the issue, he stops and finds his big man, who gets fouled. He runs a pick and roll like a maestro, even at his experience level and without any threat of a jumpshot.
The jumper is the biggest thing, although it seems like he’s improved there over the summer. He hits three threes in the video, and doesn’t hesitate at all before shooting. His form looks good. He still needs to prove he can do it on a consistent basis, but it’s far from hopeless. He shot 33 percent on long twos last season (9/27) which isn’t good, but it’s not quite horrific. Of course, the 14.3 percent he shot on threes (4/28) is pretty awful, so who knows?
Teague wasn’t exactly hesitant to attack the rim last season, but he’s not very good at finishing there just yet. He’s a fairly small person, so that’s somewhat understandable, but he needs to do better than 47 percent at the rim (24/51). Again, in the above clip, he does pull off some decent finishes, but as before, we’ll need to see it consistently.
His defense also needs work, as is true of most rookie point guards. He’s got the tools to be at least above average on that end, if he puts in the time on it, so we’ll just have to see.
So why do I think he’ll break out this year? There are a few reasons, most of which I’ve already mentioned. The main thing is that he should get more consistent minutes this year and will — hopefully — be put in a better position to succeed. Teague definitely needs the ball in his hands to be effective, and he spent far too much time spotting up in the corner while Marco Belinelli ran a pick and roll. Give Teague the ball and give him some freedom, and he’ll do much better.
Additionally, his jumper does seem to have progressed, and that will go a long way toward determining his success. If he can get into the lane at will already, what might he do if defenders have to respect his jumper?
Remember what I said about his 2013-14 mirroring Jimmy’s 2012-13? Well, Jimmy started that year with a breakout performance at LVSL (check), then a few months of production in relative obscurity before injuries gave him an opportunity he seized with gusto. Guess who stands between Teague and a major role on this team?
That’s right, the one and only
Hurt Kinrich Kirk Hinrich! He of the constant injuries and generally lackluster play. My prediction is that Kirk goes down for a little while around Christmas, Teague steps up and suddenly Kirk becomes mostly irrelevant.
Watch out, NBA. Marquis Teague is coming for you.