Teague Won't Make Instant Impact, But Injects Bulls With Flexibility, Long-Term Potential
Chicago's draft did not eliminate the need for a sharpshooter to pair with Derrick Rose.
Here were Bulls general manager Gar Forman and Tom Thibodeau in the war room, pondering the Bulls’ possible selection with the 29th overall pick and laying out their plan of attack amid an area in the draft where teams historically look to fill the end of their bench – never mind look to fill a hole.
Yet, that’s the spot Rose left the Bulls when he tore his ACL exactly two months prior to Thursday. It’s the circumstance that the Bulls will now thrust Marquis Teague, a point guard out of Kentucky, into after selecting him with the 29th pick.
The Bulls passed on several well-regarded prospects in the process, including Vanderbilt’s Jeff Taylor and UC Santa Barbra’s Orlando Johnson. At 6-foot-7, Taylor brought an NBA-ready frame and the defensive credentials as a three-time member of the SEC All-Defensive team and shooting touch that would have fit the Bulls’ mold. Johnson, for his part, was known as a knock-down shooter – a trait many observers believe the Bulls need.
For weeks, Forman repeatedly said the Bulls would head into this draft and offseason prioritizing the long-term. The 19-year-old Teague promises to be in the league for a while. But the selection was not made to improve the team next season as much as it was about adding a player to the point guard position that had been empty. Rose will be sidelined for a significant portion of next season and John Lucas III, Mike James and likely C.J. Watson are all unrestricted free agents.
In his lone season at Kentucky, Teague averaged 9.4 points and 4.8 assists. He had some terrific games throughout the campaign, but he truly stepped up his game during the tournament – highlighted by a 24-point, seven-assist performance against Iowa State. However, his shooting outputs were mediocre, 41.2 percent from the field and 32.5 percent from three-point range, and his jump shot has been the biggest knock.
Still, Teague has been lauded as a pick-and-roll creator and a crafty penetrator to go along with his impressive athleticism. Yes, those are the attributes most often used regarding Rose, but make no mistake: Teague will be a role player who is set to combine with a mix of guys all preparing to take on the challenge of burdening the offensive load left by the 2011 MVP. Thibodeau’s offense revolves around the point guard, a style guys such as Watson and Lucas have thrived under, and it also contains pick-and-roll play after pick-and-roll play.
Teague is not Rose, nor even his brother Jeff Teague. Nevertheless, it is apparent that his skill set has upside in its own unique way, and he does appear to have a much more fluid jumper and sleeker handles than his brother.
“He’s his own player,” Thibodeau told reporters late Thursday night. “He’s got different strengths than his brother, and he’s different than Derrick. But he’s a very good player, he did a good job of running his team … and it’s important for him to have a big summer here.
“The first part is learning how to be a pro and then it’s going to be based on performance, how he does. He has to learn our system, learn the league, and then we’ll see where we are.”
Even though it is hard to imagine Teague being handed over the keys immediately, he will have ample opportunity to shine under Thibodeau’s point guard-oriented schemes. The situation could shift even more in Teague’s favor depending on the statuses of Watson and Lucas.
It is almost certain that both will not return together, but Lucas seems more likely to return given the love he’s shown for his teammates and for the city. Whether it is either Watson or Lucas or someone else, the Bulls plan to sign a fill-in starter through free agency rather than giving Teague the job from the outset – a wise decision, and one that is made easier given the fact that Teague could very well serve as a viable backup, which would give the Bulls flexibility in terms of their financial state.
“Obviously, it’s going to take a number of guys to make up for the load that we miss when Derrick’s out,” Forman said. “The point guard is one of the positions we still need to address as we go into free agency and that’s something we’ll look at starting Sunday.”
For the longest time, the Bulls have made it a point to draft winners, players who come from established programs, and have put stock into the character prospects display. Teague played a major role in the Wildcats’ national championship, has received top-tier tutelage from John Calipari – Rose’s former coach – and the Bulls believe he has a strong belief about him, a sharp sense of self that is aided by confidence.
“All the reports, all the background that we did on him, everybody said he’s very, very competitive,” Forman told the assembled media. “He’s a winner, and that’s something we’ve stressed: [Players] that have experienced winning.”
Despite all the rumors surrounding the potential of deals involving big-name players like Luol Deng and Joakim Noah, the Bulls stood pat Thursday as expected, instead injecting themselves with a guard who has a high motor, a repertoire suited for the team’s game plan. And yet, it would be fair to wonder whether Teague would have been the pick had Rose not blew out his knee exactly two months from draft night – thrusting Teague in this precarious position.