Jeff Teague is basically your league average point guard in 2017 and now he joins the Minnesota Timberwolves on a three-year, $57 million deal as they continue upgrading their roster with established players.
The Wolves traded Ricky Rubio to the Utah Jazz shortly before July 1st and it was clear they had a replacement in mind to find a point guard, who is a better fit stylistically even if Rubio is better in a vacuum. Teague is younger than Kyle Lowry and George Hill even if he’s an inferior talent at this point. Teague also comes to Minnesota, a franchise that has always had limited financial capabilities, at a cheaper price than those players figure to get.
With the Wolves’ roster becoming exceedingly expensive in the near future once Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns come off their rookie contracts, and even more expensive after that once Jimmy Butler signs a new deal based on the new cap, a lower contract for Teague matters in a meaningful way. This is an unfortunate reality for a smaller market franchise like Minnesota.
Teague was eighth in the NBA in assist rate at 36.4. Teague’s free throw rate also spiked dramatically with the Pacers to .457, which was the most amongst point guards. While Teague is an upgrade as a shooter over Rubio, he’s not particularly strong spotting up when compared to Lowry or Hill.
Teague’s lack of size and strength becomes problematic projecting out this contract, particularly on the defensive end of the floor even if he’s longer than he looks with a 6’7 wingspan. Teague is already being sought out by opposing teams to switch onto bigger wings and that will be an even more attractive option when playing beside Butler and Wiggins.
Minnesota is a better, more coherent team with Teague instead of Rubio and they also have Tyus Jones who could conceivably develop into more than a backup when Teague ages.
Getting a team from the lottery to the playoffs involves a lot of incrementalism and this is what the Teague move is even if it feels an underwhelming necessary evil.
Grade for Wolves: B
It appeared as though Teague would be left without a team when we started looking at teams that needed point guards and had cap space, but he quickly found a fit with Minnesota and didn’t wait for the market to come to him.
Teague’s coming off a four-year, $32 million deal that he signed with the Bucks in in restricted free agency in 2013 and was matched by the Hawks. Teague was perhaps influenced by that previous free agent experience and wanted to take the assured money while being the fourth guy before losing it.
Grade for Jeff Teague: A-