It’s been a tough week for a lot of Wolves fans. First beloved skywalker Zach LaVine packs his bags for the Windy City, and now the Spanish Maestro, the rock of the Timberwolves from time immemorial, will be dishing sweet no-look passes to Rudy Gobert and (possibly) Gordon Hayward instead of KAT and Jimmy Butler.
It’s sad to see a beloved face leave, especially when that boyishly handsome face had to endure so many years of losing, trade rumors, and Steph Curry jokes. I truly believe Rubio would have been able to work on this team, shooting concerns aside, but alas, it wasn’t my decision to make.
The Wolves front office was able to land a top-14 protected pick that will likely be somewhere from 18-25, which is honestly a better return than I, and I believe most fans, had imagined, but it still leaves a gaping a hole at Point, a position now solely occupied by NCAA Champion and Most Outstanding Player, as well as noted Raptor-killer, TYUS JONES. There are only a few names out there that line up with the Wolves’ needs.
Enter Marc Stein, who tweeted out this panic-inducing newsflash:
Of the available point guards, I’d probably rank Teague third on my list, behind Kyle Lowry and Jrue Holiday. With Holiday likely to stay home in NOLA, it becomes a two-horse race. Obviously Lowry is much better (and more expensive), and would be a dream fit with the current group. Teague makes sense if Thibs doesn’t feel confident Lowry will leave, but it’s important to note that neither of the (for Minnesotans) groundbreaking trades enacted by Thibs in the last week have come with much forewarning. Simply put, there aren’t many leaks in the ship, and it’s possible that a) Teague’s agent is trying to start a bidding war, b) Thibs/Layden are throwing up smokescreens to distract from their pursuit of Kyle Lowry or c) Thibs just really likes Teague.
Jeff Teague? Isn’t he a total bum?
You wouldn’t know it from a glance around Twitter today, but Jeff Teague is actually pretty good. He’s coming off one of his best years, where he averaged 15.3 points, 7.8 assists, four rebounds and 1.2 steals while shooting 35.7% from three*, and this was WHILE SHARING A BACKCOURT WITH MONTA ELLIS. He was an All Star in 2015 as a member of the 60-win Hawks while putting up a nearly identical stat line to his production last season, is 29 and is about to make a BUNCH of money.
How does he fit?
If Teague is brought in, it’s because he can work off-ball about a million times better than Rubio can. He’s not a dead-eye, but he’s good enough to keep defenses honest, and since the ball will be in the hands of Butler (and maybe Wiggins) a lot, the floor spacing Teague would provide is crucial. It opens lanes for Wiggins and Butler, makes it dangerous to double KAT on the block, and minimizes the glacial speed at which Dieng gets his shot up. He can push the ball in transition and is a good, not great, distributor.
He’s also not a lock-down defender, but I have a feeling Thibs could get him to become at least a solid team defender. The real question comes down to money — how much are the Wolves willing to give a 29-year old point guard that doesn’t have a single elite skill? There are rumblings of three years/55 million or so, which is a pretty reasonable deal (15 million less than Allen Crabbe is making, for what that’s worth), but the Wolves will have to get creative filling out the rest of their needs.
Should Teague sign, the depth chart would like this:
That’s a third string point guard, a better starting power forward (so Dieng can become the bench 5 we need him to be), bench wings (Shabazz is a RFA, and would likely still be affordable with Teague’s contract) and generally depth anywhere but center. That’s a lot of holes with not a lot of money. Thibs has proven to be resourceful and thrifty, but this will test the limits of his dumpster-diving capability.
The fit isn’t seamless, but then, none of the choices are perfect. Lowry is 31, has a history of injurie, is looking at a substantially bigger contract than Teague, and has a disturbing pattern of fading in the playoffs. In fact, here are Teague and Lowry’s career playoff stats:
They’re almost identical. It’s funny, the more I think about it, the more I’m able to talk myself into liking Jeff Teague. Sure he’s not a superstar, he’s a borderline top-15 PG, but HE’S NOT DERRICK ROSE and he has a long history of playing well deep into the playoffs.
Sign me up for three years, please.
*All stats via Basketball-Reference unless otherwise noted