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What can we expect from Jeff Teague?

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The veteran point guard enters a contract season coming off of the worst season of his career. Can he bounce back?

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Detroit Pistons Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

I tend to feel sorry for Jeff Teague.

Teague arrived in Minnesota during the frenzied summer of 2016. However, Teague was the fourth choice after George Hill decided he wouldn’t play for Tom Thibodeau and Jrue Holliday and Kyle Lowry decided to stay put.

The point guard was also in the unenviable position of having to replace fan favorite, Ricky Rubio. Truthfully, anyone that followed Rubio was going to face an uphill battle to win over the hearts of fans and unfortunately for Teague, that was him.

A season to forget

It helps nothing that Teague checked off a couple of career firsts last season that he would also wish to change:

  • Before the 2019 season, the most games Teague had missed in a season was 12. He missed 40 games last season and hardly looked healthy when he did play.
  • In the first nine seasons of his career, Teague’s teams had never missed the playoffs. 2019 was the first time one of his teams did not reach the postseason.

While the odds seem stacked against the Timberwolves to return to the postseason, a return to health is possible for the soon-to-be 31-year-old point guard. When healthy, Teague is a good starting point guard in this league. Most times.

Will Teague bounce back in his contract year?

Even as a fan of Teague, I’ve always understood why people were not. He’s played at an all-star level at points in his career, but is also known for lapses on both offense and defense. Much like Gorgui Dieng, the fact that we’ve seen him engaged and making good decisions makes the lapses all the more frustrating. If Teague was incapable of making smart decisions with the ball or on defense, it would be a different story.

We know that Teague has been a league average shooter or better throughout his career, so why is he passing up open 3-pointers to dump it into a double-covered teammate? Conversely, why does he sometimes just throw it up instead of looking for the teammate with the better shot?

He knows how to run an NBA offense, so why is he over-dribbling instead of making the quick read and right decision? It makes no sense.

The chances of a 31-year-old tiger changing his stripes is unlikely, but this is a big season for Teague. Teague opted in to the final year of his deal last spring, making him a 2020 free agent. In what projects to be a weak free agent class, Teague stands to make a decent amount of money if he plays well and stays healthy this season.

There’s a lot riding on his performance this season because his value may never be this high again. He needs to show teams that he’s still that same player for the first nine seasons of his career and that last season wasn’t the beginning of the end.

Will Teague finish the season as a Timberwolf?

You also can’t mention Teague without mentioning his status as a possible trade chip. As an expiring contract, Teague may have some value at the trade deadline. Playing well would help the Timberwolves receive something for him and allow Teague to compete in the postseason again on a better team. As far as trade assets go, Teague is one of the better ones the Wolves have.

Trading Teague may become easier if Jarrett Culver looks like he can capably run an NBA offense. Point guard is a difficult position for rookies to learn, so this may be unlikely but if Culver is a quick learner, it could make parting with Teague easier if he’s playing well. If Teague isn’t playing well, obviously trading him is still pretty easy.

There are many storylines to follow with this Wolves team this season and what happens with Teague is certainly one of them. Which Teague will the team get? Will he finish the season Minnesota? We’re going to learn a lot about this team as a whole this season, and there’s no doubt we will learn a lot about Teague too.