The Atlanta Hawks are excited about the upcoming season, and they believe that they have the talent to be a serious contender in the playoff race. They were the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference last season and pushed the top-seeded Indiana Pacers to seven games before finally being eliminated. Jeff Teague was one of the bright spots for them last season, and the Hawks are expecting him to take the next step forward in his career this year.
What areas must Teague improve in this coming season in order to take that step the Hawks are expecting him to make?
First of all, the most obvious issue that needs to be improved is his shot selection. Teague ended up shooting just 43.8 percent from the floor as a whole last season, and just 32.9 percent from behind the three-point arc. When he takes open looks, those numbers improve drastically and that is an area that could take his offensive game to the next level.
Teague has the quickness to get to the rim and finish with the best of them, and he has a very nice shot as well when he sets his feet and doesn’t force the shot up. Perhaps having Al Horford back on the floor will help open things up for Teague, but he has to slow down offensively and focus on taking better shots. If he stops taking so many contested shots, he will begin forcing defenses to stay true to him which could open up even more chances for him to get to the rim.
Secondly, Teague needs to embrace his playmaking ability and make his teammates better around him. The fact that he can get to the rim and handle the ball so well is an obvious sign that he can make plays for his teammates. Last season, he ended up averaging 6.7 assists per game, but if he could get that number up to around eight per game he would be in even better shape.
His defensive capabilities have been an issue throughout his career, and that needs to be something that he shores up this season. There is no question that his quickness and athletic ability would allow him to be an above average perimeter defender, but he hasn’t seemed interested in improving that aspect of his game. If he truly wants to take the next step towards becoming one of the up-and-coming “stars” in the NBA, he will need to work harder on becoming a legitimate two-way player.
It will be very interesting to see if Teague continues the leadership role that he seemed to pick up in the Hawks’ playoff series against the Pacers last year. He was in his teammates’ ears motivating them to play harder, and was one of the first to pick up a teammate after a mistake. The Hawks are going to have a much more stable leadership group this season with Horford being welcomed back, but Teague will be needed to keep up that role as the point guard.
All of that being said, there is no doubt that Teague has the talent to take the next step and prove himself as one of the bright, young players in the league. His numbers last season were steps up for the most part, and his confidence level improved as well. Atlanta has made some moves this offseason to fill out the depth of the roster, and Teague will once again be asked to shoulder a heavy load.
Don’t be surprised to see Teague take steps forward in every aspect that has been mentioned. He knows that he is one of the keys for the upcoming Hawks’ season, and that he will have to improve in order for them to compete with teams like the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers. The Hawks will likely take a step forward from last season, and they have the type of roster that can cause some issues for better teams in a seven-game series assuming their point guard is playing up to his potential.
Evan Massey is a Staff Writer for HoopsHabit.com.