Indiana Pacers: Jeff Teague The Upgrade Paul George Needed

As Jeff Teague has grown more comfortable in his role with the Indiana Pacers, those around him have begun to improve.

When Jeff Teague was dealt to the Indiana Pacers in a deal that saw the Utah Jazz receive George Hill and the Atlanta Hawks the 12th overall pick in the 2016 draft, some thought the Pacers were downgrading at the point guard position.

As recently as 10 days ago, I was involved in a discussion about Hill’s departure still being considered a mistake. Since that exchange, Teague has played five games, averaging 16 points, 10 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game on 46 percent shooting.

While the sample size is small it gives an indication of how Teague can perform when he’s in the sort of form that saw him gain his lone All-Star appearance two years ago.

Asked how Teague was adjusting to his new team, Pacers president Larry Bird was reminiscent of Hill but pleased with the direction his team and new point guard are heading, telling the Indianapolis Star:

We gave up a hell of a player to get him. He’s two years younger than George and he’s a real point guard and he gets to the line. I think he’s going to continue to get better. I couldn’t be happier.

Since joining the Jazz, Hill has continued to be that “hell of a player” Bird alluded to. Throughout his 25 games this season, Hill is scoring 17.6 points, 4.1 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game while shooting 47 percent.

As arguably a perfect fit for the Utah Jazz, when healthy, Hill has been a force on offense but it’s on the defensive end he thrives. Chris Paul is the only starting guard that has played more than 25 games this season with a better defensive rating than Hill.

Given Hill isn’t the sort of point guard to initiate an offense like others might, the argument around perfect fit can also revolve around Teague and the Pacers.

Jan 16, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (13) passes the ball in the first half of the game against the New Orleans Pelicans at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Indiana Pacers beat New Orleans Pelicans 98-95.Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 16, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (13) passes the ball in the first half of the game against the New Orleans Pelicans at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Indiana Pacers beat New Orleans Pelicans 98-95.Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

As he continues to gain experience playing alongside Paul George, Teague has been able to initiate the offense — as inconsistent as it has been overall — to reach 8.2 assists per game this season.

Having Teague as the primary ball-handler has allowed George to spend more time off the ball, improving his game in the process.

With the change in point guard, George has seen his usage rate drop to 28.2 percent. His lowest rate since the 2013-14 season. But as the usage rate has dropped George’s production has largely remained constant, if not improved.

He is scoring more efficiently than he ever has and his offensive rating is the highest of his career.

As George approaches his prime years it’s no coincidence he’s starting to put up prime numbers, but it’s also no coincidence his rise in numbers coincides with a better fit at point guard.

Not to take anything away from Hill who had a strong five seasons in Indiana, Teague might be the guy to take the Pacers back to the top.

Being just halfway through the season it’s too early to definitively say “Teague is an upgrade” but as he improves his numbers as well those around him, he may prove that point sooner rather than later.

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