Less than one year after finishing 60-22 and making it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals, the Atlanta Hawks are open to trading point guard Jeff Teague and "pushing the revamp button," according to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski.
Similar reports have come from Yahoo! Sports' Chris Mannix and ESPN's Zach Lowe wrote on Tuesday that "it's starting to feel like the Jeff Teague-Dennis Schroder partnership is approaching its breaking point."
Teague's numbers are down slightly from last season, when he earned his first career All-Star bid. He's averaging 14.3 points and 5.6 assists and shooting just 41 percent from the field. He's also been playing through a recurring right ankle injury all year, which has kept him out of three games.
Schroder, who at 22 is five years younger than Teague, has impressed Hawks head coach and president Mike Budenholzer, according to Wojnarowski and Mannix on a recent podcast.
Why trading Teague makes sense for the Hawks
It all starts with Schroder. He's averaging 10.9 points and 4.8 assists per game as a 22-year-old, which is impressive. It's especially noteworthy how the Hawks have played much better with him on the floor compared to Teague, according to the numbers. Atlanta outscores opponents by 10.8 points per 100 possessions in Schroder's minutes, via NBA.com. When Teague plays, the Hawks are actually outscored themselves by 2.2 points per 100 possessions.
Some of that no doubt has to do with Teague's ankle issues. Teague is playing just 28 minutes per night, the fewest he's averaged since his sophomore season. Over the last month, Schroder has been seeing more fourth-quarter minutes than Teague, too.
Teague has been a good sport about his decreased playing time, but he's also made it clear that he's not happy about occasionally being yanked off the floor at the end of games.
"I'm on the team. I'm here. It's a team game," Teague said to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution over the weekend when asked about being forced to spend some crunch time minutes on the bench. "I'm a competitor. I want to be on the floor. It is what it is."
Teague is an excellent player and the Hawks would miss him. But since they do have a second capable point guard on the roster they clearly trust, dealing Teague for other assets could be prudent. It would clear up their point guard rotation, something which has irked Schroder as well. In early January, Schroder was curiously benched for two entire games, with no explanation given.
Dealing Teague would also net the Hawks a nice package in return, one that could include a swingman, first-round draft pick and/or a big man who could help replace Al Horford if he elects to sign elsewhere in free agency. Teague's salary of $8 million for this year and next is excellent value for his new team.
Also, Teague will be a free agent in two summers. Schroder, on the other hand, is under team control for three more seasons. Trading Teague now would ensure the Hawks don't lose him for zilch in the summer of 2017.
While the Hawks are third in the Eastern Conference now, most would agree that a Finals run is out of the question. The best move could be to trade Teague while his value is high, hand the reins to Schroder and go from there.
Why trading Teague doesn't make sense
He's still a 27-year-old point guard one year removed from being an All-Star and the engine of a 60-win team. Not many players have that pedigree. Who knows if Schroder ever gets close to reaching that level, or if he even can be trusted with a starting spot? It's not a great sign that Budenholzer thought it was necessary to sit Schroder entirely for two straight games.
Also, Teague's value contract is as much an asset to the Hawks as it would be to another team. Keeping Teague around gives the Hawks salary-cap space they need to re-sign Horford in the offseason and make other roster tweaks. In the East, that might be enough to top the non-Cleveland mountain.
But of course, that's also the state of the East right now. The Cavaliers are the clear favorites, but no other team has managed to separate itself from the pack.
The Hawks aren't dominating the way they did last season, but they still have conference's third-best record at 27-19. Who's to say they can't work out their small issues and make a run to the Eastern Conference Finals for the second straight season? Once you get there, all it takes is a few breaks (pun intended) to advance. The Hawks didn't have those breaks last season, so maybe luck will be on their side this year.
Schroder has been solid this season, but a deep playoff run will only happen if Teague sticks around.
At this point, the Hawks are merely open to trading Teague, not "shopping" him. But there are several point guard-needy teams throughout the league -- the Jazz, Knicks and even Mavericks come to mind -- that might jump at the opportunity to nab an All-Star caliber player.
If a good offer comes, it's unlikely Atlanta turns it down. But it remains to be seen if teams that might want Teague will have enough to make it worth the Hawks' time.
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