Atlanta Hawks: How Jeff Teague’s ankle injury could still be a big issue

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For a sizable chunk of the first half of the season Jeff Teague was considered a potential All-Star candidate. While his production wasn’t necessarily earth shattering with the relative competition in the East he’s certainly borderline #TopTiergue. But due to an unfortunate sprained ankle he got against the Spurs on January 24th any hope to make the All-Star reserves were effectively erased. While this was a less than stellar setback it still didn’t discredit the success he’s had so far this season.

Losing Josh Smith meant Teague was going to most certainly have to step up his game. Replacing him with an All-Star in Paul Millsap is certainly helpful but Teague has certainly taken a tighter on the reins of the offense. He’s posting career highs in points, rebounds and assists which are all marks of an even more effective point guard. This play has been critical in helping the Hawks maintain the 3rd seed in the East with Al Horford out for the season.

But since returning from his ankle injury on February 1st Teague has been in a bit of a slump and was even benched in Saturday’s loss to the Grizzlies. Hopefully this is nothing more than just a cold-streak but it could also be indicative of perhaps lingering issues with the ankle. Teague currently ranks 4th in the NBA in drives per game averaging 9.6. For a player who’s game depends largely on getting to the rim and having to finish over, around and under increasingly stingy defenses determined to protect the rim at all costs, not having full confidence in his ankles would certainly affect his shot. On the season prior to his injury he was shooting a below-average 47% at the rim but since returning he’s shooting an even worse 41%.

It doesn’t help either that Teague is also shooting an abysmal 26% from behind the arc. He’s regressed nearly 10% from last year and also taking .5 less shots per game. Teague has shot above 34% the past 3 seasons so it’s doubtful that he suddenly got “Thunderstruck’d”(Hawkstruck? FalconPunched?) and can’t shoot anymore. Rather with Kyle Korver averaging even more minutes, Paul Millsap stepping out into 3 point land more than ever before, and Pero Antic playing significant time it probably has a lot do with the spacing. All the Steph Curry’s and Kevin Durant’s aside many players aren’t going to be able to hit 3’s effectively off the dribble. Teague is no exception and is shooting a horrific 22.4% on 1.3 attempts per game. Part of the problem with becoming an alpha dog on offense means he’ll get even more attention. Unfortunately for him he doesn’t really have any one else on the team who can drive and kick which leads to many of today’s 3 point attempts—putting bad JSmoove to the side for a brief moment, this was one his stronger suits. This is something Lou Williams of old could have been as well but he doesn’t seem to be around anymore.

On the bright side though he has still has averaged 8 assists in the previous five games meaning he can still run the offense effectively even if there are lingering ankle issues. If the Hawks want to hold on to their current playoff seeding though it’s paramount Teague is healthy. The Hawks currently average the 3rd highest number of 3 point attempts on the season and this is largely dependent on Teague being able to get to the rim to create open opportunities for his teammates. If he’s playing on a bum ankle and can’t finish at the rim or have the explosion in his step to even attempt his high volume of drives it will really stall the offense. At this point in the season that could prove costly.