Minnesota Timberwolves: Who’s Better, Jeff Teague or Derrick Rose?

Derrick Rose, Minnesota Timberwolves
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The preseason is never complete without some Derrick Rose hype.

After looking impressive against the Golden State Warriors, notching 16 points on 60 percent shooting, Karl-Anthony Towns said he “saw a lot of glimpses of MVP D-Rose.” And because of all this excitement over whether the youngest MVP in NBA history, Derrick Rose, several fans have been looking toward his upcoming year with the Timberwolves as a return to greatness.

ESPN’s The Jump recently ran a segment on KAT’s assessment of Rose’s play. In it, Paul Pierce defended Rose as a solid player in this league who could still start.

Amin Elhassan, however, disagreed. Rachel Nichols joked that because of the Minnesota Timberwolves’ situation with Jimmy Butler, that Derrick Rose is a starter now. Elhassan laughed, but Pierce did not want his actual point to be overlooked. He and Elhassan go back and forth throughout the clip, but here’s where the idea for this article was born:

Pierce: Do you think Jeff Teague is better than Derrick Rose right now?

Elhassasn: Yes.

Pierce: You do?

Elhassan: Not even–not even close.

Pierce: Not even close?

Elhassan: Not even–not even a question.

Looking through the comments, many are utterly confused with Elhassan’s take. They believe his “not even close” is completely upside down, as they think Rose is clearly the superior player.

But is Elhassan’s assessment really wrong?

Comparison:

Rose was certainly the better player between him and Teague throughout the first half of his career. This is no argument at all.

At Rose’s peak, he averaged 25.0 ppg, 7.7 apg, and 4.4 rpg. At Teague’s, he averaged 15.3 ppg, 7.8 apg, and 4.0 rpg.

But we are not comparing peaks, we are comparing who the better player is right now and who would function as the better point guard throughout the regular season.

Last year’s playoffs should score Rose some points in the comparison between the guards. Where Teague ultimately faded, Rose shined against the Houston Rockets. He was the more efficient shooter from everywhere on the floor, the better scorer, and provided a spark for the Wolves, although they won just one game in their first round series against the Houston Rockets.

And the last part of that sentence is why we should keep Rose’s impact in Minnesota’s five postseason games in perspective. Yes, he played better than Teague in this series but it was to no real avail. And a very small five game sample-size, in which Teague played against the starters more than Rose did, should not account for one’s entire argument over who will be better this upcoming season.

So, yes, let’s give Rose the nod in last year’s playoffs. But continue looking over each players’ body of work over the last couple seasons.

Since Rose only played a combined 25 games for the Cleveland Cavaliers and Minnesota Timberwolves last season amidst injuries and retirement mulling, I will statistically compare his 2016-17 season with the New York Knicks to Teague’s performance last year.

Rose was the better scorer with 20.0 points per game compared to Teague’s 14.2. He also rebounded the ball a bit better too, with 3.8 boards to Teague’s 3.0. However, Teague certainly facilitated his offense better than Rose did his. Teague ended the season with 7.0 assists per game while Rose only had 4.4.

Moreover, Teague was the much better shooter from deep – shooting almost 15 percentage points better than Rose from there. And while Rose did have the slightly better field goal percentage, Teague had the advantage in effective field goal percentage (.499 to .477) due to his much more accurate three-point shooting.

And Rose’s scoring may ultimately be offset by his poor defense. With the Knicks, he ended the year with a -1.9 box plus-minus, per Basketball Reference. So, although he had one of his most offensively effective years with New York in some time, many analysts pointed to his production as unhelpful to the team. This box plus-minus number got even worse this previous year with the Cavs and Wolves. In total, he was a -7.8 player across both stints.

Teague, while unimpressive in box plus-minus this last year, was still better than Rose, ending with a +.2. And this number seems to be a pretty accurate assessment of Teague’s impact on the Minnesota Timberwolves this past year – he seemed to neither help nor hurt the team. He was, and has been for the most part, an average starting point guard. He won’t push the needle towards contender, but he won’t force your team to take a step back either.

Rose, however, may actually be a step back at this point in his career. To remain as an effective player in the NBA, he must improve defensively and from shooting beyond the arc. So far this preseason, his stroke has looked really nice – and he may actually turn the corner in his year-30 season in this regard.

Teague, for now though, is the better floor-spacer and facilitator. He is ultimately the more versatile option at point guard than Rose is. While Teague probably won’t go off for 30 any time soon, how often can we expect Rose to at this point? One thing you can count on Teague to do is run the offense correctly and dish out five to nine assists every night. When Rose gets above six assists, he is having a good passing game. When Teague does it, that’s just another game.

Teague’s game is quieter than Rose’s, no doubt. And if you’re looking for the more exciting player, Rose wins that contest hands down. He has a variety of dribble moves, a slick step-back jumper that’s looked nice this preseason, and a plethora of ways to finish around the rim.

But when you’re running out a team that needs space for Karl-Anthony Towns to work down low and for Andrew Wiggins to create shots, you need the guy who can open the floor for these guys and get the ball to them. Rose, right now, just isn’t that player. Teague, most of the time, is.

Of course, what Rachel Nichols said is correct: without Jimmy Butler on this Minnesota Timberwolves team, Derrick Rose could slot in as a decent shooting guard for the time being, especially if his shot isn’t just fool’s gold this preseason.

While I believe Jeff Teague is the better point guard between them right now, I’d love to see how he and Rose work together on a team that will need about 20 points per game to come from somewhere new.

About Doug Patrick 8 Articles
Doug Patrick is a kindergarten teacher in Greenwich, CT. You can find his NBA writing on NBAAnalysis.net and ripcityproject.com, where he is a site co-expert. He is also always available to podcast, just please don't send him automated updates from the gametakesapp via Twitter - it drives him mad.

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