The Minnesota Timberwolves starting lineup is one that should easily rival those of the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets. How can a lineup that features three players who at one point were All-Stars struggle when they should be dominating? There is Karl-Anthony Towns, Jimmy Butler, Andrew Wiggins, and Jeff Teague.
While each of these four has had success on some type of level, the Timberwolves will go only as far as Teague leads them. I know what you’re thinking. How can success not be tied to Butler or Towns? Easily, what they bring to the table is scoring and rebounding but Teague, he’s the glue that holds it all together. When was the last time Towns or Butler lead a team to 60 wins? When was the last time Butler or Towns shown the ability to break down a defender with either hand while attacking the paint or dishing off? This is what Jeff Teague brings to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
In 2017, Teague averaged 14.2 points and 7.0 assists while shooting .446 from the floor, including .369 from three-point territory. The opportunity to score is there as Teague averaged 11.3 shots per game. But it’s his ability to create for others that will determine how far the Timberwolves go in 2018.
With Towns averaging 21.3 points and 12.3 rebounds, he’s seen as the main offensive threat for the team. Butler, however, is the Wolves do-it-all player. In 2017, Butler averaged 22.2 points, 4.9 assists, and 5.3 rebounds while shooting .474 percent from the floor. Then you have the young, athletic Wiggins. In 2017, Wiggins, despite being the fourth option averaged 17.7 points and 4.4 rebounds while shooting .438 percent from the floor including .331 percent from three-point land.
Look at what Jeff Teague has to work with. How is he not averaging 11-12 assists per game? The reason for that is– the PG position is not what it used to be. In the days of Jason Kidd, Gary Payton, Magic Johnson, and John Stockton, they thought team first then shoot. This is what Teague has to do in order for the Minnesota Timberwolves to be taken seriously. The talent is there, they just need better floor leadership.
Although there are rumors that Butler and maybe Wiggins wants out, it’s up to Teague to right the ship. The only way to do that is to make everyone happy. Say what you may about Westbrook, John Wall, and Stephen Curry. Each season they are leading the league in assists. While Teague is not on their level in terms of scoring, he must pull off his best Rajon Rondo impersonation. Rondo is not the type to give his team 20 points per night but he’s a great defender and facilitator.
Teague, for his career, has never averaged more than 7.8 assists in a season. But now, he has to become the player he’s never been. The Timberwolves ranked 8th in scoring and 18th in assists in 2017. Something has to give. The Timberwolves struggled on offense thanks to a lack of ball movement. This is bound to happen when three of your top scorers are wing players and need the ball in their hands.
What this boils down to is Butler. If Butler can take a step back and focus on slashing to the basket, this will allow Teague to create more. When the PG takes eight seconds or more to set up a play then dish it off to a player like Butler who uses another 6+ seconds to create his own shot, that leaves Wiggins or Towns just 10 seconds to react which may result in a turnover or bad shot.
Teague has to understand his worth to the Timberwolves. As good as Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green are, Curry is still the one who sets the pace and gets them in position. There is a reason the Warriors can have four All-Stars on the same team and no one suffers. They get the same amount of time on the shot clock as the Wolves, but they have an understanding of their roles. Teague has to study how Curry and Chris Paul orchestrates their respective offense’s. As good as James Harden is, he got even better after the addition of Paul.
The offense begins with the PG. For a team like Minnesota, Teague’s presence should be considered a blessing. Butler and Wiggins can create but imagine how effective they both could be on the wings if they let Teague collapse a defense. The same goes for Towns. If Teague can get into the lane, he will force a defender to come up which will have Towns one-on-one in the paint. All Teague has to do is keep his head on a swivel and he will find an open Towns, Butler or Wiggins for an uncontested shot.
Jeff Teague can be on the floor for 32 minutes a game and by the end of the night, his stat-line should read 15 points and 12 assists easily. It’s all about dedication and leadership. It’s time he took the next step in his career. If not, then it will be another offseason watching Paul and Curry show him how it’s done.