By: OTP Staff
This is the first piece in a series of articles that will look at each individual position on the Minnesota Timberwolves roster heading into the 2017-18 season. Today we feature the point guards, which feature someone knew at the helm for the first time in six years.
In the transcript below, On The Prowl writers Dan Slaubaugh, Zach More, Jonah Sprinkel, Cal Colbert, and Louie Vicchiollo discuss what the arrival of Jeff Teague means for the Timberwolves and converse about Tyus Jones' future in Minnesota. The conversation has been lightly edited.
Dan: JEFF TEAGUE WELCOME TO MINNESOTA! (Miss and love you, Ricky)
Zach: I’m more excited now that we have Teague than right after it happened. Rubio will always have a place in my heart but a change might help everyone.
Cal: I agree with Zach. At first I didn't understand the trading of Rubio to sign Teague. I didn't feel like it really made sense to sign a new PG to try and come in and learn the offense when Rubio had been doing so well and improving. However, I am excited to see what he can offer.
Jonah: It’s going to be a weird change of pace for sure. Teague is interesting to me, as an isolation scorer last year he was in the 84th percentile and scored 1.02 points per possession.
Zach: Something that I think we will have to all learn to understand is that we can’t just look at the stats from Teague. If he does what Thibs says he will and make the defense guard him at the 3 point line, the numbers of the other players should improve.
Dan: That's a great point. That being said, Teague was one of only five players last season to average 15 points and seven assists with a true shooting percentage of .550 or better last season. While Rubio has more strengths than Teague, he also has more weaknesses. After watching highlights of Teague, I think he suggests to be mediocre at everything except in being a very efficient pick-and-roll point guard. He doesn’t have many holes in his game.
Jonah: Last year Indiana’s defense actually got better when Teague was off the floor. That’s kind of concerning to me.
Zach: I would have to go back to listen to Thibs talking about Teague, does he mention his defense at all? We all knew Ricky was a good defender and seems like Thibs would have preferred a defensive minded point guard, but it seemed like from the time Thibs got here he was determined to bring in someone to replace him.
Louie: With a league dominated by offensive superstar point guards, Teague will have to play defense for Thibs.
Dan: I believe Jim Pete pointed this out after the Wolves traded Ricky, but having him on the floor during crunch time was a real concern. There wasn’t much spacing for Wiggins to operate because Rubio's inability to consistently knock down shots and finish at the room hurt the team. Close games and playoff games are decided by halfcourt execution and shot making. Teague gives the team a better chance to win those type of games.
Zach: That is a good point, as we have talked about in the past, I have always felt with Ricky as the point guard that you needed an offensive minded backup point guard who could shoot, that way they could have played the situation. With Teague they don’t have to worry about that as much. He will be enough of a threat on offense where teams need to respect them or he will make them pay.
Jonah: So what are your expectations for Teague this year?
Dan: My hope is that Teague can knock down shots at an efficient rate, because he’s going to have to with Jimmy Butler running the show a significant amount of the time. Statistics-wise, I’m projecting 33 MPG, 13 PPG, 6.3 AST, and 1.3 STLS with league-average defense at the point guard position.
Jonah: I have this idea that Butler will be doing the majority of the passing and distributing this season. Last year with the Bulls Jimmy’s teammates were very poor finishers and shooters when catching the ball out of a Butler pick and roll. If the Wolves use Butler in a similar manner it would allow Teague to be more of a pure scorer with a minor role in assisting others. I’m thinking somewhere along the lines of 15 points and 5 assists.
Louie: I think that Teague can be super solid this year. Realistically, 30 MPG, 10 PPG, 6.5 AST with a sprinkle of steals in there as well along with not turning the ball over.
Zach: That is a great point Jonah, I think Thibs envisions the ball being in Butler’s hand down the stretch and Ricky wasn’t a guy that was a good fit for playing off the ball. Teague can be more of a threat off the ball in the corners.
Dan: Absolutely. Teague’s steady play helped push the Pacers into the Eastern Conference playoffs a year ago. Let’s hope he can do the same with the Wolves this season while staying extremely healthy like he has in the past just missing 17 games over the past four seasons.
Dan: I’m not sure about you guys, but I sure am happy the hometown kid is back.
Jonah: Tyus needs a haircut. Any chance he’s related to Prince?
Zach: 2nd cousins
Dan: Lol. Did you guys know Tyus has an Instagram for his dog? You can follow at dukestonesjones. It’s a nine-month old Husky Pomeranian. Truly a beautiful dog.
Zach: New favorite player!
Dan: Jones was quietly efficient last season in limited playing time as he averaged 7.3 assists to 1.8 turnovers per 36 minutes and was eighth on the team in PER.
Zach: I am glad that Tyus is back this year. He had moments last year where he looked like a true backup point guard. It was thought by most that Thibs would bring in a backup point guard and move Tyus back to the third guard, but that hasn’t happened. It will be a big jump for Tyus going from 12 MPG to somewhere in the upper teens. He will need to become more consistent with his shot, and has to be a litte more of a playmaker but he is a winner and has that clutch gene.
Cal: Tyus is great! I'm upset that I never got the chance to see him play in high school. But now I get to see him in a Wolves jersey, so I can't complain. Plus in 2k he's always ballin for me.
Jonah: Tyus did play 15 and a half minutes a game his rookie year, so he’s not a complete stranger to a higher workload. I do agree with you Zach, much more will be asked of him.
Dan: One improvement I noticed in Tyus’ game last year was knowing when to gamble on defense. Ricky sometimes tended to take more risks gambling than needed, but I think Tyus learned greatly from Rubio’s defensive instincts. Tyus possesses a phenomenal basketball IQ, so this is something he should improve on each year.
Jonah: Definitely. I think it’s rare to see a guy Tyus’ age with such a high basketball IQ. The only thing that seems to hold this guy back are his physical limitations. But we’ve seen smaller guards accomplish much more so I’m pretty confident in Tyus as a backup.
Dan: Offensively, Tyus just needs to limit turnovers while hitting the three ball at a fairly efficient rate (36-38%).
Cal: Yes! Tyus definitely needs to be able to hit the 3 ball! I know you guys talked about his defense, but think he definitely will be improved in defense this season. I think he really learned a lot from Ricky and last season, more importantly just felt confident and comfortable in his decision making when he was on the floor.
Zach: Tyus will also have some pressure this year. He is the main backup and this is a playoff caliber team. If he isn’t playing up to Thibs standards and making the team better when he is out there, the Wolves will need to be active at the trade deadline to find someone who will.
Dan: Well said, Zach. Improving defensive competence, hitting the perimeter shot, and limiting turnovers by operating a consistent offense are the steps Jones will need to take to carve out a role for him this season. If he can do those things, it will give Thibodeau another viable option off the bench.