Years pro: 8
Status: Free agent
Key stats: Started all 82 games. Averaged 15.3 points while hitting 44 percent of his field goals, including 36 percent of his 3-pointers. Averaged 7.8 assists and four rebounds, both career-highs.
Jeff Teague’s season kind of slipped through the cracks. After a pause for reflection, it probably shines brighter than it did in real time. It was full of firsts, bests and “most-sinces,” and leaves him in an interesting position as a free agent.
Consider that he:
- Started all 82 games for the first time in his career, and became the first Pacers player to do so since Mike Dunleavy in 2007-08
- Averaged a career-high 7.8 assists and four rebounds
- Had a career-high 16 double-doubles
- Handed out a career-high 17 assists against Chicago, most from a Pacers player since Jamaal Tinsley in 2002
- Set a career-high with nine rebounds, three times
- Hit all 11 foul shots in two games, his most attempts without a miss
- Scored 30 points twice and 31 points once, tying his most 30-point games in a season
- Raised his average in the playoff series against Cleveland, averaging 17 points while hitting 49 percent of his field goal attempts and 53 percent of his 3-point attempts. He also averaged 6.3 assists, and just two turnovers
Teague’s quiet demeanor contributed to the relative silence of his stats, and remains a point of concern. He doesn’t say much to the media, doesn’t say much to teammates on the court and doesn’t show much emotion. It took Lance Stephenson’s late-season arrival to reveal his passion on the court. That’s a positive omen for next season if the Pacers re-sign him, but leaves open the question of why Teague couldn’t have initiated that himself.
A Teague-Stephenson backcourt is intriguing. It remains to be seen how it would play out over the course of a season, but it was effective in their limited time together at the end of the season. The five-man lineup that included them with Paul George, Thad Young and Myles Turner was the best combination statistically among their lineups used for any meaningful length of time.
It’s not as though Teague couldn’t perform without Stephenson, though. He dominated in January’s 13 games, long before Stephenson arrived, averaging 16.3 points, five rebounds and 9.8 assists. He hit 55 percent of his field goal attempts that month, and 47 percent of his 3-pointers.
Gallery: Teague’s 2016-17 Season in Photos »
Teague is a Pike High School graduate, and recently went into the school’s Hall of Fame. His parents live here, as do his childhood friends. It took him awhile to grow comfortable with playing for his hometown team, but not long. He hit just 15-of-61 shots in the first five games, including 2-of-18 3-pointers, but then returned to his career norms, and beyond. Although his final 3-point percentage (.357) was virtually identical to his career norm, it was a drop-off from the previous season when he hit 40 percent. He hit 38 percent over his final 77 regular season games, however, and, again, 53 percent in the playoffs.
More relevant to his position, his 7.8 assists per game ranked seventh in the NBA and his 639 total assists were the sixth-highest in franchise history.
2016-17 Player Reviews: More Reviews, Highlights, and Photos »
Teague’s value on the open marketplace and team president Kevin Pritchard’s options for point guards will be among the most intriguing storylines for the Pacers this summer. Teague, however, made it clear in his final postgame session with the media he wants to return.
“I love Indiana,” he said. “You all know me, born and raised. Tattoos on my arms. I’ve wanted to play for the Pacers my whole life, so it’s a great opportunity for me to be here, and I love it.”
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