WE HAVE A WOJ BOMB. The Indiana Pacers have made a big 3-team trade the day before the NBA draft. The Pacers will acquire Jeff Teague from the Atlanta Hawks and send George Hill to the Utah Jazz. The Jazz are sending the 12th pick in the first round to the Hawks to complete the deal.
The Pacers have essentially swapped Indianapolis-grown point guards: George Hill for Jeff Teague. They both have one year and $8 million left on their contracts, but Woj also reports that the Pacers are working on an extension.
Only a few weeks ago, Teague was interviewed for a local television station by Pacers PA Announcer Michael Grady and he said that he would be interested in playing for his hometown Pacers someday. Teague, like Hill, grew up in Indianapolis and played for a local high school (Teague: Pike, Hill: Broad Ripple).
Hill was always announced as the “Hometown Hero” during the starting lineups, while Teague may not get the same treatment out of respect for Hill, he certainly could be called the same. He even has an extensive tattoo of the Indy skyline with the 317 area code and the I-465 sign.
In terms of basketball, Teague and Hill are two very different players. Teague is incredibly quick and can penetrate and create for others (7 assists per 36 minutes in his career to Hill’s 4 assists per 36). Hill is more of a jack-of-all-trades guard that can serve any role that you need on offense fairly well while playing good-to-great defense on opponent’s point guards. Teague will speed up the offense, while Hill was more of a caretaker point guard that was good at not turning it over. Teague ranked 5th in driving, attacking the rim last season with 11.1 attempts per game (behind Eric Bledsoe, Isaiah Thomas, DeMar DeRozan, and Ish Smith) while Hill ranked 100th with only 3.7 drives per game (per IndyStar from NBA.com/stats). Hill is 8th (behind CP3, Steph Curry, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Manu Ginobli, Dwyane Wade, Kyle Lowry, Tony Parker) in WS/48 among guards since 2011 (per Jared Wade of 8 points, 9 seconds). Teague is 24th. Teague is a point guard. Hill is a combo guard.
Both players shoot well from 3-point land; each shot 40% last year, though Hill is slightly better in career averages (37.6% to 35.5%). 2014-15 was both players best season. Teague made his only All-Star team and George Hill put up a career high 21.6 PER and looked like an All-Star in his only season with a high usage rate (23.8%).
In the end, both players are very good at basketball and depending on what you’re looking for, one team may prefer the other. Obviously, the Jazz preferred to have Hill; otherwise, Jazz just do the deal with the Hawks for Teague and leave the Pacers out of it. The Pacers obviously disagree and wanted Teague. (Sidenote: Teague is another point guard the Pacers recently acquired (Ty Lawson) that they could have drafted in 2009 instead of Tyler Hansbrough, but that’s another story.)
The Pacers acquired perhaps the best player they’ve had in terms of creating offense for others since at least the oft-injured Jamaal Tinsley. The Pacers haven’t had a point guard like Teague in terms of both speed and passing really ever. They’ve had speed: Darren Collison. They’ve had passing: Tinsley and Mark Jackson. But they haven’t really had both (at least in my lifetime). It will be an exciting addition for the Pacers offense. He can do more than just set others up as well, as he averaged nearly 20 points per 36 minutes last season (a season that he says he played with an injured knee throughout and got offseason surgery on).
The issue with adding Teague to the current roster is how Monta Ellis fits in with both of them in the lineup. The Pacers would be wise to see if Ellis is willing to take on a leading sixth-man role and then try and trade Rodney Stuckey. If Ellis wants to be a starter, try and trade him instead. The Pacers right now are set up to have two-ball dominant guards on the court at all times (Teague, Ellis, Stuckey). This is not an ideal roster construction and it doesn’t even mention that Paul George is obviously going to need the ball as well. Last year, George Hill was able to take a step back in the offense and thrive as a spot-up shooter, but I don’t think the Pacers brought in Teague to do that and Ellis in definitely not that guy. You have to think that Larry Bird is looking for a way to move Ellis or Stuckey for a veteran big man or a 3-and-D wing that doesn’t need the ball in his hands to be successful. Teague and Ellis would also be a nightmarish fit on the defensive end. Last year, Hill could help hide Ellis’ struggles on that end by guarding the 1 or the 2 depending on the matchup, but Teague is going to be strictly limited to guarding other point guards.
Of course, the draft and free agency hasn’t even happened yet. There’s no reason to be too overly concerned about roster fits this early in the offseason, but it’s clear the Pacers have plenty of work to do to make this roster cohesive and one that’ll work well as a unit. Stuckey and Ellis aren’t exactly highly sought after by everyone in the league, so it may not be easy to get much in a trade. But it may be wise to let one go for even just a future pick just to have one less guy on the roster that needs the ball constantly.
Hill looks to have landed in a perfect fit in Utah. He’ll slide in the starting lineup that needed a solid point guard more than anything last season. The Jazz young and upcoming lineup of Hill, Rodney Hood, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, and Rudy Gobert could be an elite defensive unit and be a lot of fun to watch. The Jazz also have Dante Exum returning from an ACL tear that could potentially challenge Hill for his starting spot down the line.
It’s obviously to early to declare a winner from the deal. For the Pacers and Jazz, it’ll depend on how long they’re able to keep each player that has only one year left on their remaining contract. Check out this string of tweets from Tim Donahue on the Pacers options for trying to resign Teague right now. The Hawks on the other hand are already trying to trade the pick that they acquired, so it’ll all depend on who they pick or who they trade for. It’ll be an interesting deal to look back on in a couple of years to wonder what might have been.