As colleague Moke Hamilton stated in his Top 50 free agent rankings – where Teague is ranked 10th overall) – the fourth-year lead guard’s annual value is likely around the range of $8-9 million.
Because dependable point guards are at a premium, it’s possible – likely, even – that Teague as a restricted free agent will be offered this much money and quickly, meaning Atlanta will have to decide whether it is going to match the offer or move on without the young’n they’ve helped to groom since 2009.
Rebuilding? That’s certainly a possibility if they whiff on Howard, fail to re-sign Josh Smith and let Teague walk away.
But memories like the unexpected spark Teague provided during the 2010-11 postseason and the 4-2 loss to the Indiana Pacers in this season’s playoffs – which is impressive, given how well Indiana fared against Miami in the conference finals – are reasons Atlanta could be tempted to keep its core somewhat intact.
“The Pacers, they’re a really good team,” said Teague. “We had ’em. We played well at home but we just couldn’t win a game on the road. You have to win on the road in the playoffs when you don’t have home court advantage and we just couldn’t get it done. We played well at home but we were a couple plays short, especially on the road.”
Hope of continued growth in the right direction and impressive character and work ethic could be enough for Atlanta to decide to hold onto its 25-year old point guard.
“Just being a competitor, knowing that those guys are working every day and I’m trying to do the same thing,” said Teague, referring to the upper echelon point men with which he’d like to be mentioned. “I want to be on their level, compete against them every night, so I’m always doing what I can to get better.”
Where does he get that drive from?
“You know, I really get it all from being in Indiana, growing up in a basketball environment,” explained Teague. “My dad [Shawn Teague, who started alongside Kyrie Irving’s father, Drederick, at BU under Rick Pitino] instilled those point guard skills for me on the floor early when I was young. Just going out there, being vocal and leading by example. Things like that. It became kind of natural for me.”
Being vocal might have been natural then, but in the NBA Teague believes he is just scratching the surface of his leadership abilities.
“I’m not vocal enough,” said Teague. “But I can get better. I would say that. I’ve always had older guys on the team that I would talk to. I think I’m ready to step up even more.”
There are elite point guards like Rose ($17.6 million in 2013-14), Rajon Rondo ($12 million), Chris Paul (max deal in all likelihood), Russell Westbrook ($14.7 million), Tony Parker ($12.5 million), Kyrie Irving ($5.9 million, but will be maxed eventually), Stephen Curry ($9.8 million and rising) and Deron Williams ($18.5 million).
Below them is the second tier of point guards: Jrue Holiday ($11 million), Ty Lawson ($10.7 million and rising), Brandon Jennings (free agent), Damian Lillard ($3.2 million; rookie scale), Greivis Vasquez ($2.1 million; rookie scale) and Teague ($3.5 million qualifying offer).
Below the second tier are veteran playmakers like Jarrett Jack ($5.6 million in 2012-13) and Jose Calderon ($12 million in 2012-13 but won’t sniff that this season) who can improve a contender or slide into a void left by a player like Teague’s departure.
So while Atlanta goes fishing for Howard and other potential free agents that turn up at its doorstep, the Hawks have to make a decision one way or another on their middle-of-the-pack point guard.
Do they believe Teague can get over the hump, compete with the uber-athletic, elite decision-makers that have taken the league by storm?
“There’s a lot of free agents on our team. They have a lot of tough decisions to make but Atlanta is a great organization,” he said.
It’s July 1st.
One way or another, we’ll find out soon enough.
Jeremy Bauman is an aspiring shooting coach and scout who writes columns and blogs for SheridanHoops.com. Follow him on Twitter.