Jrue Holiday and Jeff Teague are great consolation prizes this free agency, but who would you pick?
This summer, Stephen Curry and Kyle Lowry are the two biggest point guards that are hitting the market. It’s almost a given that Curry is going back to Golden State, and Lowry is certain to command a max contract from someone. His destination, however, isn’t set in stone. After that, the middle-tier floor generals are guys like Holiday, Teague and George Hill, who are coming off solid seasons on bargain deals.
Off the three, per Spotrac, Holiday had the largest salary last year at $11.2 million while Teague and Hill were $8.8 and $8 million, respectively. I expect them to get paid. Hill is likely to hang around with the Utah Jazz, but the futures of the other two are up in the air. Holiday’s spent the last four seasons with the New Orleans Pelicans, and Teague just finished his first campaign with the Indiana Pacers. Where they go next is irrelevant. However, if I were a GM, I’d be targeting both of these guys — not at the same time — because they’re so similar.
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The primary concern with Holiday is injuries. In the last four years, he’s only played in 206 of the 328 possible games, and that’s after playing 298 contests during his time with the Philadelphia 76ers. His most recent campaign, however, was different. Holiday wasn’t with the Pelicans for the first 12 games of the season because he was tending to his wife, Lauren, who underwent brain surgery around the time she delivered the couple’s child. That didn’t hamper Holiday’s play at all. He only missed three games because of injury and averaged 15.4 points, 7.3 assists and 1.5 steals in the other 67 outings. Additionally, he recorded a career-best true shooting clip of 53.2 percent.
Holiday doesn’t epitomize the new-school point guard, but he’s playmaker. And that’s what it takes to be a successful guard in this evolving league. A bit over 6-4, he’s got the size to get into the lane and the vision to make things happen. Even with New Orleans’ inept offense, Holiday has consistently found teammates and has an average assist percentage of 36.6 in four years. Having Anthony Davis helps, but he still handed out four-to-five assists a night to the likes of Dante Cunningham, Soloman Hill and Terrence Jones, per Synergy.
Teague’s numbers are eerily similar. The only distinct advantage is he gets to the line more (5.1 attempts to 2.5), and he converts those attempts at a higher rate (86.7 percent to 70.8). Outside of that, Teague averaged 15.3 points, 7.8 assists and 1.2 steals in 82 games. Additionally, his assist percentage was at 36.4.
The answer to the question I proposed in the headline comes down to what you want your point guard to do. Each guy is more than capable of playing a complementary role on a playoff team but only if the pieces around them mask their deficiencies. Right off the bat, I want to touch on how Teague played in the first round against Cleveland — spoiler alert, he was sensational. Despite getting swept, Teague improved across the board and threw up 17 points and 6.3 assists a night with a true shooting percentage of 64.2 percent. That’s incredible.
Holiday wasn’t fortunate enough to make the playoffs, and that’s an avenue he hasn’t been down since 2015. None of his three appearances come close to what Teague’s was this year, and, in the NBA, you’re only as good as your last season. That, however, shouldn’t factor into your decision if you have other stars surrounding him.
Neither guy is a standout defender. Statistically, Holiday’s better and his height makes him more versatile. Not only did the two record the same tally of steals despite Holiday playing fewer games, but Holiday also beat out Teague in the defensive box plus/minus (0.5 to minus-0.5) column and defensive win shares (2.6 to 2.4). Just going by his physicals alone is enough to pick Jrue when matching up against a premier guard, but Teague is sneakily long, and his wingspan is half-an-inch longer than Holiday — 6-7.5 to 6-7. That length is a huge reason why Teague isn’t much worse because, at 6-1, his height doesn’t favor him.
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Defense isn’t what’s going to get them a contract. They’re decent, and that’s all that matters. If your team has a sound collective, there won’t be any issues. The most enticing part about the two is their offense.
Once again, it’s a push. Both are marginal three-point shooters who can get into the lane. Additionally, they’re reliable from mid-range, but it’s Holiday who’s been consistently better over his career. According to Basketball Reference, Teague only shoots 41.2 percent on shots from 10-16 feet, whereas Holiday’s at 43.9 percent.
Teague separates himself in the pick-and-roll, which is becoming more and more paramount. He’s in the 86th percentile at 0.98 points per possession and scores 45.9 percent of the time. Holiday is way below him at 0.81 points, landing him in the 55th percentile and Teague is just harder to guard because of his slashing ability. According to Synergy, Teague shot free throws on 17.9 percent of his pick-and-roll possessions — only Eric Bledsoe, James Harden and Jimmy Butler had more among players with at least five possessions a night. Holiday’s free throw rate was 7.1, and, a lot of the time, Teague leaves defenders in the dust thanks to his blinding quickness.
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Spacing also plays a role in pick-and-roll. The Pacers finished fourth in the NBA in three-point percentage at 37.6, and New Orleans was 19th at 35.0. All of that congestion makes it hard for the ball handler to score, and it also doesn’t help that Holiday’s mediocre stroke from downtown attributed to that. Teague may not have been more accurate, but his supporting cast was, and that opened the floodgates. We don’t know how the two would fare if roles got reversed.
That’s not an excuse, but the silver lining is that Holiday is still more than serviceable, he just requires more volume. And the more possessions a team gets, the better.
You can’t go wrong with either guy. My first choice is Teague because I believe he’s better suited to play today’s point guard role. However, don’t think that I wouldn’t be happy with Holiday. These guys are two of the top point guards on the market. They’re more than capable of getting theirs while making others look better, and I wouldn’t hesitate to give them $18 million if my team’s lacking in the backcourt.
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