Last Year’s Las Vegas NBA Summer League represented the first glimpse that Chicago Bulls’ swingman Jimmy Butler was primed for a big step forward in his second NBA season. Marcus Teague is showing similar progress this year.
After a strike-shortened 2011-12 campaign that led to the cancellation of the summer leagues in 2011, Butler averaged 20.8 points per game, 6.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists while shooting 50% from three point range and 43% overall in the 2012 Las Vegas Summer League. This robust production carried the former first round pick from Marquette into his second season, where his numbers improved across to the board.
In his second season of 2012-2013, his games played jumped from 42 to 82; his minutes per game from 8.5 to 26.0; his field goal percentage from 40.5 to 46.7; his three point shooting rate from 18.2% to 38.1%; his free throw percentage from 76.8 to 80.3; his rebounding average from 1.3 to 4.0; and his scoring average from 2.6 to 8.0. He firmly established himself as a member of the Bulls’ core and opening day shooting guard entering this season with a scintillating playoff run in which he averaged 13.3 points per game, 5.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.3 steals, played all 48 minutes in several games and put on a defensive exhibition.
Can Marquis Teague experience a similar jump in production as he prepares to enter his second year?
If his summer league play for the Bulls thus far is any indication, then the answer is unequivocally yes. Unlike Butler, who played three years at Marquette University after a year of junior college basketball, Marquis Teague was drafted 29th in the first round by the Bulls in 2012 after just one year at The University of Kentucky. Teague’s freshman season culminated in a 2012 national championship.
The first opportunity for Bulls’ fans to evaluate the 6’2 point guard was the Las Vegas Summer League last year, where the then 19-year-old Teague was clearly overwhelmed. Averaging 27.4 minutes per game, Teague shot a woeful 29.4% from the field, failed to connect on any of his four three point attempts and had an underwater assist to turnover ration of 3.0/3.8. He did average 10.6 points.
While Teague occasionally flashed glimpses that had Bulls’ fans giddy on draft night, his regular-season production was what would be expected from a player drafted late in the first round who only played one year at the college level and who did not turn 20 until late in his rookie season. In 48 regular season games, he averaged 8.2 minutes and 2.1 points and shot 38.1% overall, 17.4% from three point distance and 56.3% and from the free throw line. Significantly, his assist-to-turnover-ratio improved to 1.3/0.7. What was readily apparent was that teams sagged off of Marquis Teague on the perimeter, daring him to shoot and making it very difficult for him to exploit his explosive dribble penetration.
What a difference a summer makes. Through three games in this year’s summer league, Teague is averaging 30.7 minutes, 2.1 rebounds, 5.7 assists (against 3.0 turnovers), and 17.3 points. His overall shooting percentage of 43.6% is a vast improvement, and he is a perfect 4 for 4 from three-point range.
With teams having to respect his jump shot now, Teague is attacking the basket more aggressively and running the Bulls’ offense more confidently.
Teague’s role on this year’s Bulls is still unknown. Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler are slated to start in the backcourt, but not only is Rose coming off a knee injury that will have sidelined him for almost eighteen months by the start of the season, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau might be much more judicious in assigning minutes to keep players fresher heading into the postseason and guard against injuries. Moreover, Rose’s primary backup, Kirk Hinrich, has missed 40 regular season games the last two seasons with various ailments and will turn 33 in January. He is also entering the final season of a two-year deal that he signed prior to the 2012-2013 season and could be a valuable trade asset.
Finally, on the night he drafted Teague, Bulls General Manager Gar Forman spoke excitedly about the possibility of Rose and Teague eventually playing together in the same backcourt in certain lineups, a more likely scenario now that Rose has added the requisite strength during his rehabilitation to guard opposing off guards. While Teague’s future is to be determined, he is certainly enjoying a summer of maturation as a player.