This week, word began leaking from prominent NBA circles that Atlanta Hawks starting point guard Jeff Teague could be available for trade.
Teague has two years left on his deal, at about $8 million each. He was an All-Star a year ago for the 60-win Hawks but some ankle issues, ineffectiveness and the rise of the young Dennis Schroder has made Teague more expendable then he ever has been.
There has been some talk about Schroder being available as well, as Atlanta just wants to break up the group and make one the clear-cut starter. From the Mavs perspective, let's just toss that out right away -- Schroder is 22-years-old and keeps getting better. The Mavs, without a first-round pick to trade, simply don't have enough to get a young talent like this. Heck, the Mavs are likely going to be outclassed by plenty of other teams (like the point guard-starved Jazz) just for Teague.
It seems crazy to think the Mavs need Teague -- after all, Deron Williams is enjoying a nice bounce-back season and there's a glut of point guards on the roster with J.J. Barea, Raymond Felton and Devin Harris behind him. So why make the trade?
For one, it can be argued Teague is better than Williams. Despite his clutch moments and big shots hit this year, Williams has been pedestrian for the season as a whole. He's shooting under 45 percent from the field and just 35 percent from three -- a sight for sore eyes compared to Rajon Rondo from a year ago, but nothing earth shattering.
Williams has been wildly inconsistent with his shot and alternates between brilliantly running the half-court offense to committing brain dead turnovers. It seems Williams hasn't been able to put together solid weeks, flip-flopping between stellar shooting games and some serious duds (42 percent from the floor, 32.7 percent from three in January).
Teague isn't doing much better shooting wise, although he is hitting 38.7 percent of his threes (but on far fewer attempts) compared to Williams. But Teague is younger, more athletic and theoretically could offer some of what the Mavs lost in Monta Ellis from last year.
Perhaps the most tantalizing aspect of Teague is the insurance he brings. He's under 30 and under contract for this season and the next on a great number that will look even better when the cap explodes this summer. Williams, meanwhile, is almost assuredly going to opt out for more money this summer, and there's a chance that Williams will get paid more for next season than Teague. You can be sure the cap-weary Mavs are more than aware of this potential.
There are caveats of course -- there's a reason Teague is available. He hasn't been closing games, he's had some ankle issues that has taken away some of his off-the-bounce juice and he simply isn't producing like he was a year ago. There's also the fact that there's something to the chemistry of this Mavs group. Do they really need to break that up just to potentially win a game or two more? Let's be honest, the Mavs aren't winning a title this year, so breaking up a team that genuinely likes to play with each other and that is winning a decent amount of games seems silly.
With all that said, if there was a trade to be made, what is it? This is the best and simplest deal I could come up with:
For the Mavs, there's not a real reason to bring in Teague and keep Williams -- that's just creating drama you don't need in terms of who starts and who comes off the bench. You bring in Teague to be the starter and while it hurts knowing that you're probably making the same mistake again in giving away Justin Anderson like you did Jae Crowder, Atlanta will need something to part ways with Teague compared to offers they could get from Utah or maybe New York. Justin Holiday is an intriguing young wing player that makes up for the loss of Anderson a little bit, although Holiday hasn't paid off yet on the small glimpses of promise he showed in some games last season with Golden State.
For Atlanta, you get Williams for the rest of the year to fit in with your Spurs-ian, pace and space offense while still not over-extending Schroder's role. Then when Williams opts out, you give Schroder a full off-season to prepare for the starter's spot. Anderson then becomes valuable Kent Bazemore insurance in case a team unloads their cap space on him after the huge year he's having. With Teague off the books and Williams opting out, that frees up some space for Atlanta to either retain Bazemore or make sure they can lock down Al Horford with a max deal.
So is this going to happen? Almost assuredly not. The Mavs aren't really in a rush to make a midseason trade when there's the Spurs and Warriors in your conference and the Hawks will certainly get some sexier offers for Teague's services. But there is a scenario that makes sense for both teams, and never doubt Mark Cuban's itchy trade trigger finger.