Yes, I said Marquis Teague. Yes, I said big-time NBA player. And I mean it.
First, let me define what I mean by big-time player. Marquis Teague will not necessarily have a Kyrie Irving-type rookie season, dominating the competition and looking like a star game in and game out.
Teague will not lead the league in assists, he will not win any scoring titles, he will not be Chris Paul 2.0.
But what he will be is a solid point guard who can make big plays for a contender.
Playing one year of college ball was more beneficial to Teague than to many other NBA-bound point guards. Teague now has all of the tools to become a very good, if not great, point guard.
In a few years, he will be playing a Darren Collison or Brandon Knight-type role. Or Mario Chalmers on a good night (but a bit better).
Despite what many consider a lackluster freshman campaign, Teague will make his mark on the NBA. And quickly.
Simply put, Marquis Teague can score. He excelled at it in high school, averaging 22.7 points per game in his senior season.
When he got to Lexington and began playing for the Kentucky Wildcats, however, Teague’s scoring took a noticeable hit.
He averaged just 10 points per game in his only college season, a far cry from his dominant high school days.
But as the season went on, Teague began to grow into his position and his scoring picked up.
He had a 16-point, four rebound, six assist performance against the Vanderbilt Commodores, a 15-point, three rebound, six assist game against the Florida Gators and, most notable, a 24-point, four rebound, seven assist game against the Iowa State Cyclones in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
Towards the end of the season, Teague looked like he had figured it out.
He began to attack the basket to start the offense, often finishing easy layups.
He started running the break with authority, finding open teammates or taking the ball strong to the basket.
Teague figured out how to score again while playing his game and that talent will take him far in the NBA.
Much of the reason that Marquis Teague’s scoring took such a hit during his time with the Kentucky Wildcats was because he had truly bought into coach John Calipari’s team approach to basketball.
Teague learned that with players like Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Doron Lamb and Terrence Jones that he would not necessarily be “the man.”
On such a stacked team, Teague’s responsibility was not to score in bunches, it was to get his teammates involved and take advantage his moments when they arose.
From that perspective, his 4.8 assists per game were the most important stat of his freshman season—far more meaningful to the team than his scoring average.
Teague’s willingness to go from a do-it-all high school star to a college distributor who took a backseat to his teammates is exactly why he will have a long and successful NBA career.
When Teague takes the court, surrounded by NBA All-Stars and players who need the ball in their hands on every possession, he will know what to do.
Teague will be able to get stars and veterans their shots but, as he learned at Kentucky, will be able to look for his shot as well.
Not many one-and-done players can boast the kind of team basketball IQ that Teague has.
It is always a good sign when a player steadily improves throughout the season.
As many Kentucky Wildcats fans were quick to point out, Teague was not the same as the ultra-quick, soft-shooting, All-American point guards that John Calipari had brought in for the past two years.
His frequent turnovers and quick trigger on shots earned him the ire of many Kentucky fanatics.
But as the season went on, Teague improved.
He cut down on turnovers, his assist numbers went way up and he stopped jacking up threes every other possession.
If Teague could go from a six point, two assist, six turnover performance against the Old Dominion Monarchs early in the season to a 24 point, seven assist, two turnover game in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, he has come a long way.
And that is in just one season, as a freshman, playing under the most intense microscope imaginable.
Imagine what Teague can do in the NBA when he is working with the many assistant coaches and, hopefully, veterans ready to help him improve.
One of the best qualities a basketball player can have, especially a point guard, is the desire to learn. Teague clearly listened to his coaches in college and was able to tailor his game to fit in with the team.
And the success he achieved when doing so will undoubtedly motivate him to keep it up.
Say what you will about his morals, but John Calipari has a knack for coaching point guards.
Lest the general public forget, both John Wall and Brandon Knight were also dogged by the turnover bug at the beginning of their college careers.
Somehow Calipari has figured out how to teach his prized recruits about the speed and intensity of the game and ensure not just that they understand it, but can excel.
Marquis Teague has been Calipari’s latest pupil and actually improved just as much as Wall and Knight did over the course of his lone season in Lexington.
The only difference is that Teague was not counted on to be a star and, furthermore, was counted on not to be a star.
While he learned how to control his turnovers and make sharper passes just like his predecessors, Teague did not get as much of a chance to display his refined scoring game because he simply was not the focal point of his team’s offense.
From Wall to Knight to Derrick Rose, Calipari’s point guards have excelled in the NBA. Just because Teague did not have to score 20 points a game for Kentucky to win does not mean that he will have any less success at the next level.
And remember, Teague was the only one of Calipari’s point guards to actually win a national championship. That has to count for something, right?
One of the most encouraging facets of Marquis Teague’s game is that when one thing starts to go well for him, many others do as well.
Often, Teague initially finds success when scoring. In one of the Kentucky Wildcats’ late-season games against the Vanderbilt Commodores, Teague started taking the ball to the basket from the opening tip.
He was easily able to blow by his defender and scored easy baskets in the opening minutes of the game.
After Teague has success, it seems that the rest of the game just comes easier for him. When he is penetrating into the lane, he can find open teammates better.
And when he is lane driving and dishing, he goes for rebounds more aggressively. Teague’s final stat line in that Vanderbilt game was 16 points, four rebounds and six assists.
In many of his college games, it became apparent that when Teague was scoring in high numbers, he also averaged more assists simply because he had more control of the game.
In the 20 games Teague scored in double figures during his freshman season he had four or more assists in all but four of those games. He had six games with seven or more dimes in that stretch as well.
It is always a good sign when a point guard starts to understand the game and see the floor. It is an added bonus that Teague can run the team better when he is scoring himself.