Can a Jeff Teague-Lou Williams Backcourt Work for the Atlanta Hawks?
The Hawks have parted with their "franchise player" in Joe Johnson. Though his max contract was viewed as something of an albatross, it wasn't because Johnson was bad. Quite the contrary, in his better Atlanta seasons, he may well have been their best player.
Joe Johnson was, at the very least, unusual in his approach. A wide, strong wing, he loved to paste smaller defenders in isolation. This created favorable matchups for the Hawks, as teams were forced to guard Joe with small forwards instead of shooting guards, or risk that their shooting guards get in foul trouble.
"Iso Joe" did have its disadvantages as a style, though. Atlanta suffered from a lack of overall offensive flow and creativity. Joe Johnson wasn't the most efficient scorer, and it was reasonable to guess that the Hawks would fare better with less of him—even if he produced some beautiful one-on-one highlights every now and again:
But "Iso Joe" is no more. Or at least, he's moved onto Brooklyn. This leaves the Hawks with a few small frontcourt options. They can pair Jeff Teague with the recently acquired Louis Williams, pair Teague with Devin Harris or go Harris with Williams.
Among those options, Teague and Williams likely works best, even if it's imperfect. First, the imperfections. Much like Milwaukee's Ellis-Jennings combo, this pairing should suffer defensively at the 2-guard spot. Williams is listed at 6' 2", though we don't have the measure of his in-socks height or reach. Regardless, he is undersized for the position and should struggle when defending larger guards. Jeff Teague presumably will only defend point guards, which he can do quite capably.
Williams has a game much like Monta's, if not a bit more restrained. Lou turns the ball over far less and gets to the line more. He also might be an improving three-point shooter, unless last season's 36 percent mark was a blip. In theory, he's the perfect off-the-bench gunner. In practice, he will be forced into more of a starting, starring role with Atlanta.
Teague and Williams should mesh better offensively than defensively, even if Lou trends toward ball-dominant gunner. The combo should hound opposing teams with their aggregate quickness. Just look at what Lou can do in four seconds:
Jeff Teague isn't to be outdone in the quicks department:
Both players augment their speed with enticing shot-fakes. This could be the key to a new era in Atlanta of ball movement and passing. Just imagine: Teague shot-fakes, drives in, kicks out to Williams, who shot-fakes, drives in, kicks out to an open Anthony Morrow.
Expect Louis Williams and Jeff Teague to display a Euro-esque drive-and-kick onslaught, replete with knifing drives to keep the defense honest. This is my long-winded way of saying that I expect Atlanta to be better on offense, even without Joe Johnson.
The Teague-Williams combination should be a scoring boon if all goes according to plan. Unfortunately, this applies to the opposition, too, as such a short duo will have trouble stopping the other team.
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