On the surface, this season has a very similar look for the Atlanta Hawks at the point guard position. For the third consecutive season, Jeff Teague holds the starting point guard position, but for how long?
Incoming rookie Dennis Schroeder served notice in the NBA's Las Vegas Summer League: He's coming.
He may not be ready to assume the reigns right away, but it may only be a matter of time.
That being said, Schroeder's sudden emergence as—what many believe to be—the Hawks future starter, gives the position a quality of depth that supersedes all other positions on the roster.
The point guard position is easily the Atlanta Hawks deepest and strongest position.
Point Guard Depth Chart
With seven players in tow between both the point and shooting guard positions, the Hawks' backcourt is deep.
It is also quite flexible.
The Hawks' roster lists Kyle Korver, who spent most of his time at small forward last year, as a shooting guard—a position he has played nearly four of his 10 years in the league.
Should he see some time at the 2 this year—with John Jenkins and Jared Cunningham also vying for minutes—it would free up Lou Williams to play both guard positions as needed (which may not occur unless either Teague or Schroeder suffer an injury).
The flexibility of both Korver and Williams may render third-year guard Shelvin Mack expendable, especially if general manager Danny Ferry is successful in finding another small forward to add to the Hawks' wing rotation. That, however, is an unknown that can only be answered in its own time.
Starting Point Guard: Jeff Teague
Jeff Teague is a very effective scoring guard. He is quick and athletic, and he gets to the rim with relative ease. Last season, 50.4 percent of his total field-goal attempts came near the rim, of which he converted 51.7 percent.
He has a decent jump shot, though it is rather ineffective from the left side. For those clamoring for Schroeder to take over, they'd be wise not to forget that he is a capable playmaker too. Over the course of the 2012-13 NBA season, he averaged a career-high 7.2 assists per game.
Last year, Teague managed to amass 20 points and 10 assists in 10 games. The only other players to accomplish this feat were LeBron James (13), Tony Parker (12), Chris Paul (11), Deron Williams (11) and Stephen Curry (10). That is elite company.
Teague is a capable one-on-one defender, knowing well enough to stay in front of his man and to block off his opponents' path to the basket.
On the downside, he can—at times—be woefully inconsistent on offense. He could stand improving his jump shot. He struggles with physical play, even of the common variety, proving to be ineffective at pursuing his defensive assignment through screens or off-ball picks.
Expect Teague to play 32 minutes per game.
Primary Backup: Dennis Schroeder
Schroeder, by nature, seems to be almost the polar opposite of Teague. He is, in every sense of the term, a pure point guard.
He is a natural floor general. He calls plays, barks orders and gets his teammates in place—ensuring they are where he wants them. He communicates well with his teammates. He runs the pick-and-roll with ease, often using it to find his teammates for the shot, but is not afraid of taking the ball to the hoop.
Passing comes almost as naturally as dribbling. He has excellent court vision and is constantly looking to either pass to the open man or, like a quarterback to a receiver, to pass his teammates open.
Defensively, he uses his quickness and his length to pester opponents, blanketing them with his on-the-ball coverage. He is effective at jumping passing lanes and is a natural ball hawk.
Unfortunately, Schroeder is severely undersized. This presents problems, especially defensively where he struggles to fight through screens and picks. Bigger guards will likely be able to post him up with ease, and he, like Teague, can be prone to getting juked by skilled dribblers.
His jump shot needs a lot of improvement. It would benefit him greatly if he were to become a more viable scoring threat.
He will likely run into some of the same problems that Ricky Rubio has experienced in Minnesota. Defenders do not respect his ability to shoot and play off of him, closing off more of his passing lanes and preventing him from easily getting to the basket.
It would not be surprising to see Schroeder pick up all of the remaining 16 minutes of play.
Bench: Shelvin Mack
Last year, Mack played in only 31 games and averaged 13.4 minutes in them. With Schroeder around, those minutes are likely to diminish—if not disappear entirely.
At 6'3", 215 pounds, he has good size and strength for an NBA point guard. He is very comfortable operating the pick-and-roll, a staple in a Spurs-style offense—likely to be implemented by Coach Budenholzer.
Mack is a capable ball-handler and an effective passer. In 2012-13, he demonstrated effective shooting ability, hitting 36.7 percent from three and making 46 percent overall.
He lacks elite athleticism and quickness, which can be disadvantageous defensively, especially against quicker guards. It also hinders his ability to attack the basket. He is more comfortable shooting jumpers. Though decent, he isn't the best passer either.
In general, he isn't a bad player. His skill set fits nicely in the Hawks' offensive scheme, he just isn't a better option than the first two guys in the rotation, which may eventually make him expendable.
Ultimately, the Hawks will split the bulk of their minutes at the point guard position between Teague and Schroeder. Mack may be left on the outside looking in.