Despite the fact that there are only three teams in the Eastern Conference that are over .500, the East will still field an All-Star team against the West in February. One player who should be on that roster is Jeff Teague, the point guard and floor general of one of those .500 teams—the Atlanta Hawks.
The All-Star voting is already underway with the first round of results counted, but the voting is a glorified popularity contest. For the most part, we already know which players will be making up the starting lineups: the superstars.
But the bench of each All-Star team is the chance for some of the less heralded players to get the recognition they so richly deserve.
Teague is one of those players.
But will he actually make the roster? That’s an entirely different question, and to answer it we have to look at his competition.
Here are the results of the early voting for the Eastern Conference backcourt, per Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated:
The rest of the Eastern starting lineup is LeBron James, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony (remember that center is no longer on the ballot, just frontcourt and backcourt). Judging from the starting five, the coaches are probably going to select around three to four big men and three backup guards to round out the roster.
With just three more guard spots (four at most), the competition is stiff for Jeff Teague to make it to New Orleans.
Here’s how it shakes out.
Barring injury, John Wall is going to be on the All-Star roster. He’s arguably been better than Kyrie Irving, but Wall is definitely a notch above the rest of the candidates we’re about to discuss.
The Washington Wizards point guard is second in assists, fourth in steals and 21st in scoring. Not to mention that his team is starting to come together after a disastrous start to the season.
There is no question that Wall will be the first guard who makes the coaches’ vote.
The Next Three
Arron Afflalo (SG), Orlando Magic
Arron Afflalo deserves to go to New Orleans, and his numbers support that notion. It will be interesting to see if the coaches hold the Orlando Magic's underwhelming record against him.
Even though an All-Star spot technically shouldn’t be dependent on your team’s record, it often factors into the voting process for the reserves.
Regardless, Afflalo is 10th in the NBA in scoring and should make the team.
Jeff Teague (PG), Atlanta Hawks
Jeff Teague has been really tremendous for an Atlanta team that has surprised everybody and currently sits as the No. 3 seed. Obviously, part of that is due to the incredibly weak Eastern Conference, but Teague, Al Horford and Paul Millsap have led the Hawks to a winning record.
The point guard has been more mature and has displayed better decision-making. According to the statistics provided by SportVu, Teague is fourth in drives per game, and that aggression has put a lot of pressure on opposing defenses (as evidenced by his 5.7 free-throw attempts per game).
Brandon Jennings’ numbers are slightly better than those of Jeff Teague, so it’s a little unclear how coaches would choose between the two. Teague’s team has been better, but it's very tough to pick between them.
The Wild Cards
Lance Stephenson (SG), Indiana Pacers
Lance Stephenson’s numbers are worse than the aforementioned players, but his impact has been enormous and he’s been a key contributor to the best team in the Eastern Conference.
He’s had a number of signature performances and is currently the only player to record multiple triple-doubles this season.
His drastic improvement, all-around versatility and the impressive success of his team mean that Stephenson has a good shot at making the All-Star squad, but it depends on how the coaches vote.
Deron Williams has put up some shameful numbers (considering his talent) for a shameful team (considering its talent). But he’s been banged up for most of the season, and he’s been excellent in his return to action after missing nine games.
In his first five games back, he’s averaging 18 points and 9.2 assists, which puts him firmly in the All-Star conversation. If he continues to perform like this, the All-Star buzz will grow—especially if the Nets actually start winning games (3-2 in Williams’ five games). The point guard has the edge on the other candidates due to his reputation around the league.
Who Makes It?
It’s too close to call. If the All-Star Game were this weekend, Teague would probably make the roster, but there are a few things working against him.
Who isn't making the All-Star team?
For one, the aforementioned wild cards (Stephenson and Williams) both have really good shots at making the team for the discussed reasons. As long as Williams is healthy, he’ll be able to maintain his stellar play, which would put the squeeze on the other point guard candidates (Teague and Jennings).
Secondly, a large part of Teague’s candidacy is the success of his team. As we go further into the season, however, other teams might start to catch up and the Hawks themselves could start to decline. If Teague doesn’t have the edge of being on a winning team and one of the three best teams in the conference, his numbers may not carry him to New Orleans.
Ultimately, the cards may be stacked against the Wake Forest product. He’s been excellent for the Hawks, but he may not have the name recognition to make the reserve squad.
Note: All statistics and records are accurate as of December 18, 2013.
For more hoops talk, follow me on Twitter