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Why Atlanta Hawks Need Jeff Teague to Step It Up in the 2nd Half

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Why Atlanta Hawks Need Jeff Teague to Step It Up in the 2nd Half
Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

Jeff Teague received a new contract from the Atlanta Hawks during the offseason, and Atlanta's hope was that Teague would raise his game to the next level.

Although Teague is averaging career-highs in both points and assists, his shooting percentages are way down. His play has continually declined as the season has progressed. With the loss of Horford, the Hawks need Teague to step his game up in the second half of the season.

Here is what head coach Mike Budenholzer had to say about Teague, according to Grantland's Brett Koremenos:

"Jeff, from when he’s come into the league, each year he’s gotten a little bit better and a little bit better,” says Budenholzer, “and I hope he can take a big step.”

As you can see from the chart below, Teague's points and assists per game are his best numbers since taking over the starting job in the 2011-12 season. However, he has not taken the "big step" Coach Budenholzer hoped for. His field-goal and three-point percentages are both way down.  

Jeff Teague Stats
Year PPG APG FG% 3PT%
2011-2012 12.6 4.9 .476 .342
2012-2013 14.6 7.2 .451 .359
2013-2014 15.8 7.3 .411 .260

ESPN.com

Below is his shot chart, courtesy of NBA.com. The red zones represent below the NBA average, yellow is average and green represents where Teague is above average. As you can see, Teague is really struggling with his shot from beyond the arc. He is also shooting five percent lower at the rim this season, as he shot 52 percent a year ago.

http://stats.nba.com/

Teague played like a fringe All-Star earlier this year, but his play dropped off considerably. His points per game have gone down every month of the season. Teague has shot over 40 percent in only two months, including October, which was only one game. 

Teague is also attacking the rim less than he did earlier in the year. His free-throw attempts were up over six per game early on, but they have been under five since December. Here are his splits by month:

Jeff Teague's per game stats by month
Month PPG FG% 3PT% FT Attempts
October 24 53.8 25 12
November 16.9 39.9 19.5 6.4
December 16.6 45 40 3.9
January 13.6 37.4 16.7 4.4
February 11.8 38.3 25 2.5

ESPN.com

Going forward the Hawks need Teague to be aggressive and attack the basket. If he can get himself to the line like he did earlier this season, he will regain some of the confidence he had earlier this year. 

Here is what Budenholzer had to say about Teague attacking according to Grantland's Brett Koremenos:

"We’ve been talking about how important it is for him to attack and collapse the defense,” says Budenholzer. "Hopefully we’re creating the proper spacing as often as possible for him to do that."

To remain in the top half of the Eastern Conference, Teague needs to help Paul Millsap carry the Hawks offensively. With Al Horford out, they need to be options 1A and 1B.  

Jeff Teague's Performance against the Cleveland Cavaliers

He has shown flashes of brilliance this season, just look at his highlights against the Cleveland Cavaliers from earlier this year. Teague played aggressive, and his confidence was at an all-time high.

He outplayed Kyrie Irving, one of the best point guards in the NBA. 

Should Jeff Teague be Atlanta's Building Block at Point Guard?

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However, what drives Hawks fans crazy is there have been far too many games where Teague plays very passive and never really gets into the game mentally.   

He needs to play with this aggressive attitude on a consistent basis during the second half. Teague is a much more confident player when he is playing this attacking style. He needs to use is natural speed and athleticism to attack the rim and get to the line. 

The Hawks needed Teague to step up in the absence of Horford, but his play declined. He needs to be the aggressive playmaker he has shown he can be, not the player that can mentally check out of games with passive play. 

If Atlanta wants to gain home-court advantage in the playoffs, they will need Teague to step up his play in the second half. 

Follow me on Twitter @Joelexa7

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