The Phoenix Suns get their first taste of the new-look Atlanta Hawks tonight at home. Unfortunately for the Hawks, their current look has been kind to them, as they've been dealing with a plethora of injuries and have lost 9 of their last 10 games.
Peachtree Hoops' Daniel Christian answers a few questions about Jeff Teague, the state of the Hawks and his thoughts on tonight's game.
Also check out the Bright Side Q&A about tonight's game over at Peachtree Hoops to see what I had to say about Goran Dragic, Miles Plumlee and Jeff Hornacek.
Q: Jeff Teague signed a lucrative new contract in the offseason and has put up respectable 16 and 7 per game. What are Teague's biggest strengths and weaknesses?
A (Daniel Christian): Teague's play has been impressive this season, but it's also created plenty of dissent within the Hawks fan base. When aggressive, Teague is one of the better point guards in the league. He's crazy quick off the dribble and generally a nightmare for opposing defenses in transition. He's effective in the pick-and-roll, although without Horford as his counterpart he's had a little more of a difficult time (understandably so), and he's historically been a respectable outside shooter (his shooting numbers have taken a dip this year).
But all too often of late, he's been prone to poor shooting nights accompanied with a lackadaisical disposition. His defense has always been suspect, and that, along with other (often ridiculous) complaints, led to a minor clamoring for Teague to be traded at the deadline. The rumors of Hawks-Knicks talks only accentuated these feelings for some, but the bottom line remains that Teague has been, on the whole, very effective for the Hawks. He didn't keep up his torrid start to the year, but he's still, at this point, the best fully healthy player on the Hawks roster (get well soon, Millsap).
Q: With all the injuries, the Hawks are struggling of late having lost 10 of 12 February games. And now Millsap is out. Which player has stepped up the most lately, giving hope to the Hawk masses?
A: It has to be Mike Scott. He poured in 30 points against the Knicks in February and has generally been the biggest surprise for the Hawks this season. He's been impressive offensively all season, but with an increased role, we're seeing more of his strong offensive arsenal. In addition to Scott's relative personal successes, Shelvin Mack had career games in Teague's short injury absence. Mack and Scott have both been contributing at a secondary level all season, and given their career trajectories 1-2 years ago, that's quite a testament to the Hawks' player development system. But still, however fun these guys are, they aren't the one's you want leading your team.
Q: What do the Hawks need to do to win on Sunday night in Phoenix?
A: Without Millsap, Horford, Pero Antic, and Gustavo Ayon it seems difficult to imagine the Hawks winning many more games. That's almost their entire front line. The only real pieces that remain are Scott and the elderly Elton Brand. The Hawks are going to need to play small and hope Korver gets in his transition three-groove and Teague finds success at the rim, because the offense (or defense) isn't likely to come up front.