Ricky Rubio continues to prove that the Minnesota Timberwolves’ decision to trade and replace him with Jeff Teague was an excellent decision.
The Minnesota Timberwolves made plenty of big moves in the offseason. Of course, trading for Jimmy Butler was the highlight, but trading away Ricky Rubio to the Utah Jazz was no small move either. As a result, the Wolves were in the market for a starting point guard and satisfied the need with the signing of Jeff Teague in free agency.
To many, the move to bring in Teague for Rubio was a head-scratcher. I mean, Rubio was arguably coming off his best season with the Wolves. Not to mention, he finished the year strong averaging 16.0 points and 10.5 assists after the All-Star break, including shooting 42.0 percent from the field and 35.3 percent from 3-point land. Some thought this may be a sign of things to come for the 27-year-old.
On the other hand, Teague had a solid year of his own in 2016 with the Indiana Pacers, averaging 15.3 points and 7.8 assists. Even so, he’s never been considered one of the top point guards in the league and there’s really nothing too splashy about his game. Compared to Rubio, he definitely doesn’t boast the exceptional vision the Spaniard has to make splashy passing plays for those around him.
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Consequently, many weren’t thrilled about the Wolves’ change at starting point guard. To this day, there’s still Timberwolves fans that insist this team would be better with Rubio running the point. Or, at least, they’d be no worse. To add, Rubio seemed like a great fit with the Wolves’ trio of top scorers in Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, and Butler. Essentially, he could set them up for countless scoring opportunities and shoot the ball less.
While that sounds great and dandy, it’s simply not realistic. Simply, the top teams would have assuredly game planned against that. As has been the case in the past, teams would try to force Rubio to shoot given he’s only a 37.5 percent shooter from the field and 31.0 percent from 3. Sure, Rubio is going to get his share of assists, but his one-dimensional game is more of a liability than it’s been a strength over his career. Basically, teams know his main strength and they do everything they can to make him turn away from using it.
Contrary to Rubio’s game though, Teague has been a respectable shooter, shooting 44.6 percent from the field and 35.7 percent from 3. Through 13 games this season, the shooting percentage is below his average at 40.8 percent, but the 3-point percentage is fantastic at 41.7 percent.
In result, opposing defenses have to respect Teague far more than Rubio as a scorer and this has opened up opportunities for Towns, Wiggins and Butler offensively. If the defense decides to leave Teague open to double one of the Wolves’ stars, Teague is more capable of making them pay than Rubio is.
So far, Teague has been better for the Timberwolves than Rubio has for the Jazz. It’s also worth noting Rubio’s second half hasn’t carried over into the 2017 season. This is especially the case if you thought his shot was finally coming around. Here are the stats:
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2017-18 Season Statistics
Jeff Teague: .408%, .417 3P%, 13.7 PPG, 7.5 assists, 3.2 rebounds, 1.8 steals, 3.6 turnovers
Ricky Rubio: .371 FG%, .258 3P%,13.6 PPG, 5.6 assists, 3.8 rebounds, 1.9 steals, 3.9 turnovers
What stands out most looking at these statistics is the shooting percentages, but also, the assist averages. Specifically, Teague averages almost two assists more than Rubio, although part of this has to do with the Wolves having better offensive weapons. Nevertheless, Teague is an underrated passer and has done just fine replacing Rubio. In reality, I’d say he’s done better when looking at his production as a whole.
Furthermore, Teague continued outperforming Rubio in the Wolves’ latest game against the Jazz with 22 points and three assists in 38 minutes. Most impressively, he shot 4-for-7 from 3-point range. Rubio had no answer for Teague, shooting 1-for-7 with three points and two assists in only 22 minutes. He also shot 0-for-6 from the 3-point line and has missed his last 14 3-point shots.
Overall, replacing Rubio with Teague looks like a great move. Teague may not be one of the best point guards in the league, but he’s definitely a more complete point guard than his predecessor. To the Rubio loves, it’s time to accept that Teague is the better player and move on.