A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Jeff Teague vs DeMarre Carroll: A player evaluation inefficiency?

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With a 39-8 record the Hawks have become the soup de jour of the league. In addition to last year’s champion Spurs they represent a new style of contender based on balance.

The stars getting the praise are Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, Paul Millsap and Al Horford, with all but Korver making the all-star game although many have advocated for Korver to get in.

The Hawks 5th starter is DeMarre Carroll. His minutes played also reflect a greater role than the rest of the Hawks undercard as Carroll averages 31.6 minutes per game, while the 6th highest player in minutes per game on the Hawks is Thabo Sefolosha at 19.0. No Hawk averages between 20 and 30 minutes per game.

However in media recognition Carroll’s season is a significant distance behind the other 4 Hawks starters.

I don’t quite agree with Carroll’s placement as so far behind Jeff Teague’s, in particular.

Teague is significantly ahead in traditional statistical measures. He has a team leading 21.9 PER to Carroll’s 14.9, which ranks 7th on the Hawks among regular rotation players. Teague averages 16.9 points, 7.6 assists and 2.7 rebounds per game, eye popping compared to Carroll’s 11.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists a game. Both players have above average efficiency with .573 TS% for Teague and .585 TS% for Carroll.

However offensively this doesn’t account for the difference in floor spacing. Carroll averages 39.7 3P% on 4.2 attempts a game which makes him one of the best shooters at the small forward position. Teague averages 33.3 3P% on 3.1 attempts a game which is an average combination of efficiency and volume at PG. Furthermore not all 3 point attempts have equal impact in regards to floor spacing. Because Teague is a more ball dominant player he’s likely to create his own 3s off the dribble. Because Teague has the ball, his 3pt attempts when off the dribble wouldn’t open the floor for his teammates as strongly as when Carroll is in spot-up position at the 3 point line, but a teammate has the ball. Therefore I believe the difference in floor spacing between a Carroll-style player and a Teague-style player is likely to be greater in favour of the off ball player than the numbers indicate, which already favour Carroll in this case.

There are also other differences between point guards and small forwards statistically. Teague averages many more points and assists than Carroll, but so does the rest of his position. Teague’s 16.9 points per game ranks 11th for qualified PGs, while the 11th ranked SF Nick Young averages 14.1 points per game. Carroll’s 11.8 points per game ranks 19th for SFs, while 19th for PGs is Tony Parker at 14.5 points per game. Teague is a better scorer for his position than Carroll is, but when adjusting for position it’s more like the difference between a 17 points per game and 14 points per game scorer if they were both PGs.

Jeff Teague’s passing is a major advantage as his 7.6 assist per game ranks 6th at SF, while Carroll’s 1.5 ranks 25th at SFs. However Carroll is the less turnover prone player. Teague 10.7 turnover ratio ranks 31st for PGs, while Carroll’s 7.2 ranks 8th for SFs. Individual ORTG which takes into account assists and turnovers along with shooting efficiency from the field, ranks Carroll’s 116 ORTG ahead of Teague’s 114.

The difference between them defensively is hard to measure. DeMarre Carroll has excellent length and size for his position, although Teague has turned into a solid ball thief at PG, a position hard to excel at defensively. The Hawks are better defensively with Teague on the floor (-3.5) and worse defensively with Carroll on (+4.6). However this could be heavily effected by a defensive standout Thabo Sefolosha replacing Carroll in lineups. The Hawks still play above league average defense with Carroll in the lineup.

Jeff Teague is undoubtably a standout player. The Hawks need his penetration, playmaking and the attention he garners from defense as a higher volume player. However the league is heading to a player where a “3 and D” wing can be as valuable and rare as a ball dominant player putting up star-level statistics. Just as a shot blocking centre did not need to put up star level offensive statistics to be considered a key cog to a championship team, a case can be made a floor spacing, positive defending wing can be rated just as valuably in spite of his statistics. One very simple but effective way to look at is to take all the contending teams in the league and give them the choice between adding Teague or Carroll to their lineup. On a case by case basis in my opinion:

Golden State – Teague on the Warriors would be their 6th man behind Curry and Klay. Carroll would either start over Harrison Barnes or come off the bench. The Warriors need another ball-handler to take pressure off Curry so I say the edge goes to Jeff Teague here.

Memphis – The Grizzlies would potentially bring Teague off the bench as their 6th man and play him beside Conley for stretches, if they like the defense of having Tony Allen at SG beside Conley. The Grizzlies just added another high usage wing in Jeff Green to their lineup. Although the Grizzlies could use a guard off the bench who scores, the Grizzlies have long ranked at the bottom of the league in 3pt attempts which is a problem for a team built around two post scorers. I’ll give them Carroll.

Houston – Patrick Beverely is a nice fit beside James Harden because he hits open 3s and plays defense and allows him to be ball dominant. Teague would be a juiced up version of Jeremy Lin’s role last year. However the Rockets also need the offensive improvements. The Rockets could split Carroll’s time with Ariza, with Ariza the superior defender and Carroll the shooter who also gives them floor spacing they need. This one is close but I will give it to Teague narrowly.

Portland – Jeff Teague would likely be the Blazers 6th man behind Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews. Carroll could replace the struggling Nic Batum in the starting lineup and space the floor for Lillard and Aldridge. The Blazers have long needed bench scoring so I’ll give them Teague.

L.A. Clippers – Teague gives the Clippers another scorer off the bench although it’s hard to share the ball with Jamal Crawford who already plays that role, along with J.J. Redick as a secondary backcourt scorer in the starting lineup. Matt Barnes is a solid shooter at SF for the Clips, but having a second one still helps, as does Carroll’s ability to take the bigger defensive responsibility for SG Crawford and Redick can’t guard. Carroll seems like a great fit for the Clippers.

Dallas – Teague is a questionable fit with Rajon Rondo and Monta Ellis, an already ball-dominant more than spacing friendly backcourt. Carroll gives them a 3rd wing behind Monta Ellis and Chandler Parsons. Carroll’s shooting fits the spacing-friendly system and gives them some size defensively on the wing. I like Carroll here for the Mavericks.

San Antonio – Tony Parker’s numbers are dwindling so giving Teague the reigns over him would be a long term relief. Carroll is a Spurs like fit shooting and moving the ball but with Manu Ginobili, Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard in the lineup he’d have to fight for minutes. Teague feels better here.

Phoenix Suns – The Suns have 3 PGs in Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe and Isaiah Thomas already, while Carroll gives them a floor spacing wing who could bump Gerald Green and P.J. Tucker a spot down in the SG/SF ranks . This one’s easy in favour of Carroll.

Oklahoma City Thunder – Jeff Teague is better than Jackson and Waiters but still leaves the Thunder with a small Westbrook-Teague backcourt who are dominating the ball and keeping it from Kevin Durant, to say nothing of Reggie Jackson and Dion Waiters off the bench. Carroll’s off ball game is an ideal fit spacing the floor at SG between Westbrook and Durant.

Toronto Raptors – Teague would likely be the 6th man behind Kyle Lowry and DeMar Derozan as an improved version of what Greivis Vasquez and Lou Williams give them. DeMarre Carroll would be starting SF as a more reliable version of Terrence Ross on both ends. The Raptors already have issues with defense and guards chucking up too many shots, so I like the fit of Carroll at SF for them.

Washington Wizards – Teague could be their starting SG behind John Wall with Wall guarding the harder assignment, or a 6th man scorer they need. Carroll would have value off the bench for them if backing up Bradley Beal and Paul Pierce, although Rasual Butler and Martell Webster if he stays healthy can also space the floor for them. This one’s tight, I’ll give them another offensive creator in Teague.

Chicago Bulls – If they let Teague play ahead of Rose he could provide them the stable offensive presence they need there. The Bulls need another shooter who isn’t Mike Dunleavy as well, however. I like Teague here based on Rose’s poor play so far this season.

Cleveland Cavaliers – The Cavaliers are having troubles finding shots for all of Kyrie Irving, Lebron James, Kevin Love and new additions like J.R. Smith, so another ball-needing PG in Teague is not a great fit. Carroll is the type of floor spacing wing they need.

I gave Carroll to 7 teams and Teague to 6, a fairly split result. It’s possible that for poor teams who are less likely to have great PGs and ball dominant players, Teague would gain a greater edge over Carroll.

Supply and demand exists in the league and the lack of wings who both space the floor and contribute defensively is so lacking that it could lead to huge contracts to “role players” like Wesley Matthews and Danny Green this summer. Whether Carroll deserves to be mentioned with those two as a 3/D player is up for debate. But I believe the assumption that Carroll is far behind Jeff Teague in value is conceivably misguided.

Written by jr.

January 31, 2015 at 5:06 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. Carroll is the starter opponents leave open since you can’t realistically cover everything. His goal is to make as many threes as possible not to space the floor– which he doesn’t do since, as I said, he’s the guy they leave open– but to punish the opponent for their defensive strategy. 3pt% and rate of attempts is only a so-so measure of a player’s floor spacing ability.

    On the other hand, Teague is respected by opponents both as a passer and as a shooter, career low 3pt% notwithstanding. This is important for what it does to defenses. When a guy can pass but not shoot, defenses sag off; when a guy can shoot but not pass, defenses play up hard into him. Being able to do both (or at least being perceived as a threat to do both– Westbrook lures defenses out beyond the 3pt line better than Darren Collison, despite being a worse 3pt shooter) keeps defenses uncertain and off balance, especially in the pick-and-roll, where precise defensive spacing is the name of the game. Sometimes your offensive spacing is about shifting defenders out of the spaces where they are supposed to sit schematically, thus disrupting the coordination between defenders. This frequently involves spreading the defense out, but not always.


    February 1, 2015 at 9:23 pm

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