Marquis Teague is going to Iowa. Teague has been optioned to the D-League, where he'll play for the Iowa Energy, the Bulls announced on Tuesday. This comes not even one week after Teague lost his spot in the rotation to Mike James as the Bulls' backup point guard.
[Note by JayPatt, 12/03/13 8:16 PM CST Welp, looks like Teague won't be going to the D-League for now, as K.C. Johnson says Mike James is hurt.]
The assignment to the D-League would seem to be a tough pill for Teague to swallow, but it's a necessary move. Teague entered his second season with hopes of establishing himself as a viable NBA point guard after a strong showing in Las Vegas summer league, but he's mostly been a disaster in his limited opportunities this season. You don't even need to look at the numbers (which are awful) to know this. One look at Tom Thibodeau's face when Teague is in the game tells the story.
Thibodeau's histrionics are an enjoyable part of his developing legend, but only Teague seems to make the Bulls coach look defeated beyond the point of effort. Mouth aghast, slumped shoulders, palms to the sky: all the signs of bad body language are there for Thibs. That Thibodeau felt forced to play a 38-year-old in James with little business being on an NBA roster over a first round pick entering his second season shows just how little trust Teague had earned.
Even if this transaction was only logical, it still registers as a bit of a surprise. The Bulls almost never use the D-League, despite its growing traction as a real way to develop young talent. Teague's assignment to the Energy is the first time the Bulls have optioned a player to the D-League since James Johnson in January of 2011. It's only the second time the Bulls have sent a player to the D-League since 2008.
The Bulls are just one of five teams to call the Energy their minor league affiliate, along with the Pelicans, Wizards, Nuggets and Timberwolves. NBA teams have been snatching up their own D-League affiliates in recent years, but the Bulls have never seemed interested in spending the money. Look at the way the Oklahoma City Thunder use the Tulsa 66ers if you want an example of how NBA teams should interact with the D-League. The Thunder let Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones III season in Tulsa a year ago as rookies, and now both are making contributions for the big year club this season in OKC.
Teague will join reigning D-League Player of the Week and former Chicago high school hoops standouton the Energy. Iowa's roster also includes former MSU guard Kalin Lucas, former Cal wing Patrick Christopher and big man Jarvis Varnado, who the Heat once selected in the second round of the 2010 draft.
This shouldn't be the end for Marquis Teague, just a necessary detour. Teague cannot legally buy a drink until February 28. He's very young and has plenty of potential. He just needs to be developed, and it was clear Thibodeau was not going to allow it happen this season. The assignment to the D-League should be the best thing for all parties involved here.
Teague just hadn't given Thibodeau any reason to trust him thus far. In 80 minutes this season, Teague posted a PER of negative 7.92. That was the lowest in the NBA for any player who had played as much as he had. Teague was just 4-of-24 from the field (good for a 16.7 shooting percentage) in his nine appearances this season. He had nine turnovers to his seven assists. He didn't record a steal or make a three-pointer. Teague might have not have gotten much of a chance after Derrick Rose went down, but it's tough to say he earned one either based on anything other than draft status.
Despite his struggles, it would be awfully foolish for the Bulls to write Teague off completely. He's been a dynamic prospect his entire basketball-playing career, and the Bulls were well aware he needed seasoning when they made him the No. 30 pick in the 2012 draft.
Make no mistake, Teague has talent. He was the No. 5 high school player in the country in 2011 according to Rivals, ranking behind only Austin Rivers (pulls collar....), Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Bradley Beal. He started all 40 games at point guard in college as a true freshman for a loaded Kentucky team that went 38-2 and won the national championship.
From a scouting perspective, Teague's measureables aren't all that different from ... Derrick Rose's. Teague checked in at 6'2 with a 6'7 wingspan and a 40.5' vertical leap at the 2012 draft combine. He has arguably the most important trait for a point guard prospect to have, which is a lightning-quick first-step. Teague is just young and raw. There's plenty to work with here.
For every 20-year-old that lights the league on fire like Kyrie Irving, there's far more players who need development before they're ready to play. Need an example? How about Jeff Teague, Marquis' big brother. Jeff Teague is killing the NBA this year as a member of the Atlanta Hawks, but he really didn't do anything in the league until his age-23 season. Marquis won't be 23 years old until February of 2016.
Patience and development. That's what this is all about. In an ideal scenario, Teague will roast the competition in Iowa, come back to the NBA later this season and look steadier. Kirk Hinrich isn't under contract next season. Mike James is pointless. Under the current CBA, hitting on first round picks becomes essential if you want to avoid paying the luxury tax. The Bulls need Teague to be a viable backup point guard for Derrick Rose next season. He has the talent. It just needs to be fostered.