Should Timberwolves Look To Tyus as Teague Struggles?


January was a rollercoaster month for the Timberwolves. They dealt with injuries to Jeff Teague, Jamal Crawford, and Jimmy Butler on top of having what could be considered the toughest month stretch for any team this season. Despite this they managed to limp away, nursing only a few bumps and bruises and holding a 9-8 record in a month that saw them face Boston, New Orleans, OKC, Cleveland, the New York Knicks, Portland, Houston, Toronto (twice), the Golden State Warriors.

This is great news as we surge into the second half of the season and the Timberwolves try to maintain position somewhere in the top 4 seeds of the West.

However, the team’s performance showed that there are still a few things the Wolves need to work out as the playoffs get closer. And one of those problems is a glaring weakness identified as Jeff Teague.

As a preface, Teague has been rather favorable for a good portion of the season. Up until his injury in December, suffered against the Nuggets, he was hovering around 14 points per game and 7 assists. These were more than serviceable numbers for a guy that came in to replace Ricky Rubio.

But since his return to the court in early January, Teague only managed 12 points and 6 assist; quite a drop off at a time where his team needed him at peak performance. He also only managed an offensive rating of 101 and was a net -1.1 Even though it seemed his month was shortened by injury, thanks to the Wolves playing a league-high 17 games in January, Teague actually only played one less game that December. So it’s not as if his numbers are skewed by injury.

His replacement, backup point guard, Tyus Jones filled in to start in Teague’s absence early on in the month and cemented himself as a fan favorite with his steady play, good pace, and willingness to get his teammates the ball.

In the string of games that Tyus started for the injured Teague, he averaged 7.3 points, 4.3 assist, 2.3 steals and was a +15.4 while helping the Wolves to a 4-3 recond in that span.

These aren’t exactly numbers that jump out at you or even begin to quantify Jones’ play on the Timberwolves (perhaps one of the most consistent players on the roster). But they were enough to get people talking. Especially after the January 29th loss to Atlanta where Teague was responsible for several mental mistakes as well as shooting 1 of 12, while his All-Star teammate, Karl-Anthony Towns, only shot the ball 8 times. Making 6 of them.

The narrative has now flipped to a lot of Timberwolves nation supporting Teague coming off the bench and starting Tyus, who is tied with Gorgui Dieng with the highest VORP for players coming off the bench for Minnesota.

With all of this laid out, it leaves the Timberwolves with a lot of options going forward. There’s no reason to believe that Teague should come up in any trade talks with the deadline now looming less than a week away. Even if he has cost the team a few wins, it doesn’t necessarily warrant a trade. Especially with him freshly signed and collecting $19 million over the next 3 years.

Starting Tyus Jones is a serious possibility, but there’s been no word from Thibs if he’s even considered it and as the team stands right now, it wouldn’t make enough sense to mix up the lineups. Let’s not forget that Teague isn’t too far removed from his all-star appearance, not that we’re waiting on that version of Jeff Teague to show up, but it’s very likely that as he continues to shake off that injury, we’ll start to see more of the Jeff Teague that we saw in November and December.

As far as pulling the trigger on actually toying with the line-up, I think the best course for the Wolves right now is to definitely get more minutes to Tyus Jones who is only averaging 18 minutes per game. If they could consistently get him on the floor for at least 21 minutes, preferably with some of the starters still in, it’s going to bring a lot more ball action to their offense and even get more opportunities for KAT to score.

During the all-star break is when you should truly make a final decision on this. If Teague can get his rhythm back over the next two weeks, then there’s no reason to look to switch things up.

But if we are to see more of the same mental mistakes, forced shots, bad passes, and wasted clock time, then the Wolves should look to Minnesota native, Tyus Jones, to take the reigns.

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