Minnesota Timberwolves coach/president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau and GM Scott Layden took a conservative approach to free agency in their first days running the team last year, and it essentially backfired on them. Their signings of Brandon Rush, Jordan Hill and Cole Aldrich were duds, and the team operated below the salary cap, leaving cash on the table.
It was pretty clear that the Wolves got a commitment from Teague in conjunction with their trade of Ricky Rubio to Utah, a move that opened $33 million in cap space. Combined with the trade of Kris Dunn, the Wolves have jettisoned two defense-first point guards as they attempt to get more playmakers in their backcourt.
The value for Teague is reasonable in the market, although the four-year, $50 million deal the Spurs agreed to with Patty Mills really looked nice in the grand scheme. Teague's basic numbers aren't that much different from those of Jrue Holiday, who landed a massive five-year, $126 million deal from the Pelicans 12 hours after Teague's commitment.
Teague isn't as strong a defender as Rubio, who was 11th among point guards in defensive real plus/minus last season, while Teague was 24th. Rubio is a slightly more effective passer based on assist rates, though that has a lot to do with system and teammates.
But Teague is a vastly more dynamic offensive player, and that is where the Wolves were looking to upgrade. Minnesota botched so many games last season, often blowing huge leads and/or failing to execute in the clutch. Rubio was often a drag when they needed late-game baskets, with opponents frequently leaving him unguarded. When combined with Andrew Wiggins' breathtakingly bad clutch free-throw shooting numbers, that led opponents to hack him late in games. Watching the final minutes was often excruciating for Wolves fans.
Teague should really help there. An All-Star three seasons ago, he's a professional PG who can create offense and score if given space. He's always had great speed, and he comes from the roots of an offense back in Atlanta that specialized in ball movement and community scoring, which should benefit the Wolves.
He's not a tremendous deep shooter, having matched his career average at 36 percent on 3-pointers last season in Indiana. Ideally, the Wolves would've gotten a better deep threat because Wiggins and Jimmy Butler aren't marksmen either. It's one of the reasons they're going after Redick. That's why Mills, who nailed 42 percent behind the line last year, would've been a beautiful fit at less money.
Nonetheless, the Wolves have added two strong starters in the last week to their team, and they're on the hunt for more. The back of this deal might get interesting, but it isn't clear yet whether all four years are fully guaranteed.