We're almost a quarter of the way through the NBA season, so it's time to take a look at how Demon Deacon first round picks Jeff Teague and James Johnson have been playing thus far...
8.9 mpg, 2.9 ppg, 1.6 ast, .9 reb, .4 to
33% FG, 90% FT, 30% 3PT
13.0 pts/40 min, 4.5 reb/40, 7.0 ast/40, 40.4 true shooting%, 27.9 ast%, 8.0 to%, 6.4 reb%
9.6 mpg, 3.4 ppg, .2 ast, 1.7 reb, .6 to
35% FG, 83% FT, 22% 3PT
14.1 pts/40, 7.0 reb/40, 1.0 ast/40, 42.9 true shooting%, 4.8 ast%, 12.8 to%, 9.8 reb%
As a benchmark:
Lebron James (led league in PER last year)
29.8 pts/40, 7.4 reb/40, 8.8 ast/40, 61 true shooting%, 23.6 ast%, 10.6 to%, 11 reb%
So we have a lot of stats here. All of this is from the Hollinger ratings and PER, the most important stat, is a calculation of all the players' metrics and ends up being his efficiency rating. The average NBA player's efficency rating is 15. For this discussion, it also important to note that the top 5 rookies in PER are Tyreke Evans (1), James Harden (2), DeJuan Blair (3), Ty Lawson (4) and Brandon Jennings (5). All five are have efficiency ratings about 17. The eligible rookie average (at least 6 mpg) is 12.72.
Now, it's not fair to compare Teague and Johnson to Lebron, I know that. I was just using Lebron's stats as a way to understand the metrics better. Stats per 40 is always an interesting stat to use, as it projects what a player's contribution would theoretically be if he played the whole game. This has been especially useful in players like Paul Millsap and Anderson Varejao, who posted huge per 40 #s off the bench in the past.
Both Teague and Johnson are early on in their development and are not asked to play a large contributing role (both at under 10 mpg). This is a combination of two things--1.) there is depth at their positions and 2.) they are not ready to shoulder the load. Both players have a lot to learn about the NBA game.
For Teague, he is learning a position that he is not used to playing. In college, it was easy to see that Teague was not a true point guard. He was far from it. His TO rate was extremely high and he seemed content to slash with the ball in his hands rather than make plays for his teammates. By the same token, Teague wasn't exactly a prototypical SG either. He looked bored without the ball and did not seem involved in the offense (although how much of that was a product of the Wake offense is not really measurable).
So, in trying to learn a new position, Teague has two very strong players ahead of him in Jamal Crawford and Mike Bibby. If he can't get something out of those two, he might not get it at all. And he seems to have taken heed. He is following Bibby's practice routines now.
Teague's numbers average out to be pretty decent per 40, but he has a glaring weakness right now and that is his shooting percentage. This has been a problem for him, especially lately. There's a built-in excuse that he isn't on the floor long enough to get his rhythm, but when he is on the floor, he is dominating the possessions. (He is 11th among rookies in usage rate). His saving grace has been his TO rate--he is ranked 5th in the rookie class.
There is no question that Teague has the ability to shoot--he was absolutely on fire last season, so I don't see that being a problem long-term. But Jeff will have to improve his strength so that he can get to the hoop and he will have to learn to be more patient with the basketball.
With Johnson, there is a lot more going on. His true shooting percentage is higher than Teague's at 42.9, but he needs to define what kind of player he is going to be. And that question was there when James was at Wake too. He seems to want to play the 3, but he doesn't have the outside shot, has not been distributing the ball and he turns the ball over too much (12.8 TO%). He has the body for the 4 (although he needs to get in better basketball shape), but he does not have the defensive mindset for the position.
So, while he was drafted a round higher and has a wider skillset, Taj Gibson was called on to start when Tyrus Thomas went down. And Gibson has continued to play more minutes and put up better numbers. Gibson's PER is 11.78, while Johnson's is just 7.02 (second-worst among rookies).
Now James has the athletic ability, there is no question. He was arguably Wake's best player (and definitely was in the second half of the season) last year and has the potential to dominate games. Plus, with his frame and ballhandling abilites, he has an NBA body. What he needs to work on, as was discussed during draft discussions, is his decision-making and his commitment on defense. He has said a lot of the right things, but he needs to put those words into action.
That said, both Johnson and Teague were drafted in the first round for a reason. They project to be solid NBA players. While neither look to be the next Lebron James or Allen Iverson, as long as they listen to their coaches and put in the work, they can be above-average or better, especially with their athleticism and ability. But unfortunately, the same problems that they had at Wake followed them to the pros, and they still have to fix them before they can get a lot more minutes.