The Indiana Pacers were able to pull off a three-team deal with the Atlanta Hawks and the Utah Jazz that brought Jeff Teague to Indiana. Larry Bird traded George Hill to the Utah Jazz, which was the only asset involved from the Pacers in the deal. It was a move that drew major national media attention, and rightfully so.
A large portion of the media didn’t give the Pacers a very favorable grade for the deal. Despite that fact, the Pacers instantly became championship contenders in the Eastern Conference thanks to acquiring Teague.
What about Teague can take the Pacers from the No. 7 seed in the conference to being a legitimate championship contender?
First of all, the Pacers’ biggest weakness coming into the offseason was an attacking guard who was capable of running and offense and setting his teammates up. That is Teague’s game, and he will take the offense to a new level. He will also take a lot of pressure off of superstar forward Paul George.
Indiana has been trying to play a faster tempo on the offensive end of the court, and Teague will help them do just that. He is one of the most aggressive point guards in the league and has the speed and quickness to beat almost any defender in the open court. Bird found the point guard who will push the pace every time he touches the ball, and that will be contagious for the rest of the team.
Seeing how Teague will make things easier for George isn’t very hard to do. George had to handle the basketball throughout the majority of the Pacers’ playoff series with the Toronto Raptors, and it wore him out by the end of the series. Having another player capable of handling the ball and creating his own shot will take a lot of weight off of George’s shoulders.
Defensively, there are concerns about the Pacers’ potential starting back-court. Teague and Monta Ellis are not known for their prowess on that end of the court. Bird is taking a bit of a risk by pairing these two, assuming no other moves are made, but he is betting on their offensive numbers outweighing the defensive lapses that they have.
Teague is not normally viewed as a knockdown three-point shooter, but he deserves respect in that area. He knocked down 40.0 percent of his three-point attempts last season. That percentage is among the best in the league at the guard positions, and the Pacers will see him make an impact from beyond the arc in the coming years.
Bird made it clear that he wanted to become a more dangerous offensive team, and there were no other point guards who can help them do that more than Teague.
Mike Conley was a free agency target for the Pacers ahead of the trade to acquire Teague. He would have been a great floor general, but he doesn’t play at the same aggressive pace that Teague does.
George and the Pacers have immediately jumped back into title contention with their acquisition of Teague and power forward Thaddeus Young. Bringing in a star point guard was exactly what they needed to do, and they got the job done.
Nate McMillan will be tasked with taking the Pacers’ offense to a new level after years of watching Frank Vogel’s offenses struggle mightily. Bird has made a concerted effort to give McMillan the pieces necessary to take the offense to a new level. Having a true point guard like Teague will make improving the offense an easy task.
Obviously, the Cleveland Cavaliers are still the favorite to win the Eastern Conference heading into next season. It will not be easy for the Pacers to get past them, but it is possible. Indiana has put together an impressive starting five and still have a lot of money to spend in free agency and a chance to compete with other teams for one of the top free agents.
Expect to see Teague make a massive impact for the Pacers in the 2016-17 season and into the future. Indiana is going to try and get a long-term deal with him in the near future, and it sounds like Teague is excited to be with Indiana moving forward as well.
Some may disagree, but the Pacers are a serious championship contender with the addition of Teague and the other moves that Bird has made and is targeting.
[Photo by Brett Davis/AP Images]