Restricted free agency is always a dodgy process. Players hate it, because they often perceive patience from the team that owns their right to match a restricted offer as a lack of interest. Teams usually love it, because it allows restricted free agents to create their own market and price, which is a good thing until some desperate other team makes an over the top bid for a player.
The Milwaukee Bucks are a desperate, strange team that seems to be stockpiling pretty good players alongside a new coach in Larry Drew that is fresh off one big shoulder shrug of a stint in Atlanta. Along those lines, they signed the pretty good Jeff Teague to a pretty good offer sheet – four years and $32 million. Teague, through the media, begged the Atlanta Hawks to pass on matching the offer, and with Atlanta seemingly in a strange rebuilding mode, all indications seemed to point to Teague reuniting with his former coach in Milwaukee.
Not so, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The AJC’s Chris Vivlamore was the first to report that the Hawks will match Teague’s offer sheet, beating the near-midnight deadline on Saturday that they had to decide. Teague will now return to the team that drafted him in 2009.
Teague has steadily improved in four seasons with Atlanta, and while he’ll probably never round off into developing into an All-Star, those four-year, $32 million terms are just fine for someone producing his typically capable output. Hawks general manager Danny Ferry was expected to blow his team up once it failed to secure Dwight Howard or Chris Paul in free agency, but instead he’s decided to stay the course with a team that’s far from championship caliber, but certainly more flexible than the previous administration’s intractable roster. And certainly far more entertaining. We hope.
The fifth year guard will join the returning Lou Williams (who was playing fantastic ball for the Hawks before going down with an ACL tear last winter), the re-signed Kyle Korver, the newly-signed Paul Millsap, and Al Horford in the Hawks starting lineup. And because Ferry has payroll flexibility, he still has a chance to add to that bench. The Hawks could actually be a fun watch this year, with the floor spread and Teague dominating the ball for a group of sound shooters.
Of course, a lot of this is dependent on Teague keeping his emotions in check as he returns to Atlanta.
Jeff has never been a problem in the locker room, but it’s truly hard to commit to a team after being ignored by your incumbent crew in restricted free agency, only to be pulled right back to the team you expressed a wish to get away from. It’s true that Teague has a few months to get over this uneasiness, but as we saw with Eric Gordon in New Orleans last season, some players don’t have the easiest time having this restricted rug swept out from underneath them. And for those that are wondering, the Hawks are precluded by NBA bylaws from dealing Teague to the Bucks until July 14, 2014.
The Hawks seem well on their way to around 45 wins again, with Teague leading the way. Jeff should be into this, because this Bucks roster would be due a parade if it hit for 45 wins in 2013-14.