It’s possible — though not likely — that veteran point guard Jeff Teague has played his final game in a Timberwolves uniform.
He almost certainly has played his last game of the season, with the Wolves announcing last week that Teague is slated to be in a walking boot as part of his recovery from a recurring left foot injury.
Beyond that, Teague has a player option on the final year of his contract for 2019-20, which would pay him $19 million. A reasonable person would conclude Teague wouldn’t make that much on the open market, so barring a trade, he figures to be on the Wolves next year.
While that might limit any roster re-construction the Wolves would want to do this summer, having Teague back would hardly be the worst thing that could happen.
Fellow point guards Derrick Rose and Jerryd Bayless are unrestricted free agents, while Tyus Jones is a restricted free agent, so having a known commodity at a known price has its pluses.
More than that, though, there is this: The Wolves are a better team when Teague plays.
If that was disputed by fans a year ago who still ached for Ricky Rubio (more on that in a minute) or preferred more minutes for Tyus Jones, those voices have quieted down this season even as Teague has been limited to 42 games.
You can still love Ricky and Tyus while still realizing this: The Wolves this season are 23-19 when Teague has played, and they are 10-21 when he hasn’t played.
The latter spread figures to grow more lopsided over these final nine games when the depleted Wolves face several playoff contenders without Teague.
Per Basketball Reference, the Wolves’ net rating this season — points scored minus points allowed per 100 possessions — is plus-0.2 when Teague is on the court, and it’s minus-1.7 when he’s off the court. And their offensive rating is a full 4.5 points better when Teague is on the court vs. off.
If the impression is that Utah got the best of the point guard shuffle when the Jazz acquired Rubio in 2017, consider this: Utah is 8-2 this season when Rubio doesn’t play, and its net rating is slightly better when he’s off the court rather than on the court.
Rubio remains what he was here: A joy to watch, a wonderful teammate and an offensive liability when forced to shoot the ball.
If the impression is that Teague lacks durability, this season is clouding your judgment. He missed 12 games last season with the Wolves, but missed three games or fewer in five of the six seasons before that.
Teague’s foot problems have been troublesome this season, but they’ve been the exception rather than the rule in his career.
Even if the Wolves opt for a point guard in this year’s draft as they build toward the future, having Teague next year would be positive as long as he was healthy.
Either Teague would contribute to an improving team and play out his contract here, or he would be a valuable trade chip at the deadline as an expiring contract with playoff experience.
After all, this season was the first time in Teague’s 10-year career that he didn’t make the postseason. Plenty of things conspired to keep the Wolves out of the playoffs this year, but don’t overlook Teague’s health as one of them.