Jeff Teague is pretty good at basketball. It's worth getting that out of the way up front because it's sort of a shame he might have to be the first symbol of the "next era" of Sixers basketball. Acquired for the right price or at the right time in his career, a player like Teague would be a great fit alongside the Sixers cavalcade of young big men.
But the right price for Teague is not achievable in the long-term, and he is not in the right place in his career for the Sixers to acquire him. He is emblematic of the short-term thinking Sixers fans have been dying to get away from.
28 years old as of next week, Teague is old enough to be a stabilizing and impactful presence but too old to assume the mantle of next Sixers lead guard on a relevant team, assuming everything else breaks correctly. Optimistically, assuming the Sixers don't begin a fire sale of all their young players in order to COMPETE NOW, they are at least 4-5 years away from being a strong playoff team.
If it breaks that way -- and that's a massive assumption -- Jeff Teague will be 33 years old and commanding $25 million a year, conservatively, by the time that rolls around. To put it lightly, that is a terrible place to be as your (hopeful) stars are rounding into ass-kicking form. Maybe Ben Simmons has transformed into your point guard of the future, Destroyer of Worlds and Breaker of Chains, but it's more likely the Sixers will be faced with the prospect of trying to replace an aging guard while trying to build out from around his albatross salary.
The salary concerns are daunting. Teague is on a sweetheart deal for next season at just $8 million, but his impending free agency and the cap jump spell doom for the Sixers' checkbook. Overpaying is likely the only option available to keep Teague after next season because the present win-loss record of the team compared to other suitors is unlikely to be enticing enough to keep him in the fold at market value.
Trading for Teague requires thinking about these sort of concerns in advance, but I'm not sure that's the case here. Reports have surfaced the Sixers could also include Robert Covington and Nik Stauskas as part of the deal, which adds another layer of ineptitude to the world's crappiest onion.
Stauskas I could take or leave at this point, but Covington's inclusion would be utterly nonsensical; the same Hawks involved in this deal gave up a mid-first for TIM FREAKING HARDAWAY JR. as recently as last year. You would be paying a tax for the right to give up the youngest player with the most upside in the deal, in addition to paying the returning player above market value at the most loaded position in the league.
Speaking of how loaded that position is, take a gander at next year's draft class. The trajectory of high school guards can be volatile -- hello, Harrison twins -- but with names like De'Aron Fox, Lonzo Ball and Markelle Fultz looming on the horizon, now is quite possibly the worst time for a team firmly entrenched in the NBA lottery to pay a premium for an aging point guard.
The underlying philosophy behind such a move is unsound regardless of which key piece would be sent back the other way. Much as I prefer Jahlil Okafor to be moved in a trade for reasons I've elaborated on previously, trading him for a player like Teague is just as bad, if not worse.
Teague isn't an undervalued player in his mid-20s waiting to break out, but a decent player at the peak of his powers with no reasonable room left to grow. There's near-zero justification to make this trade. If you're trading for him just to rent him, you're getting horrendous value in the deal. If you're keeping him long-term and planning to pay him a boatload of cash, why not just overpay a stopgap this offseason without sacrificing valuable players as trade currency?
This is a move made by a salesman, not a basketball executive. It's a name to present to fans, cashing in on the luster of his singular All-Star appearance and a shared Player of the Month award. He's not a top-10 player at his position, and will only slide further down those rankings as he ages and new talent is injected into the league.
The fabric of this trade is a course correction of the first move made by the last regime. Jrue Holiday -- younger and with more tangible room for growth than Teague -- was sent packing in exchange for a chance at a star player. The exact same player received in that transaction, already showing signs of being an elite defender at the most important defensive spot in the sport, is now being shopped for a less promising version of Holiday. This is like the debate on Family Guy about whether to take a mystery box or a boat, only if the boat was 28 years old and service fees cost over 20 million dollars a year.
There is no positive to this rumor or related rumors unless something else of significant worth were to end up coming back the other way. Unless Jimmy Butler suddenly became a member of the Hawks, it's hard to see how these trade talks can be seen as a positive for Sixers fans hoping to escape the treadmill of mediocrity.