Devin Harris seeks out contact. Jeff Teague does not.
While each of the speedy Hawks guards possesses the ability to break down defenses and get to the rim, there is one big difference in their style of play. Harris looks to be fouled on drives to the basket. In the past four games, Harris has completed a three-point play against the Heat, Kings and Bucks. He missed his shot attempt when fouled against the Pistons and converted the free throws. Teague is much more likely to put up a floater in the lane before contact arrives. He has been working on a double-move to get past bigger defenders.
“To me, Jeff is a young Devin when I look at the both of them,” Hawks coach Larry Drew said. “Devin, even now at his age and dealing with some injuries, he is still very explosive in the open court. When he attacks the rim, he knows how to draw fouls. He’s got an old-school mentality. He seeks the body first on drives and then he thinks about making the shot. Jeff is totally different. He’s more of a void finisher.”
Teague still draws fouls. According to nba.com statistics, Teague has drawn 149 personal fouls in 55 games. Harris has drawn 81 personal fouls in 38 games.
Harris said his propensity to draw contact began as a youngster playing against an older brother eager to deal out a little punishment. Playing collegiately at Wisconsin in the Big Ten also helped his physical nature. Over eight-plus seasons in the NBA Harris has perfected his craft.
“It’s the only way I’ve ever known how to play,” Harris said. “I wasn’t the biggest guy so I figure I’ll always hit first. I’ve always had that mentality.”
Teague, in his fourth season, said he realizes it will take time to learn the art of finishing after contact. He remembers as a college player at Wake Forest watching Harris go to the free-throw line time and again.
“I guess it’s him being in the NBA a little longer,” Teague said. “Sometimes when I do go to the basket and draw the contact it looks like a terrible play. He’s been in the league a little longer and he’s mastered that craft.”
The Hawks were built this season to take advantage of their speed at the guard position. However, the plan has taken a hit with the loss of Lou Williams for the season with a torn ACL. Harris has missed 17 games with injury, mostly due to a sore left foot. Teague has appeared in every game this season. The Hawks were 16-10 when all three guards played. They are 24-14 with both Teague and Harris available.
According to Drew, Teague can learn the art of finishing after contact from Harris, an unrestricted free agent following the season.
“Devin wasn’t always like that,” Drew said. “As he got older, he got more understanding. I think Jeff is going to be the same way. Having Devin is good for Jeff. He can see that. He can learn from that. Having both guys in the open court, when they are full throttle they are pretty fast. That is such a weapon to have.”