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He’s back: Jeff Teague returns to Hawks in trade

Jeff Teague spent seven seasons in Atlanta before being traded to Indiana in 2016

The Hawks have their backup point guard — and it’s a familiar face.

The team obtained former Hawk Jeff Teague and Treveon Graham from the Timberwolves in a trade for Allen Crabbe. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution confirmed the deal, first reported by ESPN, and the Hawks made the trade official Thursday afternoon.

Teague will wear jersey No. 00.

Because the trade had not been formally announced by the team at the time of Thursday’s practice, coach Lloyd Pierce wouldn’t comment on it directly, but said this of the team’s trade philosophy: “It’s no secret, this is that time of the year where the trade deadline is upon us and we’re trying to explore, as we always will, what’s best for our team moving forward. What’s best for our team moving forward is continuing to develop the core, our young guys and finding options and assets whether it’s through trade, whether it’s through free agency, obviously through the draft, that’s going to improve our team. That’s (general manager Travis Schlenk’s) expertise, he’s going to be on the phone. Whether or not it improves our team immediately or long-term, it’s still about exploring all options, exploring every single option that’s out there that has the potential and the ability to help us improve.

“We’re struggling to find consistency with our guys and our young guys, and we just haven’t had the bench production we would like, and so you try and figure out how to help the guys that are here. … It’s still about the big picture. We have our core, we like our core, we’re happy with our core. It’s going to take some time as we continue to develop them, but we also want to position them, these guys, with the right balance of the roster as we move forward.

“Because of injuries or because of setbacks, whatever the case may be, it’s really hindered our growth this year in terms of our guys just having to do a little bit more than they were capable or ready for, in terms of playing them out of position or playing them extra minutes.”

The Hawks have used several options for a backup point guard behind Trae Young, including Evan Turner and sliding Cam Reddish or Kevin Huerter over to play out-of-position, but none have proved consistent. As of late, two-way player Brandon Goodwin has stepped up, averaging 9.4 points, but only two assists, over the past eight games.

Young doesn’t mind his hefty load (in 35.2 minutes per game, he ranks third in the NBA in scoring with 29.1 points per game and fourth in assists with 8.5 assists per game), but the addition of Teague will ease his burden, as well as bring some experience to an exceptionally young Hawks team.

Teague has a big fan in Young, who called him “one of the underrated point guards in our league.”

“I know a lot about his game,” Young said of the veteran. “He’s very smart, really good scorer, knows how to draw fouls, knows how to get his teammates involved.”

Teague spent his first seven seasons with the Hawks from 2009-16. He was a first-round draft pick out of Wake Forest and a key member of the teams’ consecutive playoff run, including the 60-win, Eastern Conference-finalist team in 2014-15. Teague was an All-Star during the 2014-15 season, along with teammates Al Horford, Paul Millsap and Kyle Korver. In his time with the Hawks, Teague appeared in 518 games and averaged 12.1 points and 5.2 assists per game.

He was traded to the Pacers in 2016 as part of a three-team deal that included the Jazz. The Pacers traded George Hill to the Jazz and the Jazz traded Taurean Prince to the Hawks. In one season with the Pacers, Teague averaged 15.3 points and 7.8 assists.

Teague signed a three-year, $57 million deal with the Timberwolves in 2017. He is entering the final year of the deal that will pay him $19 million a season. This season, Teague has appeared in 34 games, with 13 starts, and averaged 13.2 points and 6.1 assists.

The Hawks lose Crabbe, who missed the first portion of the season while recovering from right knee arthroscopy and made his debut Nov. 14 in Phoenix. Known as a spot-up shooter, Crabbe has struggled to make much of an impact, averaging 5.1 points in 18.6 minutes per game this season, appearing in 28 games.

They’ll also gain Graham, a 26-year-old swingman who’s averaging 5.2 points and three rebounds in 20.1 minutes per game. Graham will wear jersey No. 2.