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Kirk Hinrich Injury Presses Jeff Teague, Untested, Into Starting Role

The Atlanta Hawks accomplished plenty in upsetting the Orlando Magic in the first round of the 2011 NBA Playoffs, not least of which was avenging their sweep at Orlando's hands last year. But in their series-clinching win, starting point guard Kirk Hinrich strained his right hamstring, putting in doubt his availability against the Chicago Bulls in the second round, which starts Monday evening in Chicago. Jeff Teague will replace him in the starting five.

Starting Teague is coach Larry Drew's only real option; he could have elected to start Jamal Crawford, who dominates the ball like a point guard, but Crawford's enjoyed so much success as the Hawks' sixth man over the last two seasons that it wouldn't make sense to drastically alter his role now. Teague, as the only other point guard on the roster, wins Hinrich's spot by default.

In his second season, the 6-foot-2 Teague owns career averages of 4.2 points, 1.8 assists, and 0.8 turnovers in 11.9 minutes per game. With a career mark of 31.3 percent on three-pointers, he doesn't space the floor; his 43.9 percent showing on shots inside the arc suggests he ought not shoot at all.

He likely won't have to, as the Hawks' point guard job is largely ceremonial. Be it Hinrich, Teague, Mike Bibby, or Henry Kissinger at the point, the offensive responsibility is the same, and involves little in the way of traditional shot-creation: make an initial pass to one of the four better options on the court, cut to an open space, and wait there for a kickout, ready to take a jumper if necessary.

Teague's more valuable to Atlanta on the defensive end, where he'll have to chase MVP favorite Derrick Rose around. He doesn't have Hinrich's size (6-foot-4) or skill, but he's far quicker. If he can do a reasonable job staying in front of Rose--and bear in mind that he's among the hardest players to stay in front of this league has--then he's done his job, for the most part.

Teague won't make or break Atlanta in this series, as he'll likely only play around 20 minutes per game, and never in crunch time. Still, he'd be hard pressed to match Hinrich's sneaky effectiveness (10.2 points, 50 percent shooting, 42.1 percent on threes) from the first round, and his unfavorable matchup against one of the league's brightest stars bodes ill for the Hawks' chances.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.