22 days before NBA draft night on June 28, and we roll on today with the 4th breakdown of 2012, the strong wing from Vanderbilt, Jeff Taylor. Taylor is a mature, experienced player, who turned 23 years old just a couple of weeks ago. Taylor was a 4 year college player for the Commodores, anchoring a program nowturned around by veteran coach Kevin Stallings.
Not that this matters, but Taylors background is interesting. He actually grew up in Sweden, where his father was playing professional basketball, and was born and raised primarily in Europe. His father, Jeffrey Sr, played a bit in the NBA before having more success across the pond. So being the son of a professional in Europe, Taylor has all the positives youd expect from that type of upbringing: a maturity, fundamental idea of what is important, and a steadiness ..without having the same sense of entitlement and swagger that some young players of privilege get in the AAU culture of the United States.
Taylor has ideal NBA size for a wing player, at 67 and approximately 225lbs. Interestingly though he has a very short wing span for a professional of that height, just at 66. And reportedly he has small hands as well, which I think is a factor in some of the weaknesses of his game that we will discuss below. But while his lack of reach does mean he may play a bit smaller than his listed height, he is still well within the normal confines of a typical NBA wing player, so nothing really to be concerned about from an athletic point of view in my judgment.
Taylor has 2 major NBA skills, either of which would have given him a chance to make a roster and stick in the league. But since he ha sboth, he to me will clearly have a nice steady long career ahead of him.
His best skill by far to me is his ability to play lock down perimeter defense.
Taylor plays extremely low to the ground, with great flexibility and knee bend in his defensive slide. Taylor plays very very balanced, and rarely gets his feet crossed or lunges, thereby keeping his body in front of his man off the dribble very well. His balance is of elite quality in my opinion, and makes up for his lack of elite length. One of my pet coaching sayings I say to my own players often is that balance and quickness beats size and strength, and never has it been proven more than in watching Jeff Taylor defensive tape.
Taylor is a nightmare for people to try and drive around with the ball in isolation situations, which in the NBA will cause many players who rely only on their skill off the bounce major problems. His superior balance and quickness means he can play further up on players and get in their chest, yet not get beaten often with a quick first step.
When being screened, Taylor is athletic and smart enough to fight over the top of ball screens without losing his balance, and when screened away from the ball he slides through the traffic well, WITHOUT gettingout of his defensive stance. About 95% of defenders get out of their stance when screened, if only for an instant .Taylor though does what well taught savvy defenders do, which is get even lower, which gives the screener less body to screen number 1, and makes you stronger and quicker to blast through the screeners body and stay with your man .very impressive, and a skill and talent that not many players have.
My only real nitpick with Taylor defensively is his tendency to not always raise a second hand when contesting jump shots. Now I realize that 95% of defenders only get one hand up on a shooter in the NBA, but stats consistently show that getting a second hand up on a contested jumper radically decreases a shooters accuracy .( If LeBron James would raise a second hand on a contest for example, maybe Paul Pierce doesnt make that huge jumper in his face last night) This isnt to say that Taylor doesnt get his second hand up SOME of the time, I just think he could be a little better defender if he concentrated on getting it up ALL the time.
As a help defender, Taylor is a smart player who is almost always in the right position. He plays like to me a guy who absorbs scouting reports well, and who studies his opponent well. He sprints to his help well,stays in a stance for entire possessions, and doesnt take plays off. He closes out well to shooters after help as well, and does it consistently throughout an entire game (with again that slightly annoying to me trait of not alwaysgetting the second hand up). He gets in good position, shows help early, andtakes charges when it is called for.
He has active hands, although probably his lack of elite length will hurt him at the next level in causing deflections. He will never bea shot blocker away from the ball, but on his own man I think his excellent balance will enable him to get in the air quickly and let him effect some shots taken right in front of him.
I know I keep mentioning his great balance, but it really can never be said enough what a great thing that is for someone to have. If Paul George had Taylors balance with his considerable physical attributes,literally no one would ever score on him. But unfortunately Taylor lacks Georgeslength and size, so it equals out a bit.
Even with his short wingspan, Taylor still projects to be an elite level wing defender, with the ability to guard 3 positions in the NBA. Ithink Taylor would be able to guard just about any NBA point guard and do nice job with him, along with being able to guard almost ever NBA wing man who didnt just overwhelm him with size. I particularly like him guarding smaller point guards and catch and shoot type wings who go thru screens a lot, along with being able to guard people in isolation.
While I wouldnt call it elite, I believe that Taylor has another NBA skill, which is the ability to hit the stand still set 3 point shot.
This is impressive to me, because if you go back and research, Taylor at one time was a big time brick layer early in his college career. But apparently he was enough of a gym rat and hard worker, and was coachable enough, to solve that problem and be a solid set shooter from deep.
I would not call his shooting form a thing of beauty, but he makes enough to be credible. I dont think he has any real glaring shooting flaw, other than he doesnt get his shot off very quickly ..it seems like it takes a while for him to get comfortable. And at times it seems like he doesntget his legs into his shot, so he shoots a bit stiff legged occasionally. But thankfully, he also does something else well, which is this: he tends to not take bad shots, he only shoots when he is basically open.
It is fairly easy to project how you would use him offensively most of the time, which is as a spot up shooter, particularly for some of the smarter teams, from the deep corners.
I do think from time to time he might help you offensively as well in the low post against a smaller defender. Taylor is strong, and again has really good balance when he posts up, so he doesnt get moved around in there. And he has shown an ability to score with his back to the basket onoccasion earlier on his career. This is something that I believe whoever drafts him should continue to try and exploit and expand on, because I think if a team tried to defend him with a smaller player, that he needs to be able to post that guy and be able to score. Currently he has shown only a jump hook over his left shoulder with his right hand, and the standard drop step stuff to the baseline on either side. But I see untapped potential there, and I hope he goes to a coach with enough imagination to use it some.
If you want a wing player who can get his own shot and getto the front of the rim, Taylor isnt your guy, not by a long shot. If he could dribble and break people down off the bounce, hed be a top 10 pick, but that simply isnt in his skill set, and I dont think it ever will be.
This is where I suspect his small hands come into play. He just doesnt have that ball on a string ability that you see the top wingplayers or point guards have. His crossover isnt very good, mainly because it isnt big enough the defender doesnt have to shift his weight much to guardit in other words. Taylor really lacks any top level dribble move, and will be a liability as a ballhandler at the NBA level for sure at least initially and likely for his entire career.
This especially bothers me in fast break situations, where youd like to think that he could take a retreating defender off the dribble ifhe had to in a 3 on 2 or 2 on 1 situation, but really I am only comfortable throwing him the ball right near the rim for a finish. 1 or 2 dribbles max for Taylor at this point is about his limit before you start getting nervous. He is a really good leaper though, so lobs are in play for him. Again, I think it is more of a situation where he gets up in the air early and on balance more than him being a tremendous high flyer.
Off a catch, Taylor is what I call a right hand, left foot guy, as he usually goes right, with his first step being a crossover step withhis left foot. Most of the time he has to keep heading right in this situation,as he lacks the skill of being able to crossover or spin somehow and change direction. In this exact aspect, he is very much like our own Danny Granger,though Granger has worked hard and sometimes can crossover once right into a shot ..right now Taylor cant even do that. Grangers problem is playing to upright though,and Taylors problem seems to be the inability to have even the most basic dribble moves down. It is aggravating to watch on film.
But not as aggravating as watching him shoot free throws .For an NBA level player to shoot free throws as poorly as Taylor does is inexplicable. He made just 60% at the line at Vanderbilt this past season, a number that boggles my mind. This has to be a mental issue, and doing research it seems that Taylor has had some confidence issues in the past. Still, a talented wing player who is going to play for money has GOT to be better than 60% from the charity line,so whoever coaches him in the NBA will have to solve that issue, whatever the cause.
So, what do we have in Jeff Taylor?
To me we have a near elite NBA wing defender who can be a major contributing factor to winning playoff games and championships if used correctly. He has the ability to be a lockdown defender in defending almost al lwings and most of the point guards in the league. I think he can be a spot up shooter offensively, with in my own view a chance to be an effective post up player if given the right matchup.
But, he has to get on the right team to excel and thrive. He needs to play on a team with at least 2 much better ballhandlers on the floor with him at all times, as Taylor is extremely limited in that way currently. And as a wing guy he will never be an elite scorer, in fact I doubt he ever averages double figures.
But as an off the bench or even starting NBA defensive stopper on the right team, I think he has really good talent. You can win and win big with guys like Jeff Taylor playing for you, assuming he works on his game and improves his ballhandling and free throw shooting some, and continues to solidify his outside stroke. Seemingly from afar, he has the intelligence,background, and pedigree to be able to do that. He seems like a 6-8 year pro to me, maybe even longer than that if he lands in the right spot and culture and system. The better the team, the more Taylor makes sense to draft, hence his status of being drafted near the end of the first round.
I like Taylor as a player, and I highly value players who excel defensively as a coach.
However, for Indiana @ pick 26, I fail to see how he would be a great fit for our current roster and system.
For example, we already play below average dribblers at almost every position, adding another player who has that as a major weakness doesnt seem like a good fit for us or him. If he played as a substitute for us, hed have to play with Danny Granger, Paul George, and Tyler Hansbrough, who are all poor ballhandlers for their position. Taylor probably will rate a notch or 2 below them as ballhandlers starting his career.
Taylor would fit best next to a ball dominant wing player beside him, or perhaps with a team with an elite level ballhandler at the point guard. He would work in many spots in the league, just not for us as we are currently constructed.
It is because of this bad fit with our current style of play and fit with our roster that I believe Indiana should pass on Jeffrey Taylor if available, and I believe we will.
I do really like Taylor the player, just not for us at this time. Not at all.
Taylor to me makes sense for the Heat at #27, the Thunder at#28, and possibly even the Timberwolves at #18. The Timberwolves would be a very nice fit, as they have a team defensively challenged, a superior point guard in Ricky Rubio, and a stud front court player in Kevin Love that can command defensive attention. If I were Minnesota to take him there makes perfect sense. He might even remind Coach Rick Adelman a little of a player he had in Houston, Shane Battier.
But Minnesota rarely does the right thing, so I expect them to pass on Taylor as well. My guess is that Taylor is picked by another team he fits well with, the Cleveland Cavaliers at pick #24. Just a hunch.
Current NBA comparable: Thabo Sefalosha, who is a perfect fit playing next to Durant and Westbrook.
Former NBA comparable: Quinton Ross, a player I begged for Indiana to go after a few years ago and that I always thought was undervalued around the NBA.
Those examples are interesting I think. Sefalosha fell into the ideal spot, playing in Oklahoma City, with a team and roster perfectly arranged to get the most out of his ability.
Ross however was stuck playing for the then clueless Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies, neither of which knew what they had or had the right kind of talent around him for him to properly fit in.
Taylor I think will have a similar career potentially. I hope he falls into the right spot him .I just dont think that spot should or will be Indiana.
As always, the above was just my opinion.