If certain wings can be called “3-and-D” specialists then Jeff Taylor strives to be one, yet ends up being a “D-and-no-3” player.
His career path certainly is a strange one. Taylor’s play reminded you of a player who lacks confidence even before his Achilles tear in 2013 or his 2014 off-court problems. It’s weird since his prelude to the 2013-14 season was averaging 19.4 points per game (on 51.3% from the field) for Team Sweden. Judging by his NBA production, one could assume that he might have gone over there and struggled in EuroBasket 2013, instead of leading the team that also had Jonas Jerebko on its roster.
Taylor’s become one of the worst pull-up shooters in the league, Alexey Shved being the only one in the NBA who was less precise during the 2013-14 season with Taylor making 20% of his pull-up shots, per NBA.com. His luck hasn’t changed this season as he’s converted only 25% of his pull-up looks, which are any jump shot outside 10 feet where a player took one or more dribbles before shooting. Jeff’s three-point shooting (26.9% and 32.4%, respectively) and percentage on free throws (55.3% and 61.5%) since his rookie season also have been disappointing.
The Viking’s pull-up and three-point struggles seem to be a product of chronic indecisiveness on what to do once has caught the ball. It’s either that or during the 2013 training camp he was strictly instructed to start every move with a pump fake and a jab step (or even better, a couple of them) before attempting anything else.
When he doesn’t commit a traveling violation, Taylor will, you know, actually throw up a jump-shot. What bothers his success though is a very slow shot release. To make matters worse, he brings the ball up in front of his face, which makes it an easy target for blocked shots or at least a severe contest by a defender.
His release is so painfully slow that it again makes you wonder whether he is completely sure that he wants to make the decision of attempting a shot. When combined with a jab step, you almost feel sorry for Taylor’s difficulty to release the ball as if he was Mackey Sasser.
The worst part is that he’s seemingly yet to figure out what advantage these repetitive jab steps give him, when they actually give him an opening. Despite being a very good athlete, Taylor usually doesn’t manage to get quite past his defender and his drives have a tendency of ending in weird spin-cycles or tough attempts that are released over the opponent while Jeff himself is floating sideways in the air.
He is, however, capable of using his body to his advantage on the defensive end. The combination of his height, strength and speed makes him a capable tracker of off-ball offensive players. Taylor is able to attach himself to his assignment and stay close to him throughout screens before using said physical attributes to also bother the player once he has got the ball.
When his foot-work is faulty on a close-out, he acknowledges the rules of having to close down the middle and is able to get back in front of his man after diligently working to ensure that. It really is an uncanny skill which his body helps him to execute.
One almost has to wonder whether it truly is something that you can point out as a positive when it would be delightful if Taylor wouldn’t let his man through the middle to begin with. It’s a capability that is there because of the way he is built as an athlete.
At a first glance Taylor’s defensive rating is horrible as the Hornets have given up 104.4 points per 100 possessions with JT on the court, a mark worthy of a spot among the ten worst defenses. Fact is, however, that Jeffery’s case is hurt by him playing his share of minutes in blow-outs with blah line-ups and that he’s quite adequate on that end when judged by the eye-test.
The three most used 5-man line-ups, all of which contain Taylor playing among some form of a starting line-up, have combined for 167 minutes of playing time and have given up 96.9, 100.0 and 89.8 points per 100 possessions, respectively. It’s a damn good showing considering that Taylor replaced MKG in these line-ups, without whom on the court we regress on defense by 7.7 points.
That being said, his insecure offense has submerged any kind of unit that tries to incorporate his jab steps into scoring actual baskets. He has the worst offensive rating (89.5) in the league among players who have clocked at least 300 minutes this season (sadly enough our Noah Vonleh and Joffrey Lauvergne have made their respective teams suffer even more, yet both have only surpassed the 200 minute mark), which is quite remarkable since, you know, he supposedly has “3-and-D” potential.
The Walker/Henderson/Taylor/Marvin/Biyombo line-up with which we’ve had to close out this season has been particularly insufferable as they’ve played 99 minutes together and have only managed to score 78.4 points per 100 possessions.
I’ve seemingly always liked Taylor’s potential more than the next man, however, his body of work during the last two seasons isn’t worthy of anything more than a training camp invite after his rookie deal expires this summer. The defensive and athletic abilities are there but he’s as far from being a legit “3-and-D” guy as is the moment of the ball being released from the moment when he catches it.
According to ForeignCredits.com everything lower than the grade of “4” in a scale of 1-10, the lowest successful grade in Latvia, is an “F”. I don’t quite feel like Taylor deserves the infamy of an “F”, if just for his defensive performance. He doesn’t deserve anything more than that though, either.