Jeff Taylor’s Future


What should the Hornets do about Jeff Taylor‘s upcoming free agency?

I will admit, I was very happy when Charlotte drafted Taylor in the second round of the 2012 NBA Draft. I was somewhat surprised we took a player who played the same position as our other 2012 draft pick, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. But I had watched some of his career at Vanderbilt and had heard enough good things from draft experts that it seemed to be a good value selection.

Taylor was immediately part of the rotation, starting in 29 games his rookie year. While his numbers were not off the charts, he clearly was a good pick in the second round. I was excited by what I saw, and felt he could even get better. He continued to get more minutes his second year, and became an even more important player for this team. I was in the United Center on November 18th 2013 when Taylor put in a career high of 20 points and almost lead us to an incredible win against Derrick Rose(yes he actually played) and the Chicago Bulls. While we lost that game I knew we might have something special in Taylor. A month later he tore his Achilles and was done for the season. I was saddened by the news but was excited to see what the 2014-2015 season had for him.

Then came the news September 25th 2014. Jeff Taylor had been arrested and charged with assault and destruction of property. A hopeful career now appeared to be in doubt because of a horrific crime. It is important to note that this news came a little over two weeks after the release of a video that showed Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice assaulting his now wife. The video was so graphic that it immediately caused everyone to look on cases of domestic violence with renewed scrutiny. At the same time locally, All-Pro defensive end for the Carolina Panthers Greg Hardy was dealing with his own legal situation regarding a domestic assault. Jeff Taylor’s arrest came at a time where the eyes of the nation, and especially local eyes, were opened to the despicable nature of domestic abuse. Taylor was immediately suspended. After pleading guilty he was suspended 24 games without pay by the NBA.

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After his suspension he initially did not play much for the Hornets for a few reasons. One, Charlotte has had a ton of wing players this year. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Lance Stephenson, Gerald Henderson, and rookie P.J. Hairston were all competing for minutes. Also, Taylor had missed the preseason and early season and therefore was behind the other players in practice and had to play catch up. As a free agent this upcoming season I assumed he would just sit on the bench for the rest of the season and find another home this summer.

Things have changed since the beginning of the year however. Lance is no longer a starter, in fact, he was a DNP-CD on Monday against the Celtics in a very important game. The trade rumors for him will fly out of control this summer and Charlotte will most certainly look to dump him before next season. Second, Hairston continues to get himself into trouble. While he has not done anything nearly as egregious as Taylor, the culmination of several things has been building all season. He has been in and out of Clifford’s dog house, and that will probably continue. Third, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has often been hurt. While it is not uncommon for Gilchrist to miss games, what has been interesting is that in the last two games Jeff Taylor has gotten the start in his place. Not Stephenson, not Hairston. Clifford has made it clear that he feels Taylor is the guy best suited on the roster to fill in for Gilchrist and his defense.

This all gives Charlotte an interesting dilemma this summer. Should the team attempt to resign Taylor? They are loaded at the wings and not all of these guys can get minutes. Four of those guys have guaranteed contracts next year. But with MKG’s injury history it is imperative the team have a backup for him. Taylor is probably the guy best suited for that.

Is this an opportunity for Charlotte to show forgiveness and recognize rehabilitation? Or is this an opportunity to take a stand against violence and move away from this terrible event? As a basketball decision, it is a no brainer to bring him back. As a moral decision, it is not that easy.

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