The Cavaliers seem to be stocking up on past early second round picks for their Summer League team, and Jermaine Taylor fits that bill. Part of the 2009 NBA draft that produced quite a few rotation players in the second round (I count nine among the first 14 second round picks), Taylor hasn't been able to find his niche yet in the NBA.
Possessing prototypical size for a shooting guard at 6'5" with a 6'9" wingspan, why Taylor hasn't made it in the NBA is really kind of remarkable. Taylor can shoot (proven through the picturesque form on his jumper and his 38% three-point percentage in college), has explosive athleticism, and an NBA-ready body as far as strength. If you want to see Taylor's athleticism in full effect, just watch this dunk against the Cavs in 2009. The guy can get UP.
He averaged 26.1 points-per-game his senior season at Central Florida, finishing third in the country behind Stephen Curry and Lester Hudson. He even did it fairly efficiently given the defensive attention he was shown, shooting 48% from the field with a 59% true-shooting percentage.So why has he been forced to travel around for the past four years?
Taylor was drafted by the Wizards in 2009 at 32nd overall, and then immediately traded to the Houston Rockets for cash. He played in 31 games his rookie season, without notable results. Then he was moved around for different reasons during the 2010-2011, due to roster construction, his play both with the Rockets and the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, and then finally a trade. The Rockets dealt him to the Sacramento Kings for a second rounder in mid 2010-11. He got a little bit more time, and he showed his scoring ability in that limited run, averaging 16 points-per-36. The Kings then released him that offseason, and Taylor moved on again.
He played in the D-League during 2011-12, then this season went on a journey which saw him visit four different countries in a six month span. First, Taylor signed with Lagun Aro GBC of the Spanish ACB league (their first division). Playing with 2013 draftee Raul Neto among others, Taylor played ten games and averaged about nine points in 17.5 minutes per game. Then he left Lagun and abruptly signed with Hapoel Tel Aviv in the Israeli League. He spent a few weeks there, playing all of two games before he went on the move again. He signed a lucrative deal with Shanxi in the Chinese League. Taylor spent about a month there, playing five games and averaging 17 points per game before leaving and returning to America. Finally, Taylor finished his season with the Maine Red Claws of the D-League, where he was basically dominant averaging 24 points per game on 48% shooting.
So again, you may be asking why a prototypically skilled shooting guard can't seem to stick anywhere right now. My guess on this is two-fold. First and foremost, Taylor has tended to be a somewhat disinterested defensive player throughout his career. Even though he possesses all of the requisite skill and athleticism of a Tony Allen defensively, he just doesn't put forth the effort there. In college, this wasn't a problem because of how much of the load he had to carry offensively. But now, where he isn't the best offensive player on any team, more defensive effort has to be put forth. Second, as far as his skill is concerned, he never really developed great ball-handling ability. Just having seen him in the past two summer league games, you can see he's a bit more comfortable putting it on the deck than he was in college, but it's still not a great skill. He has a great first step, and could be a weapon driving to the hole if he ever learned how to handle the ball. But right now, that skill just isn't there.
So does Taylor stand a chance of making the Cavaliers? Honestly, that answer is no. Given what the team has acquired on the wings this offseason, he'd be at best the fifth-best shooting guard option behind Dion Waiters, Jarrett Jack, Sergey Karasev and Carrick Felix. Having said that, Taylor has looked pretty good so far. In the first game, he was arguably the Cavaliers' best player on the floor (along with Tyler Zeller), scoring 17 points on nine shots. Taylor wasn't nearly as good on Sunday, scoring six points on seven shots, but it's easy to see his athleticism and potential. I feel pretty confident that Taylor will at least sign with someone during training camp. I'm not sure that he is an NBA player, but if a tanking team is looking for scoring off the bench, I think they could do worse than bringing in Jermaine Taylor.
(all stats taken from sports-reference.com)