Jeffery Taylor's NBA career isn't over - it's just on hold. That was the message he sent the world when he signed a one year, $900,000+ contract with Real Madrid.
Taylor isn't just jumping ship and heading to the first team that showed interest; he's caught up with the reigning Euroleague champions. One year will give him the time required to undo his last two years on the court; it will also give him the chance to continue playing out his penance after last year's domestic violence arrest. While Europe may be the last stop for ailing NBA veterans and college basketball stars who never panned out, it's more like limbo for a player who has all the talent to earn his way back to the big leagues.
The former Commodore leaves the NBA on the opposite trajectory he had coming in to it. Taylor was a rising star when he graduated from Vanderbilt in 2012. He had developed from a wiry ball of athleticism into a well rounded basketball player. His three-point shooting evolved from non-existent - nine percent as a sophomore - to a polished 42.3 in his senior year. He wasn't just a rim-rattling dunk machine; Taylor fit the three-and-D profile that NBA teams were turning towards in an era of small ball.
His rookie season was promising enough, but injuries, and a 24-game suspension for the aforementioned arrest, sapped his effectiveness on both ends of the floor as he played out his first professional contract. His shooting percentages bottomed out in his sophomore season before recovering slightly in year three. His offensive win shares - a measure of what his shooting, ballhandling, and passing brought to the table - dropped from 1.2 in 2013 into the negatives in 2014 and 2015. While his defense was still NBA-ready, his inefficient offensive game made it difficult for a struggling Hornets team to justify his playing time.
|Jeffery Taylor's NBA Career|
|Year||PER||True Shooting %||Offensive Win Shares||Defensive Win Shares|
Playing in the Liga ACB and Euroleague will give him a fresh start - a situation where all that matters is what he brings to the table this fall. Real Madrid took a calculated risk that Taylor's shooting will recover and that his experience playing in Europe (Taylor, a Swedish citizen, has been a member of his home country's national team) will recharge the 26-year old forward. He'll have plenty of veterans to help him regain his stroke along the way.
Currently, Madrid has four other players on the roster with NBA experience - Gustavo Ayon, Andres Nocioni, Rudy Fernandez, and Sergio Rodriguez. Taylor is projected to be the starting small forward for one of the best teams outside of the NBA. He'll play tougher competition than he would have in the D-League and play in offensive schemes that emphasize outside shooting over post play. If he can regain his stroke, he'll be back on the NBA's radar in less than a year.
Even though he's out of the big leagues, he's maximizing his value on the court. Before signing in Spain, Taylor had worked out a two-year deal with another Euroleague power, Maccabi Tel-Aviv. He wound up turning down a $600,000 contract in order to sign with Madrid. Taylor's value in Spain is higher than it was in his three years with the NBA. Though his reported salary of more than $900k is on par with the $915,243 he made last season in Charlotte, he'll earn some significant benefits while he's with Madrid. Foreign players plying their trade overseas typically have their room and board included in the deal. Factor in Taylor's European background and his history playing with the Swedish National Team and the plan becomes clear. This wasn't a desperation move; it was a calculated bid.
Taylor is betting on himself, hoping that he can build back up after razing his NBA career down to the foundation. He has to get his mind and body right to get there, but he'll be in a nurturing environment with Real Madrid. There was no room for him on a crowded Hornets roster, and other stops in the NBA would have left him struggling for playing time and with few opportunities to showcase any improvement. Madrid will give Jeffery Taylor another runway from which his NBA career can take off. He just needs to prove that he still has the athleticism and work ethic that made him an All-SEC standout to get there.