Jeff Taylor had a better summer league than Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Taylor had a better preseason than Kidd-Gilchrist.
Would it be any surprise if Taylor has a better regular season than Kidd-Gilchrist?
The Charlotte Bobcats devoted their 2012 draft to the small forward position. They chose Kidd-Gilchrist No. 2 overall out of Kentucky. They chose Taylor 31st overall – first pick of the second round.
As rookies they had similar seasons, but I would have given MKG a slight edge for his superior defense and rebounding. Taylor seemed hesitant at times, as if the speed and skill of the NBA intimidated him.
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Now Taylor’s confidence is soaring. Through the first seven exhibitions, he shot 47 percent from the field and averaged 11.5 points. Kidd-Gilchrist averaged six points and shot 36 percent from the field.
Taylor addressed a weakness – the lack of a midrange game offensively – over the summer. He’s using that spectacular athleticism to earn a couple of dunks each game. I wrote in the summer of 2012 that Taylor would be the best draft pick in Bobcats history, relative to where he was chosen, and that’s coming to fruition.
Meanwhile, Kidd-Gilchrist doesn’t appear to be progressing. His jump shot is still flawed, and at times this preseason he passed up open looks. He’s this team’s best on-the-ball defender because he’s so strong and quick, but Taylor is no slouch defensively.
So what do you do about this if you’re the Bobcats?
I’ve never believed it’s automatically the best course for an NBA team to start its five best players. For instance, rookie power forward Cody Zeller is more talented than veteran Josh McRoberts, but I can see why for now coach Steve Clifford likes the mix of McRoberts starting and Zeller coming off the bench.
So if Clifford wants to continue starting Kidd-Gilchrist and Taylor’s first rotation comes off the bench, no big deal. But there’s no way, based on performance since the end of last season, that Taylor should play fewer minutes than Kidd-Gilchrist.
Perhaps more importantly, Taylor needs to play down the stretch of close games, whether it’s alongside Kidd-Gilchrist or replacing him. The Bobcats were 29th among 30 NBA teams in scoring this preseason (90.4 points per game) and 25th in field-goal percentage (41.3 percent). They need Taylor’s offensive skills when games are decided.
5 passing thoughts
• Outgoing Commissioner David Stern projected that at least two dozen NBA franchises will be profitable by the end of the 2014-15 season, and those that still lose money will do so by choice with their costs for players and coaches.
I took Stern’s message this way: “We did our job with the labor agreement and revenue sharing. So don’t complain to us if you can’t manage your franchise sensibly and still compete.”
• It was overdue for the NBA to return to a 2-2-1-1-1 format for the Finals after years of a 2-3-2 format. Why have one format for the first three rounds, then a different one to ultimately decide the champion? The only incentive for doing this was the potential for constant cross-country travel. Now charter flights are universal for NBA teams, which mitigates the travel issue. And 2-2-1-1-1 is simply fairer.
• The Philadelphia 76ers waived forward Royce White, who was the 16th overall pick in 2012 by the Houston Rockets. I’m sorry for White that he has these anxiety attacks, often triggered by flying, but he must be a handful if a team as bad as the Sixers couldn’t justify keeping him.
• My prediction on the Bobcats’ record: 30-52. They’re better, particularly defensively, but this team still struggles offensively. Al Jefferson can’t get healthy soon enough.
• It’s dangerous to make grand projections based on preseason statistics, but I like how the Bobcats have minimized turnovers and generally broken even in rebounding so far. When you have a small margin for error offensively, you’ve got to treat possessions as precious.