In the NBA, minutes are a commodity. Saturday night rookie Jeff Taylor provided return on investment.
Charlotte Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap promised Friday to find Taylor more minutes. Saturday Taylor got 33, the most he’s played since mid-December, and he responded with a career-high 18 points in the Bobcats’ 113-99 loss to the Denver Nuggets.
Dunlap hasn’t surrendered the season. But he’s saying more emphatically than ever that the best use of the remaining 27 games is ensuring the kids develop their skills.
“Every time I give him minutes, he takes advantage of them,” said Dunlap of Taylor, an athletic 6-7 swingman. “Tonight he took advantage of his 15-foot driving game. I’ve got to find him more minutes.”
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In the balance, that shifts minutes away from veteran shooting guard Ben Gordon. Gordon played Saturday, after not getting off the bench Friday versus the Chicago Bulls. But he was limited to 12 minutes and didn’t score.
The Bobcats played with more energy Saturday than they did in that 30-point loss to the Bulls. But they committed 18 turnovers, leading to 23 points. The Nuggets, built around speedy point guard Ty Lawson (20 points and five assists), are well suited to converting half-court turnovers into dunks at the other end.
It was telling that Nuggets reserve center JaVale McGee finished the game with seven dunks, all but one of his eight field goals. Little wonder, then, that the Nuggets (35-22) finished the game shooting 53 percent from the field.
Youth was undoubtedly served Saturday – Bobcats Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson and Bismack Biyombo all played 31 or more minutes. Walker finished with 24 points and five rebounds. Center Biyombo had nine points and nine rebounds, and showed more shooting range than is typical with a 14-foot baseline jump shot.
Dunlap applauded Biyombo’s night, but said the real test is stringing together several of those games.
“If you want to be a mainstay in an organization, you’ve got to be consistent,” Dunlap reminded.
Taylor, the Bobcats’ second-round pick, has been up-and-down, too. But Dunlap is high on his footwork on defense and his improving three-point range. His driving game has always been there; he has major ups getting to the rim.
“I’ve been trying to find a balance between my 3s and the drives. I was a dribble-drive guy all the way back” at Vanderbilt, Taylor described. “When they close down hard on my 3s, that opens up” the driving lanes.