CHARLOTTE (NBA/EuroBasket) – If there’s one thing a player must be able to do to have a shot of making it in the NBA, it’s play man-to-man defense.
That’s why, more than anything else, many people are saying the Charlotte Bobcats got a steal when they selected Sweden international Jeffery Taylor with the 31st pick in last June's NBA Draft.
Taylor, who hails from Norrköping, moved to America in 2006 to play high school ball in Hobbs, New Mexico, the alma mater of his father.
He was then a standout at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.
If his jump shot and rebounding were at times found lacking during his college days, his ability to play defense never was.
That has been the case so far for the 2.01m Taylor, who has shown very early on to the Bobcats that he can play lockdown defense.
“Defense has always come easy to me, so, I think it was more a case of me just getting experience and feeling the game and actually being out there,” Taylor said.
“I think that helped a lot.”
What has been mildly surprising for the Bobcats has been the 23-year-old’s talent on the offensive end.
Taylor has hit double-digits in seven of his last eight games.
“After about five or six starts, you kind of get a feel for the game, the feel for where you can score and pick your spots on offense and defense,” Taylor said.
As is the case with most rookies, Taylor admits the NBA game took some getting used to because it is so fast when compared to the American college game.
“I think at first, I was like a deer in the headlights,” he said.
“I didn't feel comfortable out there.
“The speed of the game was so unlike anything I had ever seen before.”
More than anything, Taylor understands that as long as he remains consistent on the defensive end, Charlotte coach Mike Dunlap is going to give him time on the court.
He has played an average of 24.9 minutes per game for the Cats.
Dunlap is so enamored with Taylor’s defense that he has compared him to former San Antonio Spurs stopper Bruce Bowen.
If there is a tough defensive assignment to be had, Taylor is likely to draw it.
“It's something that I'm used to doing throughout my career,” he said.
“I've always been relied on to guard people, the best player on the other team, and to contribute on offense as well.
“It's something that I'm used to, and I love it, the coaches having faith in you on offense and defense.”
Sweden will be keeping their fingers crossed that Taylor remains healthy and plays at next year’s EuroBasket in Slovenia, which is a qualifying tournament for the FIBA Basketball World Cup.
With Jonas Jerebko another Swede playing in the NBA with the Detroit Pistons, the Scandinavian side potentially has a mean one-two punch ready to throw at Turkey, Finland, Greece, Italy and Russia in EuroBasket Group D.