In the wake of small forward Jeff Taylor being charged for domestic violence, the Charlotte Hornets might need to find another wing player for depth heading into the season. Unfortunately for the team, this incident was a surprise, Jeff Taylor is now away from team activities, and the team had not previously invited any wing prospects to training camp. When questioned about the impact of losing Jeff Taylor, head coach Steve Clifford played down the potential loss of Charlotte’s 31st pick from the 2012 NBA draft:
"Jeff was competing just to get in our rotation," coach Steve Clifford said during the team’s media day later Monday. "The caliber of our wing talent (shooting guards and small forwards) is night-and-day from the beginning of last year. We didn’t have Gary (Neal) and obviously Lance (Stephenson) and then P.J. Hairston.
"Instead of six guys competing for four spots (in the rotation) now we have five guys for four spots."
If the team were to waive Jeff Taylor and therefore free up a spot on the roster, the Hornets would have 13 guaranteed contracts going into the regular season. Before Jeff Taylor’s arrest, Coach Clifford was already going to have a hard time working in minutes for all of the players on the wing. It seems entirely possible that he was planning on splitting up the majority of the minutes between Lance Stephenson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Gerald Henderson, and Gary Neal. There are only 98 minutes available for the two wing positions – as Clifford likes to call the perimeter guys – and those four all have legitimate reasons to get minutes. Stephenson is the best all-around player of the four, Kidd-Gilchrist is the best defender, Henderson — a captain — can do a little of everything and has been productive as a starter the past two years, and Neal has the best long-range shot by a mile. So where would have Jeff Taylor fit into the equation? It seems plausible that he and Hairston would have been responsible for just spot minutes and injury insurance. So in the hypothetical exercise to replace Jeff Taylor, the team is likely just looking to just add a non-guaranteed contract type player to the mix. Let’s explore some options:
Current free agents (courtesy of CBS’s free agent tracker)
- Dante Cunningham – 6’8" 230lbs. 27 years old. Unrestricted free agent.
- Damion James – 6’7" 225lbs. 27 years old. At camp with the Washington Wizards.
- Chris Singleton – 6’8" 228lbs. 24 years old. At camp with the Indiana Pacers.
- James Southerland – 6’8" 225lbs. 24 years old. At camp with the Portland Trail Blazers.
Dante Cunningham is probably the biggest name available right now, so yes, we're at the very bottom of the free agent well right now. Cunningham was actually traded by Richard Cho in Portland to Charlotte in 2011. Then, when Cho became Charlotte's general manager, Cunningham was basically let go. That might mean Cho isn't interested. However, Cunningham played 81 games last year for the Minnesota Timberwolves and in 20 minutes per game averaged 6.3 points, four rebounds, and one assist on 46 percent shooting from the field.
Damion Jones comes from the NBA's promised land, having played in five games for the San Antonio Spurs last year. In addition, he also played 27 games for the Bakersfield Jam in the NBA D-League. He might be a defensive tweener and his 3-point shot is questionable.
A name ACC basketball fans might recognize, Chris Singleton played in 25 games for the Washington Wizards last year. He is a decent shooter from the three point line, but he has a horrible career field goal percentage of 37.6. He's also a decent rebounder and defender.
Fans interested in welcoming back a former Charlotte Bobcat will be excited to hear the name James Southerland. After going undrafted in 2013, Charlotte signed Southerland to a free agent deal but then waived him during the season. In addition to one NBA regular season game with Charlotte and three with the New Orleans Pelicans, Southerland played for the Los Angeles D-Fenders in the NBA D-League. Unfortunately, he only shot 32 percent from three point land on 201 attempts. However, he still managed to average 14.6 points, 6.5 rebounds, and one assist in 28.6 minutes per game on 57.5 percent true shooting (a shooting percentage calculation that accounts for free throws and three pointers).
Potential D-League call-ups
- Tony Mitchell – 6’6" 215lbs. 25 years old.
- Shane Edwards – 6’7" 220lbs. 27 years old. At camp with Cleveland Cavaliers.
- DeQuan Jones – 6’6" 212lbs. 24 years old.
Not the power forward drafted by the Detroit Pistons, but the Tony Mitchell who played for Louisville and went undrafted in 2012. Mitchell played three games with Milwaukee last year and also played 34 games in the NBA D-League for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. He averaged 19 points, five rebounds, and three assists in 29 minutes per game, but was not very efficient (True Shooting Percentage of 51). He's also not great from 3-point range, having only shot 31.5 percent last year in the D-League. However, he has won the D-League dunk contest the last two years running.
Tony Mitchell Wins Second Straight NBA D-League Dunk Contest (via nbadleague)
Shane Edwards has decent size and is getting a look from a potential contender. However, he's not much of a 3-point shooter. Still, he was very efficient and sported a True Shooting Percentage of 58, and also rebounded the ball very well in 49 D-League games last year.
A surprise in the 2012-13 season, DeQuan Jones played 63 games for the Orlando Magic, averaging 3.7 points, 1.7 rebounds, and 0.3 assists in 12.7 minutes per game. Last year, he played 50 games in the D-League and was a much more productive scorer (13.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game). He also shot well from 3-point range on limited volume.
It's better not to get into this too much, because really, the options are endless, but it is entirely possible that Charlotte might consider trading a player with value — say Gary Neal — for a more traditional small forward with size. Gary Neal for Mike Dunleavy anyone?
After reviewing the guys above, it might make sense to bring in one of them on a non-guaranteed contract while the Jeff Taylor situation plays itself out. Considering Cho was interested last year and Clifford actually had a few good things to say about him, it wouldn't be surprising to see James Southerland come back if he fails to make the team in Portland. However, there is no dire need to find a replacement. The Hornets have two players in P.J. Hairston and Marvin Williams that should be able to step up and help make up for the loss.
This seems like the perfect opportunity for P.J. Hairston to fill in and play minutes. When compared to Jeff Taylor, what he lacks in height he makes up for in wingspan, where Jeff Taylor had a serious disadvantage (Hairston: 6’5.25" 229lbs, 6’9" wingspan, and Jeff Taylor: 6’7.25" 213lbs, 6’6.25" wingspan). And if we’re being honest, despite never taking a regular season NBA 3-point attempt, P.J. Hairston is already the superior shooter from long range. His biggest weakness will be learning the team's defensive schemes and staying out of foul trouble if called upon to play big minutes.
In addition to Hairston, Marvin Williams' flexibility could prove very beneficial as he has spent the majority of his career playing small forward. Standing at 6’9", the Hornets could roll out a big lineup of Kemba Walker, Lance Stephenson, Marvin Williams, Cody Zeller, and Al Jefferson that could potentially create mismatches everywhere for opponents.
The Hornets shouldn't be too worried about the possibility of losing Jeff Taylor. They have versatile wings in Stephenson, Henderson, and Hairston, so it appears the team can get by without having a true small forward behind Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. As the general manager of the Carolina Panthers would say, "the answer's already on the roster."