Here’s something different: An NBA hopeful who’s about defense.
“I think it’s more of a mental thing,” said Vanderbilt wing Jeffery Taylor. “It’s more about how you approach the game. I think a lot of guys nowadays don’t really value defense. It’s all about scoring, the highlight plays and whatnot. My dad always instilled in me a defensive mentality. You need to be prideful in what you do on the court, and part of having pride is not letting someone score on you.”
Taylor was voted to the SEC’s all-defense team three times, joining Mississippi State’s Jarvis Varnado as the only players in league history to do so. He says he’s been a “big fan of [Thabo] Sefolosha for a long time.”
“I think defense is kind of like a lost art, almost,” Taylor said. “If you look at Sefolosha in the playoffs, he’s playing tremendous defense. He’s making a lot of key plays for them. A wing defender that’s good at what he does and can score the ball as well is a valuable asset.”
Taylor’s focus on defense has paid off. His potential at that end is what makes him a possible first-round pick in a league where perimeter scorers predominate and wing defenders are valuable.
Hawks assistant GM Dave Pendergraft said Taylor has the athleticism and basketball IQ to be an “above-average” defender but noted Taylor’s prowess didn’t jump out at him while watching video.
“He has that reputation of being one of the better defenders in the NCAA, and he looked like a good defender but it’s not like he strikes fear in you,” Pendergraft said. “We bring him here [for a workout] and watch his footwork and how quick he is, you can see it really up close. He’s got really quick feet and he’s very, very strong and very athletic.
“He is one of the better defenders in college basketball. Does it transfer over to the NBA? You’d like to think so because he does have quick feet and he has good size. I don’t think there is a lot of negatives. He does have average length but there have been a lot of good defenders with average length if they a have quick feet but he understands the angles.”
That’s where the comparisons to Sefolosha and Taylor end. Taylor is shorter than Sefolosha and not nearly as long–he has a relatively short 6-6 wingspan.
On the plus side, Taylor is more athletic than Sefolosha and potentially a better shooter.
“The surprising things is how well he shoots it,” Pendergraft said. “When you go from  percent to  percent as senior [on 3-pointers], he’s made great strides shooting the ball. Towards the end of season at Vandy I expected it to go in. It was the same thing here [for workouts]. In all the shooting drills he was at a high percentage.”
Even when Taylor wasn’t making shots he was still an efficient scorer because of a good free-throw rate (in spite of a poor free-throw percentage. A DraftExpress.com analysis showed that Taylor was a high-efficiency, low-usage scorer in transition at Vandy.
Taylor had a high turnover rate, however, because he’s a shaky ball-handler.
“It’s definitely something I need to work on,” he said. “That’s probably one of my main focuses right now.”
Taylor’s dad, Jeff, was a guard at Texas Tech and played 56 games in the NBA before starting a career in Europe. Jeffery Taylor was born and raised in Sweden and came to the U.S. when he was 17; he has dual citizenship.
“That was a bit of a culture shock,” he said. “The U.S. is a lot different from Sweden: culture, people, school. I was having a culture shock experience for the first five or six months but then I got used to it and it wasn’t a big deal.”
Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat