Mike Taylor Waived by the Clippers

 

Mike Taylor dunk vs. Grizzlies (Original angle + Replays) (via LilPharmacist11)

 

In what was a truly dismal season on the whole, there were just a few bright spots for the 08-09 Los Angeles Clippers.  The best news on the season was generated by their three rookies - lottery pick Eric Gordon who had a stellar rookie campaign, and second rounders DeAndre Jordan and Mike Taylor, who each showed signs of being second round steals. 

There's something especially satisfying about the 'second round steal.'  The Gilbert Arenas, Carlos Boozer, Paul Millsap - the guy that 90% of the league regrets passing up.  And the Clippers have pretty much NEVER had one.  I mean, literally never.  The best non first round pick in Clippers history would have to be 1982 San Diego third rounder Craig Hodges - and he would hardly qualify as a 'steal'.  There's really only one steal in franchise history - the late Randy Smith, a seventh round pick of the Buffalo Braves in 1971.

Gordon's rookie year was so impressive that it's difficult to recall that at the beginning of the season only one rookie was actually in the rotation - and it wasn't Gordon.  Mike Taylor gave Jason Hart strong competition for the backup point guard position in training camp and in pre-season games, and played more minutes than Hart in the first few games, essentially surpassing him on the depth chart at that point.  Meanwhile, Gordon was buried deep behind Cat Mobley AND Ricky Davis, and DeAndre Jordan wasn't even on the active roster.  Over the course of the first five games, Taylor played 81 minutes, Gordon 27 and Jordan 3. 

Today the Clippers waived Mike Taylor.

If you're wondering why Taylor was waived today, you need to realize that his three year contract was unguaranteed, and that it became guaranteed as of August 1.  From the moment the Clippers acquired Sebastian Telfair two week ago, particularly in light of their pursuit of Ramon Sessions, this moment seemed inevitable.  The Clippers were working too hard to shore up the position Taylor plays - and with roster spots becoming scarce and Taylor's contract unguaranteed, this was bound to happen.  It's too bad for a lot of reasons, one of which is that we'd all prefer to have Taylor from a basketball and potential standpoint as opposed to say Ricky Davis or Mark Madsen.  But those guys have guaranteed contracts, in their final year no doubt, so they have a value of a different kind.  The roster was too crowded, and Taylor was the odd man out. 

It's tough to reconcile today's events with the events of March 25, 2009 in Madison Square Garden.  On that evening, a little more than 4 months ago, Taylor scored a career high 35 points against the Knicks.  It was the third highest scoring game for a rookie last season - after Eric Gordon's 41 and Anthony Morrow's 37 against the Clippers.  It's also worth noting that he followed up that game with two more solid outings, scoring 69 points in that three game span, while at the same time doing a better job of taking care of the ball - a 3 to 1 assist to turnover ratio during those games.  It seemed, perhaps, as the season was winding down, Mike Taylor was 'getting it.'

But before the Lakers had even been crowned champions, it began to look like the Clippers management was not as enamored Taylor as that 35 point game might have suggested.  During assistant GM Neil Olshey's presser following the NBA lottery, he gushed about the young core of the team, mentioning the luxury of adding the number one pick to the likes of Gordon and Jordan - but left Taylor's name out of the discussion.  I found it strange at the time, and said as much.  Taylor's name was conspicuous by it's absence, and not to mention that Olshey labeled point guard as the team's biggest need.  Obviously, the team wasn't convinced that Taylor was a viable alternative there, as we is now evident in hindsight.

With management already leery of Taylor - the subject of his 'decision-making' came up often when MDsr discussed him - the young point guard headed to Las Vegas Summer League to lead a talented Clippers roster and promptly stunk up the place.  As Ralph Lawler pointed out today, Taylor wasn't the best point guard on that summer league team.  Kyle McAlarney was better - much better in fact.

Still, here's a guy who scored 35 points in an NBA game four months ago.  A guy that is a blur with the ball.  A guy who can dunk like that YouTube at the top of the post.  (Warmups won't be as much fun, I'll tell you that.)  I really assumed, at the bargain price of $736,420, that they keep him around as a project and a change of pace point guard. 

So what does it tell us that they didn't?  Well, they now have 12 guaranteed contracts and a qualifying offer out to Steve Novak.  Depending on your opinion of the capabilities of Mardy Collins (and assuming that Ricky Davis isn't a viable solution), the team is now dangerously thin at both guard positions and the small forward.  And given that MDsr always starts the season with 14 contracts, they may very well use the two available roster spots for a combo guard and a wing.  Which would still leave Novak out in the cold.

Is Ramon Sessions that combo guard?  Maybe.  But given that there's no assurance that the Clippers would get Sessions even if he signs an offer sheet with them, it's not as if the Clippers waived Taylor specifically to make room for Sessions.  They waived Taylor to make room for SOMEBODY.  That somebody could be Chucky Atkins or Kyle McAlarney.  We don't know.  But the team decided they could do better than Taylor.

It's sad to think that Mike Taylor's thumb injury may have cost him not just two months but his second season.  Let's face it, he needs time and experience if he's going to make it in he league, and he would have been getting a ton of that during the time his thumb was healing.  My guess is he'll get picked up by another team this season.  If he does, and he gets into a game against the Clippers, you can rest assued that he will try to dunk on everyone.

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