Tyshawn Taylor can make it in today’s NBA
I did not write a post on how Tyshawn Taylor would translate as a pro before the draft (here’s my Thomas Robinson piece in case you missed it), because writing about Taylor is like a dad telling his son’s coach his boy should get more PT. I have been telling everyone Taylor was better than people give him credit for four years, and at this point, I’m probably delusional.
But now that Taylor has been drafted, I just can’t help it… Taylor is a brilliant pick and an awesome value in the second round. And if Avery Johnson doesn’t play him, he’s an ass clown who doesn’t deserve to coach in the NBA. (See, I’m going to make a great dad.)
The NBA has changed the last couple of years and those changes give Taylor the opportunity to be a productive pro and good pick, especially in the second round. He could end up in Europe and I wouldn’t be shocked, but I’m saying there’s a chance.
We saw how teams should be built during the playoffs. It’s still important to build team chemistry, to have shooters, to have a low-post scorer and to move the ball, but if those were the most integral ingredients to building a champion, the San Antonio Spurs would have won the title.
Officiating and the decline in the number of legitimate low post scorers has made athleticism like Taylor’s a premium. Teams can be built around athletic, slashing guards like Russell Westbrook or Derrick Rose.
Players like Westbrook and Rose became even more valuable when hand-checking was no longer tolerable in the NBA, which is just about the only way to stop Westbrook or Rose when they come at you with a head of steam. It’s like the NFL not allowing cornerbacks to make any contact down the field; you can only cover an elite athlete for so long.
As if it’s not hard enough to keep the NBA’s speed demons out of the paint, allowing moving screens has made it almost impossible. An illegal screen is so rare that when they finally call Kendrick Perkins for an illegal screen, which is how he screens (see video), Perkins acts as if he just walked in on his wife cheating on him with the ref.
So the prototypical point guard has become the mini LeBrons, guys who can get to the paint, avoid kamikaze help defenders (Battier!) and finish with either hand running at full speed.
Now, I will concede that Taylor is not as athletic or gifted as Westbrook or Rose, but is there another point guard in this draft with the combination of speed, strength, size, elusiveness and athleticism better than Taylor? Maybe Doc’s kid? Nah, my fatherly shades aren’t seeing one.
The reason Taylor was not a higher pick come down to three factors:
- 1. Taylor is turnover-prone and has lapses in focus. This is a fair knock; however, Taylor’s focus and ball security improved drastically throughout his senior year.
- 2. If scouts watched the NCAA tournament when Taylor missed 20 straight 3-pointers, they probably don’t think he can shoot. The good news is Taylor will not have to play in any domes in the NBA and he still shot 38.2 percent from 3. Take away his 20 straight misses, and he was a 43.9 percent 3-point shooter.
- 3. Taylor is old. He’s 22 and the idea that a college senior has potential is no longer prevalent. I think this is stupid because very few people in any profession have reached their potential at 22, including pro athletes.
Taylor got off to a shaky start this year but he was the best player on KU’s roster during the Big 12 season (18.6 ppg and 4.7 assists) and he led a team that had low expectations to the national title game. He’s played under pressure throughout high school (St. Anthony is a high-profile school) and four years as a starter at KU. He had some questionable moments off the court, but any media member who covered KU will tell you that he was their favorite player on the team and the nicest kid.
As for his role as a pro… He has a chance to develop as a solid pick-and-roll point guard. He’s a good enough shooter that he’ll be able to make defenders pay for going underneath screens, and he’s a gifted enough slasher to get to the rim and draw fouls. He drew 4.8 fouls per 40 minutes in his senior season. Defensively, Taylor is a solid on-the-ball defender and quick enough laterally to keep quick guards in front of him. That alone makes him valuable in this NBA.
It’s extremely difficult to predict how a good college player’s game will translate to the NBA, and that’s why a lot of NBA GMs make some odd picks. But I think Taylor’s game translates, at the very least as a solid bench guy.
And if that’s just blind loyalty, then so be it, but here are the numbers of Taylor in his senior season and the advanced statistics of a starting NBA point guard in his final college season that prove maybe I’m not so crazy.
Player X: Played 84.2 percent of available minutes; used 22.7 percent of team’s possessions; took 21.5 percent of shots; 33.8 percent from 3; 49.7 percent 2s; 24.4 assist rate; 19.6 turnover rate; 4.0 fouls drawn per 40 minutes; took his team to Final Four.
Taylor: Played 83.3 minutes; used 27.7 percent of team’s possessions; took 26.2 percent of shots; 38.2 percent from 3; 52.2 percent 2s; 29.7 assist rate; 22.6 turnover rate; 4.8 fouls drawn per 40 minutes; took his team to national title game.
At the very least, Taylor, like Mario Chalmers, has the chance to be a steal as a second rounder and maybe even a starter someday. Taylor’s matured enough that his lapses in focus are fewer and farther between. He has put his turnover sprees behind him. He’ll still make some head-scratcher passes, but he’ll make enough plays that you’ll live with those plays, like the Thunder live with Westbrook’s brain farts.
And oh yeah, Player X is Russell Westbrook, who in his final year in college, had fewer assists, didn’t shoot as well inside or outside the arc and didn’t draw as many fouls as Taylor. Both played for team-first, successful programs where guards do not always put up the greatest numbers. Even if Taylor is Westbrook-Ultra Lite — not the same caliber athlete but still a great athlete who is a great slasher — that’s still a good NBA point guard in today’s game.