Isaiah Taylor has got until Sunday to figure out if he’s as ready for the NBA as Johnny Manziel was for the NFL. There’s no question in my mind: Taylor should stay for his junior year, further develop his skills and delay entering the NBA draft.
Taylor is a 6-foot-1-inch tall point guard who is astonishingly quick, has a unique ability to drive the ball and is a feisty ball defender. But he lacks a consistent jump shot and weighs a mere 170 pounds.
If Taylor chooses to stay at Texas, he’d be the driving force for head coach Shaka Smart’s new offensive and defensive scheme.
Taylor was already the head of the snake whenever the Longhorns decided to press opponents last season. He only averaged one steal per game in 2014–2015, but Smart’s “havoc” system will increase that number — Smart’s system demonstrably produces steals.
Since Taylor flourishes in the open court, the up-tempo pace Smart employs on offense will allow Taylor to drive the ball and have the defense on its heels.
Furthermore, with Taylor breaking down defenses as a result of his driving, he’ll be able to produce shots not just for himself, but also for his teammates. Texas’ two incoming recruits, Eric Davis and Kerwin Roach, are both players who can shoot and attack.
When Taylor blows by his man, it will force the next defender to help on the drive, if that defender helps off someone such as Davis, Roach, rising senior guard Javan Felix or any other player Texas has that can shoot (sorry, Demarcus Holland). From there, they’ll have fairly open looks at the basket.
Taylor’s drives will have the defenses scrambling from all of the team’s help and the knowledge that Texas has shooters on the perimeter. It’s often not the first drive that hurts the most — it’s the second drive. If Davis, Roach or Felix can drive the ball after getting a kick out pass from Taylor, then that will put even more pressure on the defense.
In order for Taylor to be as effective as possible, he will have to develop a jump shot. Without a jump shot, the chain of events that he causes as a result of his drives are unlikely to happen because Taylor’s defender could simply play off him. A consistent jump shot would make Taylor the best point guard in the nation because of all the threats he would pose. It’d be hard to guard someone with his quickness and a consistent jump shot.
The jump shot wouldn’t just elevate Isaiah’s game to a whole other echelon, but it would improve his draft stock. A former Arizona State point guard told me that when he would go up against point guard Avery Johnson, he would play off him because Johnson didn’t have a consistent jump shot.
Taylor would be guarded similarly, but his unique skill set merits something different. He should stay at UT and develop those skills further.