Oh, Brandon Taylor. What a peculiar basketball player you are.
You see, Taylor has so many tools that can turn him into a serviceable basketball player. He's big and strong and athletic and he can shoot and he is a really good rebounder and his footwork down low is good and he is an effective low post scorer sometimes and he can dribble a little and he's a solid shot blocker. Basically, he should be a devastating guy who can kill you from all over the court and impact the game in a variety of ways.
But the thing with Brandon Taylor is, while he's solid at a lot of things, there really isn't one thing he's especially good at. Yeah, he's a nice rebounder and he can hit some threes and he's a good shot blocker for someone his size, but would you say that he's "really good" at any one skill?
This manifested itself in 2014-15. Taylor was expected to be Penn State's No. 2 option behind D.J. Newbill (obvi), but he struggled to hit shots (especially from two, we'll get to that in a second) and never really bounced back from a knee injury he suffered against Rutgers. But still, there were plenty of positives in Taylor's season, just not as many as most of us would have liked.
Taylor basically turned into a really big guard who drifted around the three point line on offense during the conference slate. Now, most of this could probably be attributed to the knee injury he suffered (when he came back, he started shooting and playing less), but still, woof. The most telling stat to show how his game changed: during the non-conference slate, Taylor shot 77 twos and 80 threes, but once Big Ten play rolled around, he took 56 twos and 81 threes.
The Shot Chart
Let's compare this to his shot chart from the year before:
So basically, Taylor took a gigantic step back on threes from the top of the key, two point jumpers from the left side of the court and shots at the rim, and got way better at threes from the left corner and basically every other two point shot. If he can mash together the good from 2013-14 with the good from 2014-15, he can be lethal.
We'll get to how Taylor really struggled on offense this year, but he did carve out a niche as a guy who could kill you if he got looks from the left corner. Hitting 52 percent of your shots from almost anywhere on the court is good, but doing it from a spot behind the three point line is great. Also, while I am morally opposed to long twos, Taylor did improve just about everywhere inside the arc that wasn't the paint. So...that's nice.
Taylor was also Penn State's one big who was excellent at avoiding fouls, as he only got called for 3.0 per game. Of course, it's easy to say that he wasn't in a position to get called for fouls since he was more perimeter-oriented this season, but that's not necessarily true, as he had the fourth-highest block percentage on the squad and he was second on the team – and 290th nationally – in defensive rebounding percentage.
Ok so before we get to anything, I want to give you a series of numbers:
Ok? Ok. We'll come back to these.
So Taylor's biggest issue was that he faded down the stretch, but he had an injury so that's somewhat passable. But still, he was so incredibly inefficient that it's kinda sad. Taylor legitimately sucked on two pointers, as he only hit 41.4 percent of his attempts from inside the arc on the year (that number got worse during the Big Ten slate, as it plummeted to 35.7 percent). The only Nittany Lion who played regularly who was worse at twos was Shep Garner, and even he was better during the conference slate than Taylor.
Now, going back to those numbers. Those were the minutes played and free throw attempts for John Johnson, Donovon Jack, Jordan Dickerson and Taylor, respectively. Maybe the fact that he fell off so much after a really good year from the stripe in 2013-14 (87.7 percent on 65 attempts compared to 63.3 percent on 30 attempts this year) had something to do with it, but still, you'd like to see someone who can hit free throws get to the stripe more.
vs. George Washington – 17 points, 7-for-13 (53.8 percent) shooting, 3-for-6 (50 percent) three-point shooting, 8 rebounds, 2 steals
Taylor kinda has a reputation for being a guy whose success is directly tied to the success of the Nittany Lions. When he has a good game, Penn State wins. When he has a bad game, Penn State loses. Sure, there are exceptions, but this generally seems to be the case with him.
That's what happened when Penn State took down George Washington. Taylor had the ultimate "Good Brandon Taylor" game, as he was an efficient scorer who was effective from three and did a great job on the glass. He avoided foul trouble and turnovers, as he had two of each, and played 30 minutes. Words cannot describe how big it would be for Penn State if Taylor can have a bunch of performances like this next year.
You know how we kind of have this best case scenario for Donovon Jack? How we want him to be a guy with a solid low post game who grabs rebounds and alters shots on the defensive end, but is devastating on the pick and roll as a big man who can slip out and hit threes? Isn't that also what we should expect out of Brandon Taylor, because we've seen him do that a lot more frequently than Jack?
I really want two things out of Taylor: 1) that, 2) for Taylor to get a little better at converting shots near the rim. Hitting 44 percent of your shots at point-blank range is terrible, so if he can hit 60 percent of his shots at the rim (which is around what Dickerson and Jack shot from that area), he'll certainly be a double-digit scorer.
Oh, and one last thing: please get to the free throw line more, Brandon. You shot 30 free throws in 860 minutes of basketball, which isn't good. And you can hit them! Work on this. Just trust me. If you can hit shots in the paint and get to the foul line, you can average 15 a game. Please, Brandon. Make me look smart.
Final Grade: B-
You can probably argue that Brandon Taylor deserves a much worse grade because he didn't turn into the clear-cut No. 2 option that we all expected, but the Nittany Lions wouldn't have won as many games as it did without Taylor's performance in several games. I think B- is fair for B-Titty, what say you?