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Is RGV Guard Isaiah Taylor On His Way To An NBA Call-Up?

Editor Dakota Schmidt writes about Isaiah Taylor’s great start to the D-League season.

NBA: Houston Rockets-Media Day Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Back in late October when every NBA team was trimming down their rosters to 15 players to prepare for the start of the regular season, we tweeted out that the D-League was going to have an extremely deep crop of point guards. From intriguing rookies like Gary Payton Jr., Marcus Paige and Cat Barber to D-League veterans in Xavier Munford and Briante Weber, we were excited about the array of point guards to keep an eye on during the NBADL season.

One month later, that optimism has turned into reality as point guards have been some of the more dominating players in the young D-League season. An example of that is evident in the NBADL’s official Prospect Watch rankings. In their newest rankings that was released on Wednesday afternoon, eight of their top-15 players are prospects that primarily work as point guards. Among those players, Ray McCallum and Briante Weber stand as the #1 and #2 prospects, respectively.

Although both of those players stand as fantastic D-League prospects, arguably the most intriguing player of that bunch is RGV Vipers guard Isaiah Taylor. Taylor entered the D-League this season after spending his three-year college career with the University of Texas. At that school, Taylor shined as one of the best players in the Big 12, especially as a junior. During that season, Taylor averaged 15 points and 5 assists on 42% from the field, which ultimately allowed him to be named to All-Big 12 First Team.

Despite his continued success at Texas, there was significant issue that always lessened Taylor’s upside: perimeter shooting. During his three year college career, Taylor shot 29% from beyond the arc on 1.3 attempts per game. Although you can use that low sample size as a reason behind looking away from his inefficiency, perimeter shooting was still a significant issue that Taylor had to fix when he transitioned to pro basketball.

Taylor’s transition from the Big 12 to NBA got off to a rough start after going undrafted in the 2016 NBA Draft. Following that draft, the Houston Rockets signed Taylor to a partially-guaranteed deal which allowed him to be the team during Summer League and training camp. Unfortunately, Taylor wasn’t able to perform good enough to slide up the Rockets’ PG rotation, which ultimately forced the team to waive him in mid-October.

Following his cut, Taylor joined PJ Hairston, LeBryan Nash and Gary Payton Jr. as Houston’s four training camp players that would be allocated to the RGV Vipers. The likes of Hairston, Payton Jr. and Taylor were placed alongside Jarvis Threatt and Darius Morris to arguably create the most lethal backcourt in the entire D-League.

Despite being surrounded by a slew of talented backcourt players, Taylor has been able to step away from the pack and stand as the best of the bunch. In RGV’s first five D-league games, Taylor is averaging 23.8 points and 8 assists per game on 55% from the field and 43% from beyond the arc. That perimeter efficiency is particularly impressive as Taylor is that solid while putting up 4.2 attempts per game.

Although the D-League season is still very young, Taylor seems to be a more improved perimeter shooter then what we saw in Texas. For one, Taylor seems a lot more confident in his perimeter jumper, whether it’s seem through catch-and-shoots or when he’s working off-the-dribble. That off-the-dribble work is evident in the play below where Taylor hits a pretty step-back three against the Santa Cruz Warriors.

Before Taylor started to shine as a perimeter jumper, the 6’3 guard made bank through his knack as an on-ball cutter. Whether it’s through his blazing quick first step or smooth handles, Taylor’s able to find a way to work past any perimeter defender that may be in his way.

Following that initial victory is where Taylor really shines. On his way towards the rim, Taylor can change direction or speeds on a dime which allows him to move past any defender that may be in his way. Even if Taylor isn’t able to work past all defenders, he’s still able to score around contact by using his secretly strong 170 pound frame. A prime example is evident in the play below.

Taylor’s knack as a ball-handler also helps him out through his work as a facilitator. Although he does a great job of finding passing targets when he’s working on the perimeter, Taylor might do his best work through drive-and-dish. In the process of his drive to the rim, Taylor regularly does a great job of finding players to pass it to, whether they’re a perimeter shooter or a big working inside the paint. That second example is evident below where Taylor makes the jaw-dropping between the legs dish to a driving Chinanu Onuaku.

Those skills has allowed Taylor to be one of the more efficient facilitators in the entire D-league. In his first five games, Taylor is averaging 8 assists per game, while maintaining a fantastic 3.08 Ast/TO ratio.

In the early stages of the NBA D-League season, Isaiah Taylor has stood as arguably the best guard in the entire NBADL. Since first putting on a Vipers jersey, Taylor has impressed due to the combination of versatility and efficiency. Throughout the piece, we’ve talked about Taylor’s incredible versatility, but it’s impressive that he’s putting up 23.8 points per game while maintaining a 66% True Shooting Percentage. Can Taylor maintain this incredible play throughout the entire season? Possibly. If he’s able to do that, then there’s a great chance that Taylor will be heading to the NBA very soon.