Why Isaiah Taylor is a solid prospect for Hawks

Isaiah Taylor of the Hawks drives against Markelle Fultz of the 76ers at Philips Arena on March 30, 2018. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Isaiah Taylor of the Hawks drives against Markelle Fultz of the 76ers at Philips Arena on March 30, 2018. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Credit: Kevin C. Cox

Credit: Kevin C. Cox

For a while I wasn't sure what coach Mike Budenholzer saw in point guard Isaiah Taylor. My skepticism only increased as Quinn Cook developed into a useful player for the Warriors, who reportedly are on the verge of signing him to a guaranteed deal. That's after the Hawks cut Cook in October, kept Josh Magette and then signed Taylor.

I know there still are skeptics about Taylor among Hawks observers, but I’ve come around on him. His $1.6 million contract for 2018-19 becomes guaranteed at the start of the season. In my view, Taylor has shown enough in 1,086 minutes played for the Hawks that they should keep him around next season to see if they can get more (notwithstanding the team adding multiple point guards via the draft).

Taylor, 23, has been an inefficient scorer overall (49.9 true shooting percentage). His value so far is hurt by his poor 3-point shooting (25.4 percent on 69 attempts) and high turnover percentage (13.9 in non-garbage minutes, according to Cleaning the Glass). But Taylor is a solid screen-roll defender, and he's shown promise as a rim attacker and playmaker (74th percentile in assist to usage rate, per CTG).

Taylor has attempted 51 percent of his shots at the rim to rank in the 93rd percentile among combo guards, according to CTG. Taylor's accuracy on those shots ranks in the 37th percentile, which isn't too bad for a young player, considering the volume. Earlier in the season, Taylor was reluctant to use his superlative speed to get to the rim, despite Budenholzer's urging. He's since come to embrace that aspect of his game and now must refine it.

Taylor is surprisingly stout for his size (6-foot-3, 170 pounds) and has generated a very good free-throw rate (96th percentile for his position). According to CTG, the Hawks get out in transition much more frequently when Taylor is on the floor. Synergy Sports credits Taylor with 1.043 points per possession scored on 93 transition chances, which ranks in the 40th percentile among all NBA players.

There are enough positives in Taylor’s game to make him a decent prospect: the rim attacking, the defense, the pushes in transition, and the playmaking. With improvement, he could turn out to be a solid backup point guard even as the Hawks (theoretically) transition to winning more games.

The Hawks may have blundered by cutting Cook. But it could turn out that they mitigated that possible error by adding Taylor.

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