I’m not sure what LSU basketball allocates for rims in its annual budget, but they’ll have to increase the allotment for the next couple of seasons.
The Tigers have had plenty of dynamic dunkers in recent years. Antonio Blakeney, Brandon Sampson, Ben Simmons, and Jarell Martin all threw down their fair share of spectacular slams.
But none of them can get up like Marlon Taylor, the latest commitment for LSU’s somehow-still-improving 2018 class.
A 6-foot-6 forward from Panola College, Taylor quietly visited over the weekend before pledging his future to Will Wade and the Tigers on Wednesday night. In Taylor, LSU has a freakish athlete with the raw tools to be a dynamic force on the wing or the block in the SEC. Let’s break down his game.
“Oh My God”
Sorry if you feel I’ve violated the Third Commandment, but I think the Big Man Upstairs will forgive me this time.
Watching Taylor’s film, those three words came out of my mouth, involuntarily, multiple times. I had to shut my office door so as not to distract the rest of the workplace.
I can’t quite compare Taylor’s leaping ability to anyone I’ve ever seen. He doesn’t just jump – he explodes. And he gets from the ground to the top floor in a hurry. It’s effortless, like he’s been shot out of a cannon. He doesn’t need much runway – just two feet planted, and it doesn’t matter if anyone’s in the way. He’s dunking.
Here, he catches the ball with his back to the basket, spins baseline, and knifes back to the block for a two-handed contested slam. Consider the multiple shifts of energy here: the quick start, the hard cut back, then the upward elevation. Those last two, in particular, back to back, require so much kinetic force that few basketball players can actually dunk this ball. It’s usually a jump into the defender to draw contact, and a finish off the glass. Not for Taylor.
Here, he lurks baseline, like a 4. This is an area Wayde Sims likes to play in for LSU currently – underneath the defense, waiting for a feed. Sims, a good finisher with both hands, catches this ball and absorbs contact with his body as a shield, finishing with his left hand. Taylor punches it.
Taylor’s a two-footed jumper, which is rare but I think is better suited for finishing around the rim at higher levels of basketball than one-footed jumpers. With two feet, offensive players can plant and have options at their disposal: jump, ball fake, drop it off to another offensive teammate, or pivot and kick it back out. One footed jumpers tend to draw a lot of offensive fouls and have fewer options once they decide to attack.
Catch and Shoot Threat
After shooting 32 percent from 3 on 1.9 attempts per game in 2016-17, Taylor improved to 44 percent on 4.4 attempts per game. Taylor didn’t play organized basketball until his junior year of high school, so while he’s not a shot creator or an elite ball-handler who will break defenders down off the dribble, he can absolutely knock down open 3s created for him. He elevates as well on his jumper as he does on his dunks, so defenders have little hope of contesting him if they’re not there on the catch.
He doesn’t have to be stationary to knock it down, either. All the leg strength that helps him throw down hammers around the rim also translates into the ability to gather while moving away from the basket, plant, and jump on balance quickly. Here, he makes a smart cut, filling from the right corner to the wing. He catches and shoots with no hesitation. He’d knock down 6-of-8 from deep in this game. Kid can heat up in a hurry.
There’s more to his offense than no-dribble jumpers. Though he’s a capable ball handler, Taylor’s best when he uses one or two dribbles to get to his spot and make a play. He also has some game in the high post. The first video shows his potential as a 4 man flashing to the free throw line. He attacks the seam and finishes in traffic.
The second video is evidence of his game as a wing attacker. Crowd him to take away the jumper, and he can get by you with a big first step and a bigger finish.
You don’t need any video evidence to imagine he’s a pretty good rebounder. He grabbed 9.5 per game at Panola and will be a massive upgrade on Sampson in that manner. He goes up to get balls at their high points, and he has strong hands. Defensively, I hesitate to draw any conclusions from the tape. Junior college basketball doesn’t exactly emphasize defensive principles, but it’s clear he has the tools to be a very good defensive player. He’s switchy, capable of guarding 1s through 4s, and if he buys in on that end like Daryl Edwards did in 2017-18, he’ll be in good shape.
When I heard Taylor was visiting LSU this past weekend during the spring game, I was told he would take all five of his visits and that elements of his camp thought he’d be better off going to a smaller school where he’d be more of a featured player. Clearly, though, the visit, the role LSU has sold him on, and the opportunity to play in the SEC proved too good to pass on.
I don’t expect Taylor to be a 20 point per game scorer for LSU anytime soon. He’s limited offensively and typically needs offense created for him – he’s still developing, mind you – but what he does, he does very well.
That’s why I do think he can battle to start at the 3 spot. He’ll certainly provide depth there and at the 4, so he covers up both the departure of Sampson and the lack of big bodies Will Wade lamented most of this season. Surrounded by playmakers like Tremont Waters, Skylar Mays, Naz Reid, and Javonte Smart, all of whom can gash defenses and find open teammates, he should get plenty of catch and shoot 3s, backdoor dunks, and transition alley-oops. He likely won’t shoot 40 percent from 3 –there’s typically a drop off from junior college to SEC, like Edwards, who shot 48 percent from 3 in JUCO and 38 percent this season – but if he sticks to open catch-and-shoots, he could be close.
The most intriguing thing about Taylor is his upside. Remember, he’s only been playing basketball for five seasons – two in high school, one in prep school, and two in junior college. His ceiling is incredibly high.
You’ve seen him jump, though – he’s got quite the affinity for heights. Consider yourselves warned, rims of the SEC.