Throughout the year as the Indiana Pacers have dealt with the ups and downs of an inconsistent season, finding positives has been difficult to come by, but Rookie big Terry Taylor, has endeared himself to me with his play over the last month.
Dakota Schmidt, a good friend of mine and one of the best at covering the G-League, would message me about Taylor at least once a week. I made the mistake of not tuning into Fort Wayne to check him out.
Another friend of mine who keeps tabs on the G-League and covers the Wizards, Kevin Broom, hit me up about him as well. The worse the Pacers played, the more I heard that “The Pacers need to give Terry Taylor a shot, you’ve gotta watch him.”
I can only say in retrospect that I wish I’d taken a closer look at Taylor prior to his getting called up to the Pacers (he’s on a two-way).
Taylor dominated in college, a two-time Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year, but went undrafted due to concerns about his size for position as well as questions about his shooting.
Taylor played 18 games with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants and once again, dominated, producing at an absurd rate, putting up 21 points and 12 boards on 70.5% true-shooting as the Mad Ants went 12-6.
After finally getting a chance with the Pacers as they struggled with frontcourt injuries, he hasn’t looked back. SInce late January, Taylor has played double-digit minutes in every game, other than the singular game he missed due to non-COVID illness, averaging 12.4 points and 8.7 rebounds (62.3% true-shooting) across 9 games in just under 25 minutes per game. That’s absurd production!
While 13 games and 247 total NBA minutes is a small sample size, he currently rates in the 82nd percentile in Estimated Plus-Minus, the third highest mark on the Pacers behind Malcolm Brogdon and Myles Turner. That is #GOOD folks.
What stands out about Taylor?
To start, he puts numbers on the boards.
Per Stathead, Taylor is currently on pace to finish in the top 20 in NBA history in single-season offensive rebound percentage amongst players who have played at least 10 games and 200 minutes in a season (this would give him the best offensive rebounding season anyone has ever had in a Pacers jersey).
The players that puts him in company with:
- Moses Malone
- Dennis Rodman
- Jayson Williams (the random one-time Nets All-Star from the 90’s you forgot about!)
- Jordan Hill
Parse that down even further to players who played at least 15 minute per game: Taylor is on track for the 8th highest offensive rebound percentage in league history.
Did I mention that he’s 6’5? Not short by any means, but compared to his 7-foot contemporaries on the glass, it makes his play even more impressive.
As Caitlin Cooper and I have talked about many times on the Indy Cornrows Podcast, Taylor is the best screener on the Pacers by a wide margin.
He’s adept at throwing a little hip check.
He has to be one of the pound for pound strongest players in the league. If you’re looking to improve your core strength, find a way to get in touch with Taylor or PJ Tucker.
If Taylor is trying to diversify the screen and open himself for a slip, he’ll juuuuuust toe the line of legality, using his length along with some incredible footwork and fluid hips to open into slips or a roll with less contact that gives him forward momentum towards the rim while still creating separation.
Need to mix up his screens because of a rejection? Sure!
Change up the screening angles to prevent defenders from going under on shaky pull-up shooters? He’s on it.
My favorite part is his consistent engagement and his feel as a screener. That sounds so wild to dissect the feel a player can display as a screener, but that’s just how good Terry Taylor is at this man.
Watch how hard he makes Khris Middleton work.
He doesn’t make contact even once, and yet, it doesn’t even matter! Middleton is fighting for his life in screen navigation as Taylor adjusts multiple times for the weaving Buddy Hield.
It’s the kind of thing I rarely notice in watching a game live, but Taylor has made me want to look out for and appreciate the nuance in screening and just how important the right angle can be to set up a ball-handler.
He throws in multiple efforts and contacts, consistently re-screening to make things hell for defenses.
He parlays his screening mastery into quick and at times impromptu DHO’s, helping the offense flow in-spite of at times clunky spacing.
He may not be solidified as a shooter, but his ability to quickly know how to reinvent what he’s doing with space and make the defense care about it matters a great deal.
How does he make the defense care?
To say Terry Taylor is a good roll-man would be a hard undersell.
To give some perspective, Taylor is currently in the 97th percentile in Pick-and-Roll efficiency, averaging 1.52 points per possession, shooting 71.4% as the roller.
He’s not your traditional undersized big who makes up for his size with otherworldly bounce. He has real guile and craft as a finisher along with tremendous power and pacing on his rolls to the rim. There are few players I can think of who time their rolls as well as he does.
When I watch him play, I think of the song Kick, Push as he has that sort of relaxed aspect to his offensive presence, but then the pushes come through in force before he wades back into smooth movement.
His second-jump is second to none, and while he’s relatively below the rim, he has an absurd nose for the ball (as seen earlier). The touch he’s able to display in the paint opens the way for extremely efficient baskets as he takes opposition of guard with his controlled explosiveness.
There are some wild finishes through contact and multiple defenders where he contorts himself in mid-air.
The timing on his slips and how he flows into them provides perfect synergy alongside budding playmakers like Tyrese Haliburton and Chris Duarte (I cannot wait to see more of that trio).
Players want to double or send extra pressure, but again, he utilizes his length and those quick twitch hips to open up space on turns, with incredibly efficient use of energy working into those rolls.
This dunk counted by the way! Taylor is simply fantastic on the roll.
He bolsters his efficiency as a scorer with solid short-roll playmaking. That control and pace as a roller plays out as a decision-maker as well, as he maps the court well and doesn’t rush things. If he is stonewalled at the rim, he’s patient in waiting to find a wraparound pass or a quick kick-out.
He’s fantastic at making himself available in space, whether off of cuts or roaming in the dunker spot.
Terry Taylor isn’t just putting up numbers, he’s imprinting himself on the game and on the Pacers. While Indiana in general has been porous defensively, Taylor has shown his abilities as an active switch defender and at the point of attack, even if oft playing as an undersized big.
He’s shown his viability as an NBA rotation player. On a two-way contract that ends this off-season, I’d love to see the Pacers find a way to convert him to a guaranteed deal, and if they don’t, another team will be smart enough to sign him and undoubtedly find themselves with one of the most underappreciated players in basketball bolstering the roster.
As the season winds down, watch out for his decisive and enduring screening, his rhythmic rolling, and his historic potency on the boards. Terry Taylor can flat out play, and he’s earned his spot in the NBA.