Ed. note - This is the start of our men’s basketball player profiles series. Over the next few weeks we’ll preview each scholarship player leading up to the season.
The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball season is slowly creeping up on us. I know, that came all of a sudden, right? We start our player profiles on the site today as we feature one of the newest Orange members, Justin Taylor.
Taylor is reportedly in the mix for a starting lineup spot. We knew that Jim Boeheim alluded to starting freshmen earlier this year, although I doubt many expected Taylor to be one of those guys in discussions. Indications from various reports is that Taylor is the leading favorite to start at the traditional small forward position for Syracuse.
One look at Taylor’s tape and frame indicates that the Orange are dealing with a player who is very similar to one Jackson Thomas “Buddy” Boeheim. In fact, Boeheim and Taylor are the same height and weight. While we did see the younger Boeheim son play the bottom of the zone at times, it wasn’t a position he stayed at often. Defensive questions out of the way, Syracuse is hoping the offensive potential Taylor holds can supplement the other weapons the Orange have.
Vitals: 6-foot-6, 205 lbs.
Stats: Taylor averaged 17.2 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.1 steals per game with IMG Academy last season.
Strengths/Weaknesses: The tape on Taylor shows a very versatile offensive play style. Of course, you’ve got to take what you see with a grain of salt against high schoolers, but Taylor showed ability to put the ball on the floor and catch-and-shoot. Most of his earlier tape shows a decent pump fake and dribble for mid-range shots and strength to crash the rim for dunks. The shooting that drew the Buddy Boeheim comparisons as well are present in his game.
The frame concerns are going to play a factor on both sides of the court. The ones more rooted in Syracuse basketball history can correct me, but I don’t remember too many players that were as short as 6-foot-6 that played at the bottom of the zone. Not like Buddy, who made spot appearances here and there, but guys who played a significant amount of time at the wings. We saw plenty of defensive issues at the wings last season, and they’ll be needed to help Jesse Edwards avoid foul trouble. On offense, if Taylor is going to play small forward, it may be tough to find a matchup when he can take advantage of his dribble and drive skills instead of staying on the outside.
Ceiling: Taylor’s defensive awareness does enough to stabilize the zone, which allows the offense to flourish. His versatile offensive game gives Syracuse’s other offense threats opportunities to influence the game as he becomes a matchup nightmare.
Floor: The size discrepancy at small forward is too much as he’s relegated to Joe Girard’s backup. His offensive potential doesn’t develop enough as he’s blocked out of the paint and forced to settle for ill-advised mid-and-long range jumpers.