Wayne Simien, Julian Wright, Brandon Rush, Darrell Arthur, Xavier Henry, Cole Aldrich, Marcus and Markieff Morris, and Thomas Robinson. Two centers, five power forwards and two small forwards out of Kansas University have been chosen in the first round of the NBA draft since the last guard, Kirk Hinrich in 2003, earned the honor.
Mario Chalmers didn’t go until the second round, 34th overall, with the Miami Heat in 2008, Sherron Collins not at all in 2010. NBA teams don’t worry as much about finding guards to fill out their rosters, so it should not have startled anyone that blurry quick Tyshawn Taylor lasted until the 41st pick by the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday night.
Taylor plays with passion, has the length and quickness to defend both guard positions and blow by defenders, but as a prospect, he doesn’t bring as much as Chalmers did. He’s not as complete a player, doesn’t have as reliable a jumper and isn’t as creative a passer.
To stick in the NBA and play in front of Brooklyn crowds that will include family members and high school friends and opponents, Taylor will need to embrace the role of becoming a defensive pest in the NBA the way Brady Morningstar did as his teammate in college. He’ll need to be the guy who, when his coach scans the bench in search of a guy to give an opposing point guard or shooting guard a different look, settles on him.
Taylor needs to become the defender who slows down guys that on paper shouldn’t have any trouble scoring on him, the way Morningstar consistently did as a big-time Big 12 defender.
“I think so,” Taylor said of defending both guard spots being his meal ticket. “I think that’s what’s going to get me my minutes early on, going out there and defending.”
Taylor didn’t hesitate when asked which NBA player he looks forward to defending more than any other.
“Rondo,” he said of the Boston Celtics’ point guard, first name Rajon. “I want to play against Rondo because I love his game and think he’s the best point guard in the league. I’m competitive and I look forward to playing against the best.”
If watching Meyers Leonard, a 7-foot-1 project from Illinois, go to Portland with the 11th pick might have given KU center Jeff Withey reason to pause and contemplate his decision to come back for his senior year, watching Taylor tumble into the second round should have confirmed to Elijah Johnson that he made the right call.
Johnson brings more savvy to the court than Taylor, has a thicker build, potentially a better jump shot and is a more natural point guard, but he needed another season to prove he has the game to break KU’s first-round guard drought.
Withey, too, could improve his stock by adding muscle and range on his jumper. It’s possible KU could have multiple first-round picks for what would be the fourth time in six years in 2013.