The Great Fan Debate: Tyshawn Taylor Vs. Elijah Johnson

When Tyshawn moved to the bench due to suspension and EJ filled in with a 15 point performance in a Kansas win, the debate was on.  Whether it be here at Rock Chalk Talk, in the seats at Allen Fieldhouse or the Jayhawk Barber Shop the Kansas fan base had a question on their collective mind and that was T2 V EJ. 

The good news is that we don't have to answer the question entirely because they both play for Kansas and Bill Self has both at their disposal.  Still it's natural to wonder which on provides the Jayhawks the better chance to win.  And that brings us to our first RCT Fan Debate featuring KG(Team EJ) vs. Penguin(Team Taylor).

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Penguinhawk(Team Taylor)

I'll start things off here by stating that Bill Self clearly believes that Tyshawn is the better player.  T2 has started 26 of his 27 games played this season, and averages 27.5 minutes per game.  By contrast, EJ averages 13.7 minutes and has two starts, one of which being entirely due to Tyshawn's suspension.  Let's face it, if Tyshawn doesn't get caught doing whatever he was doing, Johnson doesn't start last Monday and we don't even have this conversation.  

But back to my original point, Self wants Tyshawn in the game over Elijah.  About twice as much, if minutes played are any indication.  To say that Johnson is actually the better player is to claim that you know basketball better than Bill Self, whose resume I believe speaks for itself.

 

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KG(Team EJ)

Let me start off by making a few points: First, I don't think Elijah Johnson is ready for his bust in Springfield just yet.  I'm not ready to call him an All-American candidate or anything like that.  Secondly, although it may seem otherwise, I don't "hate" Tyshawn Taylor.  I do see some value from him, but I see it as a guy that can come off the bench, slash to the basket, and then head back out of the game before his inevitable loss of focus on defense leads to easy buckets for the opponent or even worse his play leads to fouls by other teammates who are trying to cover for him.

What this argument really is about is how the minutes between these two players should be doled out to give this team the best chance to win 6 games in March and April.  And, when I look at all the factors, I can't help but to conclude that it's time to see EJ as PG1.

That being said, you're right, Penguin.  HCBS has shown a lot of faith in Tyshawn Taylor the past three years.  Too much faith, in my opinion.  TT came to KU the year after Brandon Rush, Mario Chalmers, and Russel Robinson had left the program.  Kansas was looking extremely weak on the perimeter (except for Sherron), and Taylor was a Marquette recruit that just lost his coach.  It was a marriage of convenience that has been productive in the regular season, based upon win/loss record.  

However, correlation does not prove causation.  Kansas has been so loaded for so long that they are able to win games often in spite of Tyshawn, not because of him.  It's no secret that Coach Self places a lot of value in experience.  Taylor has been the incumbent ever since his freshman year, and only now faces a serious challenge to his starting role, despite his numerous off-the-court embarrassments and inconsistent performance on it.  And yet, with that built-in advantage, Taylor simply hasn't shown his past experience to be particularly helpful.  If you look at Tyshawn's basic statistics over his career, it's remarkable how they haven't really changed at all between his freshman season and this year. Maybe he's about to face the consequences of that by losing his starting spot.

And speaking of that, I find it odd that you think I'm claiming to be smarter than Bill Self, when he is the one now agreeing with me. "The ball is in his court" I believe is the phrase that HCBS used when describing Elijah's starting situation.  For the first time in his career on Monday night, Elijah was able to really show what he's capable of, and apparently won his coach over.  Maybe he wasn't ready to overtake Taylor until now.  Maybe he just never had a chance to prove what he's capable of out there.  Whatever it is, things have changed.  

Because even if Elijah can't play as well as he did against Okie State every night, even if Taylor is (wrongly) given his starting position back, EJ has now earned Self's trust- something only Robinson has also done in our last two recruiting classes.  That trust is going to allow EJ to play more relaxed, and that will pay dividends, because EJ is the better shooter, he's more athletic, and he's the better defender.  

Why hasn't Tyshawn Taylor improved in his time at Kansas?  What great asset does Tyshawn possess that is so critical to the success of this team that he must not be held accountable for that failure to do so?

 

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PenguinHawk

Wow.  Lots to address there.  I'll start with your last paragraph.  You say Taylor must be held accountable for his failure to improve.  Should we do so at the cost of the team?  While I concede that Taylor's numbers haven't shown dramatic growth over his time at KU, they are better than Johnson's.  If the argument was about who has the higher ceiling, I'd grant that EJ wins that competition.  But that's not what we're discussing.  The fact that EJ will likely be better in a year or two has no bearing on who should be playing right now.  Paul Pierce didn't improve dramatically between his years at KU.  Should Roy have sat him his sophomore year to "hold him accountable" for his failure to improve?

Right now, Tyshawn is better than Elijah.  You say Bill Self agrees with you about Johnson.  What, Self just happened to decide he favors EJ the same day Tyshawn got suspended?  Johnson is getting this chance because Tyshawn is unavailable, not because Self suddenly changed his mind 27 games into the season.  You mention Self's quote that "the ball is in his court."  Well of course it is, the starter can't play!  If EJ plays lights out until T2 is back, then Self can say he earned the right to continue playing.  If he plays like, well, himself, Coach can say he failed to seize the opportunity and give the job back to Tyshawn.  That's not an expression of confidence in Johnson, that's covering his bases.

Still, we can take Self's opinion out of this and Taylor is still on top.  Per 40 minutes played, Tyshawn averages more points, more assists, and more steals.  You can't argue with production.  Johnson's shooting has been better, but if you take away his lights-out performance against Okie State, his season eFG% drops from 62.7% to 57.9%.  That says two things: one, that his performance Monday was quite uncharacteristic.  Two, the sample size on his shooting is not significant enough to draw many conclusions from it.  One game added more than four to his season's percentage.  It also added 5.3% to his 3 point shooting on its own.  The game was an outlier for a player who, for good reason, is considered a mediocre shooter.  True, Johnson has committed fewer turnovers than Taylor, but all T2's minutes are on the ball as the point guard, whereas only a portion of EJ's are, so that's really not surprising.

Everyone is on the EJ bandwagon right now because Tyshawn has been the fanbase's choice scapegoat ever since Brady caught fire, and he's presented as the alternative.  Honestly, I hope Johnson plays like he did Monday from here on out and leads us to victory in April.  But let's face it, nothing in his history suggests he is more likely to do that than Tyshawn.  Tyshawn has played a total of 2502 minutes in his college career.  Johnson has played 507.  Self has started Tyshawn in 26 games this season.  Johnson has started twice, and one of those was due only to Taylor's suspension.  How does that add up to Elijah Johnson being Self's go-to guy?

At the end of the day, Taylor has been better than Johnson outside of one game in which Taylor did not get the chance to play.  I know we're tired of the dumb mistakes that T2 can, at times, be prone to.  But we shouldn't let that frustration lead us to preferring a player who performs at a lower level, is less trusted by the coach, and has some past character issues of his own.  Taylor has been the point guard, and should continue to be the point guard.

 

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KG

You're right, it was a lot to digest, so I'll try to keep this shorter.  First off, I have to address the Paul Pierce comparison.  Admit it, when you were writing that, you didn't honestly think that Tyshawn Taylor deserved to be mentioned in the same sentence as an NBA Finals MVP, Olympian, and future Hall of Famer.  A player that averages 20 ppg for three straight years obviously has more value than a guy that gives you 9 ppg.  

I'm also not sure why we need to focus so heavily on why EJ got his chance Monday night.  Isn't the much more important issue what he did with that chance?  Sure, EJ isn't going to shoot 100% every game, but he can play the type of defense he played against The Hobbit every game.  And since defense is the major weakness of this team, I believe EJ is the better option for the majority of the minutes.

Fundamentally, though, my question is this:  why shouldn't Taylor be required to earn his starting position back, when he, to be blunt, doesn't appreciate the opportunity that he's been given.  Yes, most of the stuff TT has gotten in trouble over have been relatively minor offenses.  And I'm not going to attack a 20 year old for (if the rumors are true) getting caught getting some nookie in the awesome Player's Lounge.  But Tyshawn has gone from screw-up to screw-up to screw-up...

We all know that certain players get more slack for their behavior because of their abilities on the court.  When Rush and Chalmers got busted with weed at the NBA Rookie Symposium, it wasn't exactly a shocking revelation to those of us that went to school with them.  But those guys were champions and far better players than Tyshawn, and were much better at keeping their private lives private.

If Taylor were an elite player, Self would be right in letting most of his nonsense slide.  But he just isn't, in any way.  It's time for the minutes distribution between the two to reflect that.

 

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PenguinHawk

To the Pierce analogy; obviously I wasn't putting Taylor on the same plane as Pierce as a basketball player.  I was simply making the point that you don't sit a better player to punish him for not developing the way you hoped he would.

It's interesting to me that our sticking point doesn't seem to be who the better player is.  I don't disagree that Taylor is not an elite player, or that Johnson ultimately has the higher ceiling.  I don't disagree that Taylor has screwed up several times in his career at KU (though let's not forget EJ's suspension either).  The bottom line is that Elijah Johnson is not as good as Tyshawn Taylor.  The numbers reflect that, as does the fact that Self has given Tyshawn twice as many minutes this year.

Not to sound too much like Dan Hawkins here, but this ain't intramurals, brother, it's the Big 12!  It's Division One basketball!  We're trying to win a national championship, and we don't have the luxury of sitting a player who gives us a better chance to win in order to make a statement about fully consensual sexual escapades.  Taylor has better production and five times the on-court experience that Johnson has.  You don't send him to the bench in March because sometimes he has the audacity to act like a 20-year-old kid.  Taylor is better, and we need him in at the point.

 

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