Pitt ponders power forward
Dante Taylor doesn't consider himself a four or a five, basketball parlance for power forward or post, but rather a big man who plays well facing the basket.
And one who believes he is even better when playing alongside Steven Adams, rather than replacing the 7-foot freshman at center. Pitt has been employing the pairing in practice the past two weeks, possibly in preparation for the postseason.
“It's definitely something I'm looking forward to, playing next to him,” Taylor said. “He's a great player and attracts a lot of attention on the court. It's good to have both of us out there at the same time with our skill set. We're both good players.”
That's the dilemma for Pitt coach Jamie Dixon: To play Taylor and Adams together, he has to sit two other good players. Talib Zanna and J.J. Moore have been sharing time at power forward, and Taylor's time at power forward could come at their expense.
“One of the other guys is off the floor — J.J. or Talib — and they've been, at times, two of our better players,” Dixon said. “There's only so many guys you can get on the floor at one time.”
Taylor not only has been more productive than Zanna and Moore the past four games, he's been far more efficient. Taylor has scored 30 points, compared to Zanna's 19 and Moore's 21, while shooting 66.7 percent (14 of 21) to their combined 29.7 percent (11 of 37).
Where Taylor does most of his damage in the paint, Zanna has scored 11 points on free throws, Moore 12 on 3-pointers.
Perhaps most importantly, Taylor has been better on the offensive boards, which has been a major emphasis from Dixon. Taylor has 16 rebounds, including nine offensive. Zanna has six out of 15, while only two of Moore's six rebounds came on offense.
Plus, Taylor is coming off a 12-point, 10-rebound effort against South Florida.
“I think it's an advantage for our team and an advantage for both of those guys, because they're two active guys on the offensive glass,” fifth-year senior guard Tray Woodall said.
“When shots go up those guys are both hungry rebounders, so they both want to get the boards. Having those two guys out there, that gives the defense two guys they have to block out. They give other guys opportunities and give each other opportunities.”
Adams and Taylor played together briefly late in the first half Sunday against St. John's, as well as a few other games this season. Problem is, if they play together it forces Zanna to be the backup center.
“It's an option, an option we've used, an option we've continued to practice with and continue to have available for us going forward,” Dixon said. “Talib can play both spots, Dante can play both spots and will continue to do so.”
That's something Taylor is looking forward to, and something that could present matchup problems for Pitt's opponents on both ends of the floor.
“It's good to have us both out there,” Taylor said. “We're both big, long, so we know we can create a difficult time for offenses to get into their flow. We both like to play physical, so it's a good thing to have out there. We can pass, we can shoot. When we're both out there, it's a positive for the team.”
One that outweighs the negatives.