Mike Check

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Hawks player preview: Taurean Prince


The Hawks are set to begin training camp on Sept. 26. I'm previewing one player each day leading up to camp (in alphabetical order).

Taurean Prince

Position: SF

Height/Weight: 6-8, 220

Age: 23 (3/22/94)

2017-18 salary: $2.42 million

CARMELO projected value: $5.3 million

How acquired: 2016 draft (No. 12 overall via trade with Jazz)

OFFENSE

Prince is a long, strong and athletic wing who was eager to drive to the basket as a rookie but wasn’t efficient while doing so. He had 168 drives in 2016-17 and shot just 37.1 percent, committed a turnover on 10.1 percent of those plays and created an assist 6.5 percent of the time. (Noted this SI.com piece following the draft: “Prince . . . forced a ton of drives into traffic (at Baylor), often trying to outmuscle opponents en route to the rim. And that simply won’t fly in the NBA at all.")

Nor was Prince efficient shooting from the outside during his first pro season. He shot 32.4 percent on 3-pointers, significantly below league average (35.8 percent) and ranked 181st  among the 232 players with at last 100 attempts. Prince’s high free-throw attempt rate (.330) and 79 percent shooting on free throws boosted his efficiency but his 51.3 true shooting percentage also was below average (55.2).

In addition, Prince’s turnover percentage (15.7) and turnovers per 36 minutes (2.2) were high considering his low usage rate (17.2) and his production of two assists per 36 minutes with an 8.4 assist rate.

DEFENSE

Prince has the physical tools for defense but there were some questions about his ability to guard in the NBA after he played in zone alignments at Baylor. Those concerns were put to rest by Prince’s excellent defensive work as a rookie, when he probably was the best wing defender on a team that ranked fourth in defensive efficiency.

Prince had one block and 1.6 steals per 36 minutes. Prince’s block rate ranked ninth among NBA small forwards and his steals rate ranked 13th .

Prince's defensive impact also was evident in his on-court, off-court metrics. He led Hawks wings in Real Defensive Plus-Minus and ranked tied for fifth among NBA small forwards in that metric.

OUTLOOK

Projected as a “3-and-D” wing coming out of Baylor, Prince provided the D but not the 3s as a rookie. He was a rotation-worthy player but will have to improve his outside shot to become a true starting-caliber wing.

Prince projects to start at small forward alongside veteran guard Kent Bazemore, who also is a good defender. But that alignment would mean pairing two inefficient scorers with point guard Dennis Schroder, another inefficient scorer. A lineup that includes all three might struggle to spread defenses even if Mike Muscala and Ersan Ilyasova are the bigs.

Prince’s shooting improved during February and March. He didn’t shoot 3-pointers well in the postseason but was a very efficient scorer in the paint while posting a 62 true shooting percentage and 12.9 points per 36 minutes. If Prince improves as a scorer he can become a valuable two-way player for the Hawks as they continue to rebuild.

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About the Author

Michael Cunningham has covered the Hawks and other beats for the AJC since 2010. He is the author of the AJC’s Mike Check blog.