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FILM STUDY: How Taurean Prince can fit in Brooklyn

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Atlanta Hawks Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Lost in the Allen Crabbe salary dump Thursday, and the picks Brooklyn attached to the deal – #17 in June’s NBA Draft along with a lottery protected 2020 first – the Nets got a capable player back in the deal.

Taurean Prince comes to Brooklyn with a 2021 second round pick from the Hawks. The Nets will likely have the Baylor product be a cheaper option than DeMarre Carroll. Prince can fill Carroll’s role as a Swiss Army Knife (of sorts) on both ends, playing both small and power forwards as well as spot up among Nets primary ball handlers.

Carroll, a pending free agent, has been a stabilizing force on Brooklyn this season. He could be counted on to handle different tasks all over the floor, but the trade likely seems to signal the end of his time at the Barclays Center.

Prince comes in still on his a $3.4 million dollar rookie contract. He’ll become a restricted free agent in July 2020, unless the Nets decide to extend him which they can do starting as soon as the trade is complete. That’s not likely though. So whatever Prince will command in the restricted free agent market next summer will be dictated by his first campaign in Brooklyn. So at the at worst the Nets are getting a one-year tryout with Prince who has shown flashes as a solid cog in Atlanta’s rotation. If Carroll stays put in Brooklyn, then the Nets will have added front court depth with Prince.

Prince will be joining a system similar to the one he ran in Atlanta. Kenny Atkinson worked for Prince’s former coach Mike Budenholzer in Atlanta before taking the Brooklyn job and this past season Llyod Pierce ran a motion-filled offense predicated around that same fast pace and three-point opportunities.

The 6’8” Texan placed in the 89th percentile this past season on plays deemed “spot ups” by Synergy Sports Technology. That was his most common offense. Prince showed a great ability to thrive off of Trae Young’s creation and act as a capable shooter.

Having a threat like Prince available in the weak side corner of a screen-and-roll is nice. Here, Lance Stephenson is concerned with the rolling Alex Len and Young does an exceptional job of finding his open man in the corner. Prince got the green light in Atlanta, and I see a similar use for him in Brooklyn. With the Nets running a lot of motion offense for its players, Prince can thrive in that type of setting as well. Playing alongside a strong pick-and-roll threat, the Baylor product can find open seams in the defense to shoot or drive through. He is a strong enough shooter that he can work off of screens at times.

Prince has seen his three-point shot making and taking improve year over year and this past season he shot 39 percent on more than five attempts per game, and that’s after missing 27 games this season. The play above was a quick set play for Atlanta that has Prince working with Alex Len off the ball in a combination of side screens. He’s not Joe Harris, but the Nets should be able to involve him in some off-ball sets to get him quick looks from beyond the arc. Prince shot at an incredible clip off of screens this season, although not a common play for him. In Brooklyn, it can be a weapon to keep defenses guessing.

While coming off of screens as a threat to score, Prince is a solid ball handler as well. He is able to push the ball from the backcourt and find an open teammate, or he can work in the pick-and-roll if the opportunity presents itself. Prince is simply a useful player who is able to fill many different roles when called upon. (Prince is one of those players who benefited from a growth spurt in high school, going from a 5’8” point guard to a 6’7” center in high school.)

Here’s Prince moving off the ball and finding some quick action with Len. It isn’t an overly complicated set, but the fact that Prince is able to run some offense through himself is a good sign for the 25-year-old. The second play is more of the same. Prince is able to work the pick-and-roll both as a scorer getting to the rim, but this video’s main purpose is to highlight him as a passer.

The Nets try to have as many capable ball handlers on the floor under Atkinson - especially being a bit devoid of bulky four’s that they try to go the complete other way and have rangy four’s that can handle the rock – so Prince can continue to keep the ball humming on offense and have Brooklyn always a threat to score no matter who is touching the ball. Prince may not be the most ideal four, but he can be capable in spurts. I do think ultimately the Nets need to go for more a traditional four, but Prince is serviceable.

The Prince to Carroll comps are easy, mainly because they do have similar games and with Carroll’s impending free agency it helps to think how Prince could slide into DMC’s role on the roster last season. One little nook of Carroll’s game that was so effective last season was his ability to get to the line. Carroll often was able to lower his shoulder towards the rim and catch a defender reaching in to draw a foul, posting a free throw rate of 42% last season. Like Carroll, Prince has a handle that can get him to the bucket, but he has not shown the adept ability to get to the line at a high rate that Carroll flashed in Brooklyn last season. Prince posted a free throw rate of under 20%, but he is able to get a bucket for himself. A good free throw shooter at 81%, Prince should try to draw more fouls and see that number raise in Brooklyn. With players in Brooklyn that have command more attention than his former Hawk teammates, Prince can pick up a head of steam more often, hopefully yielding more free throw attempts.

Prince can do it from all levels and plays at a high level. He is willing to put the ball on the floor and try and get a bucket himself but is highly efficient playing off of a shot-creating point guard. Prince’s long arms make him able to get his shot off fairly comfortably and he has a sneaky handle, so he is always looking to push the pace. At 25, Prince doesn’t scream future All-Star by any means, but the Nets are getting a solid role player who can do be a jack-of-all-trades type of player who is also on a bargain deal for the production they hope to get out of him.

After this season, Brooklyn can assess where Prince fits on the roster and at what cost. For now, he remains a bargain for a team that may be committing most of its cap to other players. Cost effective players are no longer a welcome sight, they are a necessity.

Prince was an important piece in the Hawks rebuild, still in its infancy with Trae Young being the centerpiece, so it is interesting to see him switch uniforms. In 19 wins for Atlanta when he was active, the Hawks were more than nine points better with Prince on the floor. In 36 losses, the Hawks were 17 points worse with him on the floor. It’s a loaded stat that isn’t very clear by any means, but Atlanta did play better when Prince was on his game. Did the injury contribute?

After the All-Star break, which consisted of 18 games for Prince, Prince saw his offensive metrics improve as his usage rate dipped below 20% and maintained similar numbers on the defensive end. The Hawks went from -12.4 with Prince on the floor prior to the break to +1.4 with him on the floor to finish the year. The usage rate is an interesting figure to take a deeper look at. Prince may have been counted on a bit too much to create while Young stumbled out of the gate as a rookie.

However, the Hawks finished the season strong, and Young began to find his stride. While his usage rate dipped only slightly, it could be a sign that he evolved with the team and is best off being a lower usage player, where he may fit more nicely with a more established club like Brooklyn. This is me extrapolating some numbers here and how Prince played over the year, but there is cause that Atlanta moved Prince before he has filled out and found his rightful place on a developed team. For Brooklyn, that is the hope.

On the defensive end, Prince is a high motor 3 who has played some minutes at the four, where I expect he will see his fair share. With a 7’ wingspan, Prince is a willing defender who is always looking for the ball to create offense going the other way. The forward regularly drew the opposition’s best wing and would be tasked with slowing down the other team’s primary source of offense. However, whoever he is on he is relied to bring energy and try and disrupt the flow of the offense, like below.

Prince slides over weak side to slow down the drive and recovers to Evan Turner. Turner is operating from the high post and tries to dump it inside. Prince uses all of his arms to get a piece of the ball and start a transition chance the other way. It is little plays like this that Prince can do to help a defense. He averaged two deflections per game this season. All in all, Prince is going to give maximum effort at all times.

Seeing more time than he ever has before at the 4, Prince saw a lot of pick-and-roll as a big and produced solid results. As the “big” defender, Prince allowed only .706 points per possession, placing him in the 85th percentile. Prince’s long arms are able to slow down the action and he has the speed to recover to his man.

Off the ball, Prince can get caught by quick screens and is a little loose off the ball when there is action on the weak side but when he has his man, he is able to stick to him at a solid rate. The Hawks defense took a hit when they hit the reset button on their franchise, but Prince has the makeup of a solid defender and is still at a young age where he can only get better on this end of the floor.

Prince isn’t a sound rebounder so he can’t be a consistent option at the 4. He averages a bit above five rebounds per 36 minutes in his three-year career, so the Nets will need to make more of a collective effort to rebound the rock if Prince is out there. However, the forward loves to run. He loves to get the ball quickly out in transition or run with the ball. He is a capable outlet pass from a big to kick it out and star the offense, shown below.

Having a threat like Prince who can turn defense into offense at a quick rate is a true asset for Brooklyn.

Prince does seem to be the afterthought of this trade, as many are thinking about what’s coming next for Brooklyn.

But what can’t be repeated enough is that the Nets managed to fill a need while acquiring a young plus player who can come in on Game 1 of the next season and make an impact. Prince’s ability to spread the floor, create for his teammates, and make some energy plays on the defensive end are all traits that can help him stay on the floor for the Nets. While it is exciting to look ahead at what doors have been opened by way of this Crabbe trade, but let’s follow up on what is known, that the Nets acquired a known piece in Taurean Prince.