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FILM STUDY: Taurean Prince is back ... and Kyrie Irving’s got him

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Brooklyn Nets v Detroit Pistons Photo by Brian Sevald/NBAE via Getty Images

With Kyrie Irving back in the lineup for seven of Brooklyn’s last nine games, things in Nets Land are starting to resemble shades of normalcy. Jarrett Allen turned in a pair of impressive performances against two-time All-Star Andre Drummond just in the last week.

Spencer Dinwiddie has continued his ever-impressive 2020 season, recently scorching the Barclays Center nets with 28 points on 61.5 percent shooting (during Wednesday’s, erm, questionable national TV game). But no single Brooklynite has enjoyed the beneficiary role more than combo forward Taurean Prince.

After a bummed-out closeout to 2019, in which the fourth-year sharpshooter shot just 30.9 percent from deep and 32.1 percent overall, Brooklyn’s Prince has recovered nicely since Irving’s return versus the Hawks. In his last nine games, Prince has seen his scoring average jump to 13.3 points per game with 44.8/40.4 shooting splits.

The Kyrie Irving-Taurean Prince conundrum is a bit of a “chicken or the egg” type of a paradox. Have Kyrie Irving’s concerted efforts in finding Prince early in the offense produced a sudden all-around resurgence for the 25-year-old specialist? Or has Taurean Prince’s suddenly scorching hand led to increased attention from Brooklyn’s franchise PG?

Whatever side you stand on, one thing is untenable (at least in my eyes). Those transition/semi-transition three-point looks that were once gifted to Joe Harris by that man Kyrie? They’ve since been delegated to the four-year Baylor University product. Have a look for yourself from Wednesday’s recent Detroit Pistons game.

Living off easy looks from Kyrie Irving’s gravity-fed acrobatics has greatly altered some of Prince’s more pertinent shooting metrics. In catch-and-shoot situations, Prince has shot 40.5 percent on a very healthy 4.7 shots per game during Brooklyn’s last nine contests. This includes 50 percent shooting (on 28 total shots) when left “wide open” (defender is 6+ feet away or more) per NBA stats.

Knocking down plentiful looks off the catch has bled confident energy into the rest of Taurean’s game. Most notable of all is Prince’s sudden proficiency as a pull-up shooter. Not long ago, taking off-the-dribble shots – especially from three-point land – was a major pain point for Brooklyn’s starting power forward. As of late, Prince has become a bit of a basketball Animorph, morphing from man to beast while churning flaws into bona-fide strengths. Taurean’s sudden-found ability to can 42.9 percent of his pull-up threes is more than just a sizable footnote. The dude’s confidence is just flowing, and here, he walks into this first quarter three-pointer like it’s shooting practice.

Perhaps even more enticing is Prince’s unforeseen ferocity in the downhill setting. What were once hapless barrel rolls into a sea of eager defensive hands have suddenly transformed into dangerously confident attempts around the cup – through gobs of contact, might I add; Prince is knocking down (am I reading this right?) 71.4 percent of his restricted area attempts in his last nine performances – well above the 55 percent-ish mark that defined a majority of his 2019-2020 season. He’s showcased far more willingness in using the high-glass to his advantage, as seen here versus the Pistons on Wednesday. (Trust me, this is a welcomed, welcomed sight, Nets Nation.)

And then of course, like most role players in this league, Prince’s offensive swoon has prompted increased diligence on defense. Awareness on the other side of the ball has been Taurean’s biggest Achilles heel as a Brooklyn Net. But as of late, Prince’s defensive recognition is perhaps his best defensive trait. On Wednesday, Prince repeatedly sniffed out Detroit’s offensive action before the Pistons ever got a chance to execute, Prince finagles his way into a steal by snatching a grossly deliberate handoff attempt between Andre Drummond and rookie sensation Sekou Doumbouya.

Might I add: we’ve seen some mighty fine work by Mr. Prince in transition, as he uses his 6’7” 218 pound frame to shield Doumbouya away from his strong hand, before squeezing in the layup. (No chase-downs for you today, Dr. Doom!)

More defensive chicanery from Prince as he suckers Reggie Jackson into a foolish dump-off to Andre Drummond, before rotating over beautifully to grab his fourth steal of the game like an east coast Richard Sherman.

Almost an afterthought in the rotation just a month ago, Taurean Prince has turned doubters into believers with his recent stretch of dependability. If the temperatures on his shooting hand continue to rise north and his defensive intensity continues to remain this uninterrupted, Prince may just make himself an undeniable building block to this championship-worthy Brooklyn Nets team.

Keep it going.