Taurean Prince is Taking the Next Step

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Taurean Prince celebrates (Curtis Compton)

It is hard to believe that a year ago this time that Taurean Prince was in the D-League.

After an impressive career at Baylor University it was clear that Taurean Prince was destined to go to the NBA. The Hawks had been rumored to be interested in Prince even before the trade that sent Jeff Teague to the Pacers and the 12th pick to Atlanta by way of the Utah Jazz. On draft night the Hawks selected Prince and Bembry with the 12th and 19th picks.

From the jump, it was clear that Prince was the type of player that could thrive in Coach Bud’s system. He immediately drew comparisons (looks and play style wise) to former Hawk DeMarre Carroll.

At the start of the 2016-17 NBA season, Prince found himself buried on the bench behind players such as Tim Hardaway JR, Kyle Korver and Thabo Sefelosha. But Taurean did not get deterred. He worked hard every single day in practice. Finally, the Hawks sent him down to the D-League’s Long Island Nets to get some playing time.

That playing time definitely payed off. In five appearances with the Long Island Nets, Prince put up 20 PPG in just 28 MPG on 50% Shooting and 38% Shooting from Three.

Then things started to fall back into place for Prince in Atlanta. On January 5th, the Hawks shockingly traded sharpshooter Kyle Korver to the Cleveland Cavaliers. At the time it appeared that this move was the beginning of a rebuild but management couldn’t agree to it and played the season out with Millsap and Hardaway.

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Prince throws it down (FSSE)

Once the injury bug hit the Hawks hard in March, there was no turning back. After just three double digit scoring games from October until March 10th, Prince ripped off four 15+ point games to end the month.

Even as the Hawks finally got healthy heading in to the playoffs, Bud stuck with his rookie in the starting lineup. It was a decision that was questioned by some at the time, but it was one that would pay dividends. In the Six game battle with Washington, Prince averaged 11 PPG and Five RPG while shooting 56% from the field. Not to mention his solid defense.

This past offseason saw the departure of Dwight Howard, Paul Millsap and Tim Hardaway JR. It was clear that the Hawks trusted the young foundation of Taurean Prince, Dennis Schroder and DeAndre’ Bembry to be the future of the team.

Thirty games into the 2017-18 season, Taurean Prince has started in all of Atlanta’s games. His average of 13.2 PPG is currently good for 2nd on the team. Three times this season, Prince has gone toe to toe with Lebron. He has averaged nearly 18 PPG in those games while managing to hold his own for the most part. He even crossed him up in the game in Atlanta (Lebron definitely got him back, which we all saw coming from a mile away).

In the month of December however, Prince has taken his game to another level. You can see him getting more and more comfortable. In the past 4 games, he has matched his career high of 24 Points twice. But he’s not just scoring, he’s doing so efficiently as well as filling the box score.

Here’s highlights from Prince’s 24 Point game against the Miami Heat on December 18th courtesy of Youtube.

Credit: Youtube.com ‘DownToBuck’

As mentioned, Prince is shooting efficiently. As KL Chouinard pointed out, Prince is shooting 54.5% on Corner Three’s this season. That is absurd.  As a whole, Prince is making over 43% of his threes this season while attempting 4.2 per game. Only 13 players in the league are shooting this well who shoot this much.

Credit: @KLChouinard Twitter

In addition to his scoring punch, Prince has vastly improved his rebounding and passing. On December 12th Prince dropped one of the most underrated lines in the NBA this entire season with 24 Points on 8-10 Shooting, 2-4 from Three, 6-6 from the Free Throw Line, Seven Rebounds and Six Assists in just 30 Minutes of action. Not to mention, it was against Lebron. He followed that up on the 18th with 24 Points on 7-12 Shooting, 4-7 from Three, 6-6 from the Free Throw Line,  Seven Rebounds, Three Assists and Three Blocks in 37 Minutes. These types of games will become the normal and not the exception as we go forward. Prince also plays solid defense and does so without getting in to foul trouble. Prince hasn’t picked up more than Three Personal Fouls in a game since November 15th.

If Taurean Prince continues on this trajectory, we could be looking at an All-Star level player. He reminds me a bit of a young Jimmy Butler. Prince has the tools, skills, coaching and work ethic to become a huge star in this league. The sky is the limit for the young man from Texas.

 

Phil Veasley

@_ATLPhil

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Phil Veasley
Phil Veasley is a resident of Atlanta who has been a die-hard Hawks fan since 2005. He is Civil Engineer student at KSU. Currently, Phil writes for Atlanta Hawks Talk while also managing all ATLSportsHQ sites. He can be reached on Twitter at @_ATLPhil

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