The Hawks made the first real surprise pick of the 2016 NBA draft by selecting Taurean Prince out of Baylor with the 12th overall pick. Some draft analysts did not even have Prince going the first-round at all, and many more believed that Prince would still have been available at the 21st pick, which also belonged to the Hawks. But Atlanta was not going to take any chances, and it is now easy to see why the Hawks liked Prince so much. At 6 foot 8, 220 pounds, Prince has the ideal body type to become an elite defender in the NBA. Hawks player development has become known for getting the most of players on the defensive end. Demarre Carroll and Kent Bazemore have each become elite defenders on the wing for the Hawks, and there is no doubt Prince is next in line to do so. In summer league, Prince showcased that length. He was an absolute pest on defense, averaging three steals a game, while guarding the opposing teams most potent offensive threat. The NBA is a much different level, but Prince is already showing signs of being an elite defender.
While Prince’s main draw was his defensive ability, he is no slouch on the offensive end either. He shot the three-ball at an efficient 37.6% over his four-year career at Baylor, and was pegged coming out of the draft as an ideal 3 and D candidate. However, his offensive game has a lot more to it than just a three-point shot. He is capable of taking the ball of the dribble and using shot-fakes to create his own shot closer to the basket. He is not a terrific finisher by any means, but he is capable and can still improve in this area. His offensive game is a lot more NBA ready than people thought coming out of college. Prince can also use his 6′ 8″ frame to get in the paint and collect rebounds. This was a huge weakness for the Hawks last year, and Prince will definitely help on the boards when he is on the court this year.
With the 21st pick of the draft, the Hawks went with another wing player, DeAndre Bembry, from St. Joe’s. Like Prince, Bembry was a multi-year star for his respective university. He spent three years at St. Joe’s, averaging 15.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists over his career. Bembry was absolutely unreal in his final year for St Joe’s, on his way to the A-10 player of the year award. The Hawks had an eye on Bembry from the start of this draft process, and it is easy to see why, as he seems like a perfect fit in Mike Budenholzer’s unselfish system.
At 6 feet 6 inches, Bembry is wirey with a wingspan of almost 6′ 10″. He has the ability to become a terrific defensive player like Prince, but his offensive game could elevate him into an elite category of wing players in this league. Bembry loves using his athleticism to get into the lane and finish around the rim. He can finish in all different fashions and enjoys playing above the rim in transition, but what really makes him stand out is his vision. Bembry is a terrific passer for a wing player and nearly averaged five assists in his final season at St. Joe’s. That type of playmaking ability is what sets him apart from most of the other wings in this class.
The biggest question mark surrounding Bembry is his jump shot. His three-point shooting numbers fell from 34.6% in his first season in college all the way to 26.6% in his final year. That number just is not going to cut it with the way the league is evolving around the three-point shot. Bembry has to improve on that shot if he wants to see minutes in his rookie season. From the looks of it, the problem does not seem to be mechanical. Bembry’s shot looks like a normal jump shot, so he should, with help from the Hawks player development staff, be able to improve monumentally as a jump shooter. However, if he fails to do so, it is going to be tough for him to excel at this level.
Prior to summer league, my answer would have been different. While I did not hate the Hawks selection of Prince, I was on board with the many who viewed it as a reach. But after watching summer league, I feel a lot more confident about the selection of Prince. His body is NBA ready, and I would not be surprised if he is starting at some point this season. Prince will be an elite defender, but it was his offensive game that I am excited about. He can score in a variety of different ways. He is not just a three-point shooter, and in time he will be the starting small forward for the Hawks.
I loved the Bembry selection from the moment it came out of Adam Silver’s mouth. His playmaking ability makes him such an intriguing prospect. However, Bembry has a lot more areas that are not NBA ready than Prince does. He needs to add some muscle to his body and his three-point shot obviously still has an enormous amount of work. At some point, Bembry is going to be a really solid NBA player, but for right now Prince definitely looks like the more complete pick.