Atlanta Hawks: Taurean Prince is legit

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When Taurean Prince was drafted in 2016, somewhat jokingly comparisons were made to him and Kawhi Leonard. The Hawks surprisingly traded up to draft Prince with the 12th overall pick. Of course, at the time, Coach Budenholzer was pulling the strings and he had quite a bit of say in the Spurs trading of George Hill for Leonard back in 2011 as well. The comparisons were also influenced by their tall and lanky frames coming in with great defensive abilities. However, nobody actually expected Prince to blossom into a caliber of scorer that Leonard has become. Fast forward three years and the former Baylor star looks like a player who can average 20 points a game.

Unlike a lot of NBA superstars, Leonard didn’t come into the league and immediately leave his mark. He quietly joined one of the best dynasties in NBA history and played his role as a 3 and D specialist. Prince followed in similar foot steps. He didn’t play much to begin his rookie season, but by the end, he was the starting small forward for the Hawks the last time they reached the playoffs.

Obviously, the Hawks would go full tank mode in the following year, so it’s impossible to compare the stats of him and Leonard, who was competing for championships. Nonetheless, Prince has continued to make giant strides as a scorer much like Leonard did early on in his career. As a full-time starter in 2016-2017, Prince averaged 14.1 points per game and shot nearly 40% from the three-point line.

Prince’s shooting ability is what had many scouts hesitant about his future in the NBA. He showed promise as a scorer at the college level, but never showed enough improvement over 4 years at Baylor for people to believe he would be a prominent scoring threat in the NBA.

Fortunately, he hasn’t let his doubters effect him, breaking out early in year three. Though a small sample size (5 games), Prince is averaging 20.6 points per game, shooting 46.7% from the field and 41.7% from the three-point line. His efficiency is way up, and Hawks head coach, Lloyd Pierce, believes that is here to stay. Just for kicks, Leonard did not average over 20 points per game until his 5th season in the NBA.

There is no questioning Prince still has some work to do on the defensive side. He’s nowhere near the caliber of defender that Leonard is but he does possess all the traits to become one of the league’s top defenders. The real question is whether this type of offensive efficiency is here to stay. Based off what I’ve seen throughout the offseason and the early part of this season, the answer to that is a resounding YES. It’s realistic to expect 20 points from this guy every time he steps on the court.

 

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