Atlanta Hawks : Rookie Spotlight

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Taurean Prince : The Artist Formerly Known as DeMarre Carroll?

The Atlanta Hawks traded away Jeff Teague this off-season in exchange for the number 12 pick in the draft. That pick ended up being Taurean Prince. Whilst I was not a fan of ATL’s Off-Season whatsoever, I was a big fan of Taurean Prince going into the draft and therefore loved the pick. In hindsight, a case could certainly be made that Prince would have still been available at their own pick (Number 21) but I will always approve of a team doing what it takes to get their man. Unless of course that team is the #Kangzzz of Sacramento.

After being somewhat of a production line for under appreciated wings in recent years, Atlanta decided to lock up Kent Bazemore (4 Years / $70mil / Player Option 4th) instead of letting him walk like DeMarre Carroll (4 Years / $60mil) did 12 months earlier. But who’s next on the conveyor belt? Enter the Baylor Bear. And whilst any comparison between Prince & Carroll seems lazy on the surface & based purely on looks alone, I decided to take a deeper look and see if there is more to it;

Measurements:

Getting accurate measurements in the NBA is far more difficult than it really should be. You just have to look at Prince’s most recent, yet rather questionable, standing reach measurement from this year. That aside, looking at the Draft Combine stats for both Prince & Carroll you can see this is where the comparison really begins;

Carroll   Prince
6’7.75″ Height 6’7.75″
207 Weight 220
6’10” Wingspan 6’11”
6.5 Body Fat 6.3
8’9″ Standing Reach 8’6″

As you can see, there is certainly more to the physical likeness other than the hair. Both players measured at the same height in shoes and practically the same wingspan, which at least on first look projects Prince to play a similar hybrid 3/4 role as Carroll in today’s NBA. Prince has significant more weight coming out of college but more importantly at a similar body fat percentage. To me all this says is, he is further along in reaching his true size than Carroll was coming out of college. And therefore, Prince should at least be able to contribute physically (particularly on the defensive end) like Carroll on the court & at a far earlier stage of his career.

College Stats:

Both Carroll & Prince were not significant contributors in their Freshman seasons in College and while Carroll had carved out a significant role by Year 2, Prince didn’t see a real spike until his Junior year. Carroll chose to move schools in Year 3, while Prince finally saw a huge increase in minutes and this is where similarities began to show between the two.

DeMarre Carroll – 4 Years:Screen Shot 2016-08-14 at 4.53.08 pm

Taurean Prince – 4 Years:Screen Shot 2016-08-14 at 4.53.21 pm

Let’s take a look at their Senior Years in isolation and analyse what is almost identical and what’s much further apart. Focusing on Prince as a 3 & D prospect helps discuss where the similarities and differences lie in each Senior Year.

Firstly, Prince managed to almost replicate Carroll’s steal and block averages, despite playing  primarily in a defensive zone system at Baylor. The 3pFG% is very much the same between the two and encouraging that Prince practically averaged 37% for his entire college career despite increasing his output over that stretch. So they could both compete on the defensive end and both showed signs of outside touch whilst being great rebounders for their size and position in college. There is no reason why this won’t carry over to the pro’s for Prince as it has done for DeMarre. 

The glaring difference in the stats is the FG% (55 vs 43). Carroll trended up throughout his college career while Prince went the other way. While that’s not a great sign, it is important to note that Prince had an unusually high usage rate of approximately 28 in his Senior Year and operated far more from the outside. DeMarre was very much operating on the inside with an absurd 58 2pFG% and Taurean averaged roughly 3 more shots from deep. Then there are the turnovers, far more from Prince (high usage also?) in his Senior Year. Yet both players averaged 2+ assists per game and showed a willingness to make the right play. This was particularly encouraging for Prince as he improved his passing every year.

Finally, one big difference in favour of Prince was his FT% at a very respectable 77%. This bodes well for him and is the sign of a consistent stroke which will help his entire shooting game in the pro’s.

NBA Projections:

So if they are so similar coming out of college, why will the start of their professional careers be any different?

It is tough to remember that DeMarre Carroll the NBA rookie was a long way from the DeMarre Carroll for the Toronto Raptors today. After being drafted by the Grizzlies and playing primarily as a backup PF/SF, Carroll then bounced around the league with very limited opportunity before again finding his feet at Utah. He was used far more appropriately on the Jazz but it still wasn’t until he found himself in Atlanta that he truly reached his potential.

While a lot of that credit should go to the Hawks, his story is also very much a snapshot of the change in the NBA. When given the opportunity to play far greater minutes on the wing and occasionally slide up to the 4 in small ball lineups the results started to show on both ends of the floor. Fast forward a few years and wings like Carroll are invaluable when you have them and expensive if you want them. Spacing the floor, not demanding touches, making the right plays and switching defensively from the 2 through the 4.

So, can Prince benefit from the current NBA then and find a role far quicker? In my opinion, the answer rests squarely on his own broad shoulders.

Comparing Prince’s Senior year shot chart to Carroll’s final year in Atlanta, seems like a logical place to start. The majority of Prince’s “improvement” may come from accepting a far lesser role than he had at Baylor & not being asked to do too much for his team within the Hawks system. As mentioned previously, Prince had a usage of 28.1 in his final year at Baylor. Carroll rarely moved from 15-16 while at Atlanta and got his pay day by cutting out the mid-range game and hitting open shots. Almost his entire range of field goal makes were assisted in Season 14/15 and if Prince can replicate this, he already cuts out the weaknesses in his current game by way of inefficient shots and turnovers. In fact the answer to this question may already be clear. Prince’s best 3P% was in Year 3 at almost 40%, where the majority of his outside attempts were catch & shoot with his feet set.

Like Carroll, Prince has already shown elite finishing ability around the rim and favoured spots from beyond the arc. If anything he is less reliant on a side of the floor as Carroll was in 14/15 and just needs to improve his corner 3 percentages slightly to become impossible to leave alone. If he can be relied upon early from the NBA distance,  this will only open up opportunities at the rim and I am legitimately excited to see what Taurean can do in a Hawks system where he isn’t option 1, 2 or even 3. But will Taurean be just as excited playing that role? I really hope so!

Watching any Prince highlight reel, you will see he can excel in the transition open floor game and feast on open corner 3’s much like Carroll did in Atlanta. Let’s take a look at DeMarre Carroll in some other Hawks typical plays on both ends of the floor and compare to what Taurean Prince has already shown he is capable of;


Offense – Set Play for Open 3: 

Carroll doesn’t get the ball from the initial action but completes his route and winds up with an open corner 3. Atlanta will run a lot of screens for their wings & as can be seen below, Prince is very comfortable curling to his spots and knocking down from deep.


Offense – Blow By:

Here DC is able to take advantage of the respect he gets from deep for an And1. TP is possibly already more comfortable putting the ball on the floor and any defender closing out will have their hands full as he goes passed.


Offense – P’n’R Attack:

In a Pick n Roll situation DC is able to find his way to the basket and finish with contact or draw the foul. As above, TP is far more comfortable already in this situation and could use someone like Millsap to his advantage, whether that’s through a pick or due to how dangerous he is as the ‘Pop’ man.


Offense – Back Door Cut: 

The Hawks ball movement is brilliant under Coach Bud. Gravity towards guys like Korver and the advantage of being a deep threat yourself, means there are plenty of cutting opportunities. Here DC is able to find an empty lane to the basket. TP has extra athleticism and clearly has a nose for when to cut back door, whether that be traditionally or with a little more flare.


Defense – Guard The Small:

Like DC shows above, TP has great lateral movement and should have no issues guarding smalls up top or in switching situations. He shows a real passion to get after guards, fight through screens and often makes them force a shot or give the ball up.


Defense – Guard The Big: 

Likewise, TP could jump into the role vacated by DC on the Hawks as the “Lebron Stopper”. Here, much like DC, he shows good lower body strength and footwork to contest the bigs shot.


Defense – Block Down Low

It wasn’t often DC was asked to protect the rim for the Hawks, however their D style & poor D rebounding would often force help or weak side situations. TP projects to have more bounce than DC and the same good timing, to be a factor when needed.


Defense – Play The Passing Lanes:

DC made his living on the D end with Atlanta, using his IQ to play the passing lane and score transition buckets. TP has a great eye for this too and as discussed, his measurables make him a nuisance in the lanes.


In my opinion, the Hawks have drafted a great prospect. Prince is a notorious hard worker and reportedly a high-character guy. He also had probably the most watched off court highlight in the entire NCAA last year and is generally a really great interview. So while Atlanta has taken care of the short term with Bazemore for the next 4 years, he could choose to bolt after 3 and Prince could find himself in the starter role sooner rather than later. In the meantime, he will be given the appropriate chance to develop and only have to contribute minutes on the wing when his play deserves it.

The real key here for the Hawks is, they look to have found themselves another gem to polish and this time it will be with far greater team control for the foreseeable future. He may never be the All-Star you hope to draft in the late lottery, however efficient 3&D guys are hard to find. And as Carroll/Bazemore have shown, they don’t come cheap when you save them off the scrap heap!  So rather than see Prince prosper only to take the money elsewhere or at the very least get paid to stay, I expect to see him in a Hawks uniform for many years to come. The key for Prince will be accepting the lesser role in the NBA, doing Carroll like things (and potentially more) for this team and at a much cheaper price too. I’ll be rooting for you on this one, Atlanta!

Special thanks to a number of sites for research on this piece: basketballreference.com, draftexpress.com, shotanalytics.com & Grantland (RIP). As well as Youtube users – William Lou, Brock B, Robby Kalland, Kris Willis & 1677091 Productions.

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