Four years ago, Taurean Prince was a marginal prospect committed to LIU-Brooklyn. Only Quincy Miller reneging on his promise to stay in school opened a roster spot for Prince to even play high-level basketball.
But on Thursday night, Prince became the sixth Baylor NBA draft pick of the Scott Drew era. The Atlanta Hawks selected Prince with the 12th pick of the 2016 NBA Draft, a day after trading for the Utah Jazz's pick.
Prince came to school out of San Antonio Warren with the skills of a post player, but with the developing body of a wing. But after a fairly nondescript first two seasons in Waco, Prince exploded during his junior and senior season.
As a scoring option off the bench, Prince averaged 13.9 points and 5.6 rebounds per game on 47.1 percent from the floor and 39.9 percent from the 3-point line his junior season. The efficiency dropped slightly, but the scoring average improved to 16.0 points per game as the first option for the Bears.
While Prince did an admirable job trying to develop as a go-to scorer in college, he projects to be a significantly better role player in the NBA.
We didn’t get to see a whole lot of Prince as a man-defender while playing in Scott Drew’s zone, but he has the tools to be an elite defender at the next level. Measuring 6-foot-8 with a nearly 7-foot wingspan, Prince is the kind of defensive wing who should excel defending players in the NBA.
His jump shot was inconsistent at times in college, but many of his struggles his senior year were his own doing. Prince tried to dribble into his own shot too much during nonconference play, and the results bear this out. Prince shot just 41.1 percent from the field over that stretch. Compare that to shooting 45 percent and 37 percent from behind the arc during conference play, despite higher levels of competition.
Prince was exceptionally good from 3-point range with his feet set, which should be his bread-and-butter at the next level.
Coming to Atlanta, Prince should be a perfect fit in Mike Budenholzer’s system. Coach Bud comes from the Spurs tree and emphasizes ball movement and finding open shooters.
More importantly, we have seen that a player like Prince can have success in Atlanta. Prince was compared favorably to former Hawks swingman DeMarre Carroll, who excelled in Coach Bud’s open system.
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Depending on whether Kent Bazemore leaves, Prince could very quickly be competing for a starting spot for the Hawks. Atlanta is somewhat in transition after trading point guard Jeff Teague. The Prince pick was a reach, but it shows the Hawks targeted him. An investment in his future could pay big dividends down the road.