Taurean Waller-Prince of the Brooklyn Nets could flourish with the team’s current roster, let’s look at how.
In the grand scheme of things, given the magnitude of the Brooklyn Nets’ offseason, the acquisition of Taurean Waller-Prince via trade with the Atlanta Hawks has sailed somewhat under the radar. That’s probably due to the fact that the trade was made to free up cap space so the organization could go for the home-run ball in free agency; it panned out, but Prince as a productive basketball player for this team not just a pawn of a salary dump may very well do so as well.
Billed as a “3 and D” specialist (though his defensive intensity lacks consistency), his efficiency has increased with every passing season.
Last year with the Hawks, Prince averaged 13.5 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 1.0 blocks in the 28.2 minutes of action he saw every night he laced them up. Taking a quick glance at his stats and what almost immediately stands out is one thing: rebounding deficiency.
Last year he split time between the two forward spots; playing 69 percent of his minutes at the three, and 31 percent of them at the four. His total rebounding percentage of 6.7 percent was a career-low, and rather underwhelming, to say the least. However, though not necessarily a rebounding savant, he does other things on the basketball court really well.
What’s also worth mentioning is Prince’s ankle injury he suffered last season, which forced him to miss significant time. His rebounding numbers dipped from a more respectable 4.7 per game in 2017/18 to 3.6 per game last season.
Now let’s zone in on what he does well, which is namely his three-point shooting; Prince shot 39 percent from distance a season ago, including 42.8 percent on 3.7 catch and shoot three-point looks per game and 41.3 percent from the corner (which was where 34.6 percent of his attempts came from).
His ability to stretch the floor, alongside Joe Harris, with Irving’s playmaking abilities off of drives and the fact that Allen always has to be accounted for as the roll man in pick and rolls will make for a very appealing half-court dynamic for the Nets. Disclaimer: If Atkinson decides to go with Allen and Prince in his starting lineup.
His scoring versatility isn’t broad, 52.7 percent of his field-goal attempts came from three-point distance last season; but he can also put the ball on the deck, as evident by his 5.7 drives per game. In those instances, Prince converted 48.1 percent of his attempts—and he shot 64.5 percent in 2.7 attempts per game from less than 5 feet from the basket.
Prince’s playmaking numbers might not look flattering, his career assists to turnover ratio is a measly 1.11, but that might not be the conclusive indicator in his abilities in that aspect of his game. Look at this highlight video against the Chicago Bulls from the 2017/18 season. Prince looked smooth and comfortable operating in the pick and roll as a ball-handler in back to back sets; first finding Dedmon as the roll man, and the following possession he sets him up for the three after he fades off the pick and roll action (0:35-0:48).
Now, let’s get to the other side of the basketball. Prince’s defense has been a tad inconsistent as of late. Again, that could be attributed to an ankle injury he suffered last season, and it’s hard for anyone’s defensive metrics to look good playing for a team that ranked 26th in defensive rating.
Prince defended 431 field-goal attempts last season and in those instances, the opposition shot 47.1 percent from the field—not fantastic, but not exactly dreadful either. He has the physicality given his stature (6’8, 220 pounds) to bang down low with the more aggressive players, and has decent lateral quickness to hang with the more deceptive guards beyond the perimeter.
He has the tools to be a great defender in this league, but he has this unfortunate habit of being well, lackadaisical, on that end at times.
If he buys into his role within the Nets’ rotation, which is one that likely isn’t going to see a higher usage rate, but will also see him reap the benefits from the playmaking abilities of Irving, Dinwiddie, or even LeVert, and one that will also ask of him to be a presence on the defensive end— he can thrive in his position.
He can play small-ball four for spurts, but his rebounding just isn’t credible enough for long-term positioning there. The Nets will miss RHJ, DMC, even Jared Dudley‘s defensive intensity from the forward spots next season, they’ll need consistency and effort from Prince—he has to prove to Atkinson and company that he can provide that.
With a salary cap hit of only $3.4 million next season, the risk is obviously well worth the reward.