The Brooklyn Nets have a serious Taurean Prince problem

Taurean Prince Brooklyn Nets (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Taurean Prince Brooklyn Nets (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

Whenever a slump goes on long enough that it transforms into the norm for a player’s production, you have a problem. And the Brooklyn Nets have a serious Taurean Prince problem.

It’s impossible, even now, in hindsight, to look at the deal that sent Taurean Prince to the Brooklyn Nets as a failure or misfire. After all, the trade sent Allen Crabbe and his lucrative contract of $18.5 million per year the opposite way, to the Atlanta Hawks; which in turn, freed up cap space for the Nets. It had to be done in order for them to make a significant splash in free agency—which they did by acquiring Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

However, despite the logistics of the deal clearly working in their favor in terms of the chain of events that followed, it’s now obvious that from a personnel standpoint, Taurean Prince is a less than ideal fit.

You can’t exclusively fault Prince for his trivial campaign, especially when you take into consideration that he’s essentially playing out of position at the four. However, that excuse doesn’t remove him from all criticism—especially with how poor he’s played on both ends of the floor.

Per ESPN, Prince currently ranks 73rd in the NBA, amongst power forwards, in defensive real plus-minus (-0.77). On the offensive side, he fares a little better, if you’re in a generous mood, ranking just 35th in that metric (-0.37). But that’s just scratching the surface.

Billed as a 3-and-D type, Prince has struggled heavily in the two aspects of his game that were supposedly serviceable. Since December, he’s shooting a meager 28.6 percent from distance, including 33.8 percent on catch and shoot threes. That’s a large enough sample size to warrant significant concern, even for those who believe a lesser role in next year’s offense will work wonders for the 25-year-old.

They can, however, feel moderately justified in that he is shooting 41.3 percent in wide-open three-point attempts since December. So if there is no one in sight as far as the naked eye can see, if he is left alone on an island, just him and a ball, like Tom Hanks in Castaway with his Wilson-branded volleyball, he is respectable.

And unfortunately for him and the Nets, if the shot isn’t falling, there aren’t too many avenues of offense in which he can venture. He drives the rock 5.3 times per game—for perspective, that’s 5th on the team, and 1.2 drives behind Joe Harris, world-renowned marksman—but is shooting just 37.9 percent in those instances and turns the ball over (0.5) just as much as he garners assists and generates points for teammates (0.5).

Then when you take a look at the pick-and-roll, which, by the way, the Nets absolutely adore, it gets uglier. In fact, their undying devotion to the pick-and-roll has them currently placing 5th in the NBA in running such looks on a per-game basis. However, Prince’s metrics as the primary ball-hander in these actions, be it on a smaller sample size, are abysmal.

When setting up and creating in the pick-and-roll, he ranks in the 20th percentile with 0.67 points per possession. As the roll man in such instances, it only gets worse: 0.71 points per possession, ranking in the 8th percentile. He also rarely cuts (just 0.2 times a game), but when he does, it’s rarely effective (9th percentile).

For anyone that doesn’t understand what is meant by percentile, the lower the number, the worse off you are in this context.

When you begin to dig a little deeper into his offensive metrics, the reasoning behind his field goal percentage of 38.4 percent and three-point percentage of 34.9 percent is rather transparent. His true shooting percentage of 50.6 percent is also well below the league average of 56.3 percent.

Then there is his defense. Though defensive metrics are harder to gauge—their more inherently flawed and have to be used with a grain of salt—Prince’s analytics on that end paint a pretty clear picture.

In guarding the primary ball-handler in the pick-and-roll, he’s forfeiting 1.01 points per possession, which ranks in the 18th percentile. In rare instances where he accounts for the roll man, opponents are scoring at an average of 1.80 points per possession—where he ranks amongst the worst players in the NBA in that metric, in the 0.4th percentile. Yes, the 0.4th.

In post-ups, he ranks in the 10th percentile, allowing opposing bigs to score at will with 1.20 points per possession. Likewise, in isolation, he allows an average of 1.00 points per possession; which is one of his better rankings league-wide, where he sits in the 33rd percentile.

Here is a more simplified illustration of his defensive inadequacies, via an easy-to-read graph.  Who, outside of Kevin Durant, doesn’t love graphs when you discuss basketball!?

He’s last on the team in “Offensive Points Added,” and is sitting in the negative in terms of “Defensive Points Saved.” This details his struggles on the floor this season to a tee.

Again, the optimistic approach would be to say he’ll thrive in a smaller role next season alongside two offensive juggernauts. It’s also really easy to fall in love with the idea of Taurean Prince. He’s got a great NBA body, silky-smooth jump shot, honorable but not off the charts athleticism, and at times appears comfortable and confident operating off-ball or using a screen/dribble-drive penetration in a half-court setting.

You can’t deny the man’s natural talent, it’s there, which makes his season all the more frustrating. Could he turn things around? I don’t see why not. But will he? That’s more of a grey area.

I mean, what’s to say these inadequacies and inconsistencies halt? Next season is officially year one of the Nets’ title window, they can ill-afford to not have the correct complementary pieces beside their superstars.

Next. Is Caris LeVert that elusive "third star?". dark

And with Prince’s extension kicking in this summer, which is good for two-years at $29 million, the logistics of his new deal are starting to look like an obstacle Sean Marks has to overcome. The Nets have a serious Taurean Prince problem, it’s sheer speculation at this point when discussing his future with the team, but right now, it’s not looking bright.