There is a steep thirst in today's NBA for lengthy wings that can withstand a barrage of screens, switch on the pick and roll, mask as a four in small-ball lineups and splash corner threes at a high clip. Deep within the flurry of trey bombs from Golden State lies perhaps the biggest reason why they have won 73 games this season; their wings are all super long and boast a vast skill set. The typical team would kill to have a player of Andre Iguodala's stature, let alone combine him with Harrison Barnes and Shaun Livingston.
In an effort to play catch up, front offices around the league are hoarding players under the "three and D" umbrella at a premium, looking to unleash their own kind of hell a la the Warriors. With this in mind, Taurean Prince figures to be a prospect of great interest heading into the draft given his lengthy wingspan (6'11.5"), stout 220-pound frame, and unique abilities.
Though he was asked to do too much during his tenure at Baylor, Prince is more than capable of filling a rotation at the NBA level.
Let's take a look.
Immediately the first thing that jumps out when watching tape on Prince is his combination of size, length and compact shooting stroke. A career 38 percent three-point shooter, he was routinely used off of screens at Baylor and has the chops to knock down corner threes at a high percentage at the next level.
Prince showcases great rhythm and a surprisingly quick release in the clip up above, a must with all of the quick-twitched wings in the NBA. Wait a half a second on your release, and your shot could be volleyball spiked ten rows back. For the most part, his form was consistent and there were minimal lapses on his aim.
Often times he would unnecessarily extend his range just for the hell of it, but I assume there will be less of those opportunities at the next level. Prince will be a catch and shoot sniper, not an off the dribble creator.
Along with his shooting prowess, Prince has enough athleticism and a quirky handle to "grab and go" on the break, a coup for any three and D wing.
The ability to grab and go creates a whole new dimension for offenses as the defense will often be left back on its heels reliant on the dangerous game of cross-matching within a transition setting. For teams that want to road-run their way to victories (the Suns are notoriously regarded as a transition team), then it is imperative to have as many players that can take a rebound and start the break from anywhere on the court.
In addition to transition, Prince's handle and jerky drives will come in handy in the half court. Within the context of the spread pick and roll, wings stashed in the corners have to designate themselves as a threat not only with their shooting touch, but also with their knack for attacking closeouts in a jiffy. The Baylor product has proven more than capable on tape, utilizing a quick first step and nifty finishes around the rim that are eerily similar to that of Boston's Jae Crowder:
Crowder has developed himself into a useful secondary ball handler within a half court setting, and there is no reason why Prince should not be able to do the same over time.
On defense, Prince averaged over a steal per game and nearly matched that figure in the blocks category. Again, he is able to use his quick feet and wingspan to his advantage by attacking jump shots with a vengeance and shuffling his feet to power through screens. Although Baylor played zone, there were still single possessions that shined through as applicable to the next level:
The ability to shuffle, shuffle, contest in a smooth, sequenced motion is a highly desirable trait that can unlock all kinds of switching tactics for a defense. It will be interesting to see how Prince's quick feet and lengthy limbs hold up against jitterbug guards off the dribble.
Most of Prince's warts stem from the situation in which he was thrusted in. At Baylor, he was asked to be the primary option more than desired, and the end results were not exactly aesthetically pleasing. Though he has improved as a passer, it should go without saying that an NBA offense should not be spearheaded by a Prince pick and roll:
He is fully capable of finding the open man when the defense is scrambling or in four on three situations, but when the cadence of dribbling is necessitated, he struggles. And that is fine. Not every prospect needs to be a superstar capable of orbiting an entire offense around their ability to handle the pick and roll.
Nestled as the primary option, Prince's one on one scoring ability is pretty murky, slugging his way to forced floaters and pull up jumpers that lacked the proper explosion:
I would be hard-pressed to believe that Prince ever gets a baseline isolation called for him in the NBA, so these short comings are less likely to come to fruition.
Conclusion and Fit in Phoenix
With the current state of his draft stock, Prince should easily find his way to be available with the 13th pick for the Suns. The 21 year-old possesses a skill set that transfers swimmingly to the modern NBA and he figures to be a turbo-charged P.J. Tucker replacement if he is given the boot later this summer.
Much like Crowder before him, I have an innate feeling that teams are going to look back at this draft and wonder why Prince was selected much later than his production warrants.