With the regular season coming quicker and quicker, the Atlanta Hawks have a lot of work to do in training camp that is considerably shorter than years past. This bucket list is extensive but crucial for the future of the franchise. Getting started, the Hawks have the challenge of getting not only the new draft picks acclimated with the normal nuances of NBA life, but they have to get the ENTIRE team acclimated to the new systems of new head coach Lloyd Pierce culture wise and mainly on defense.
With all of the new personnel and change that are attached to the Hawks this year and beyond, HawksHoop is taking the challenge of being of providing the access to the information that will help the Hawks fan understand that even though the team will struggle at times for the next few years, the path is the correct if patience is practiced.Will this team contend for the NBA title? No. Will they be a playoff team? No. But if we all remember, Golden State was in this position years ago. The good thing here is the man that helped make the decisions, Travis Schlenk, is making the ultimate decisions here in Atlanta.
Let’s start breaking down the players going forward into the NBA season…
This breakdown concerns Taurean Prince.
Taurean Prince has the golden opportunity to be one of the future building blocks of the Atlanta Hawks. If he can build on the progress of last year, and more importantly worked on his game in the offseason, Kent Bazemore will not be alone in setting the tone in leading the Hawks this season. Don’t be surprised if Atlanta does not get a 20 point scorer from the guy that raised his game to a high level after the All-Star break.
Prince averaged 14 points, nearly five rebounds and two and half assists a game. He did this on the strength of 38.5 percent from the land of three and 42.5 percent overall. Prince last year morphed himself into the potential 3 and D player that is coveted in the NBA.
Taurean Prince showed promise after the All-Star break that should bring excitement to the State Farm Arena this upcoming season. The second half of the NBA season showed Prince putting up 19 points, about five rebounds and three and a half helpers per game. Notice the uptick in points and assists. This is what the Hawks are counting on to help out the young backcourt of Kevin Huerter and Trae Young. What was good to see from Prince was the improvement in the shooting percentages. Prince shot 41 percent in threes and 44 percent overall. This shows hard work and development folks. Of the 2016 draft class, only Denver’s Jamaal Murray, L.A.’s Brandon Ingram and Boston’s Jaylen Brown averaged more points per 36 minutes. All of these players are considered cornerstones of their franchise’s future.
With Trae Young’s trial by fire initiation into the NBA, Taurean Prince’s playmaking will be on display as well. Prince improved as a playmaker and a solid rebounder that will go from being pleasing to the eye for the Hawks to required on a consistent basis. These attributes helped him to being a solid scorer last year, putting up five 30 point games with plenty of twenty point outings to back it up. With Dennis Schroder and Kent Bazemore hurt at times during the season, Prince got the opportunity to gain valuable experience setting him up for success with the feel for the offense and his improving basketball I.Q.
With the upside of Prince’s game, don’t be surprised if the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award is not in Prince’s trophy case at the end of the year. With LeBron James taking his talents out of Cleveland (...like again!), Taurean Prince can emerge as an up and coming player that can shine like those young kids in Philadelphia and Boston. With Lloyd Pierce at the helm, we should strongly assume that Prince will get the development.
Speaking of development…
As with every young player in the NBA, the improvement on the defensive end is mandatory and Taurean Prince is no different. Taurean had a career year on the offensive side of the ball but did the defense take a back seat to it?
Let’s be clear here...the jury is still out of Prince’s defensive prowess based on the Hawks personnel changes that have been at the forefront throughout his career. There have been two versions of Prince’s defense in his career. It is now up to the Hawks to figure out which version.
Is it last year’s version of defense. If that is the case, the Hawks could be in trouble. But it is very difficult in the NBA to evaluate the defensive acumen of a player when the entire defensive system is constantly in a transitory phase.
Maybe the rookie year of Taurean Prince is the brand of defense that the Hawks will get this year. Prince’s first year in the league backed up the defensive reputation that he had coming out of college. However, his potential mistakes could be covered up by defensive stalwarts Paul Millsap and Thabo Sefolosha, veterans who anchored the Hawks defense under Mike Budenholzer. With those players leaving for the youth movement and for cap purposes, the effects on Prince’s defensive efficiency was evident.
What are looking for from Taurean Prince this season?
The consolidation of the strengths that have been shown by Prince in the first few years in the NBA. The time is now for young players to have figured out the NBA game and show that they “get it” when having the tools necessary to have an extended stay in the league
What Taurean Prince will the Hawks get is a huge question coming into training camp. Can he continue to build on the offensive explosion that surprised many eyes the second half of the season? Can he revert back to the defensive player who showed promise in his rookie year.
What should we look from from Lloyd Pierce and the Hawks?
The Hawks have to figure out if Taurean Prince has the potential to be a really good player or are the improvements stacked because of the struggles of a bad team. Many say that Kent Bazemore, even though he plays hard and is a consummate professional, he would not be a quality top three option. It’s time to figure out if Prince is in that same mold or not.
How does he perform in the pick and roll? Prince did show that his offense improved working in pick and roll and dribble hand off situations. It will be interesting to see how Prince handles the adjustments of NBA opponents now that they have film on him. Now that Prince has shown the ability to knock down the three, teams are going to chase him off the line and force him to score at the rim. Something that Prince did with mixed results. It was touch and go with lay-ups with Prince missing a lot of the ones that were contested.
It is up to the Hawks to figure out the right role for Taurean Prince going forward. This practice will be a little more of a challenge than it sounds. It is crystal clear that the youth movement is in effect with the draft picks, Kevin Huerter and Trae Young needing time and attention to develop. These guys are the future of the franchise and Prince will have to adapt to the constant changes that are going on around him.
No matter what the situation that Prince and the Hawks have going forward, Prince is going to have to show consistency in all aspect of his game on both ends. If Taurean can continue to grow on the offensive end while remembering his defensive roots of his rookie year, he will be very valuable when the Hawks grow into a competitive team in a couple of years.