Taurean Waller-Prince was drafted 12th overall in the 2016 NBA Draft by the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks acquired the lottery pick from the Utah Jazz via a three team trade that also involved the Hawks sending Jeff Teague to the Pacers and the Pacers sending George Hill to the Jazz.
Prince first claimed the spotlight with his humor when he offered a sarcastic answer to a reporter’s question following Baylor’s loss to Yale in the 2016 NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Tournament.
However, his celebrations and wit are not vital to the future of the Hawks, but his development and play are.
As displayed, Prince has yet to wow fans or analysts with his play. He’s had some exciting highlights and performed well in the D-League and Summer League, but he hasn’t had his breakout game yet. In fact, he just recorded a career high 11 points against the Orlando Magic last Saturday.
On the defensive side of the ball, he has contributed 0.4 steals per game and 0.3 blocks per game. Also, he currently carries a -0.7 +/-, meaning the Hawks are outscored by 0.7 points on average when Prince is on the court.
But looking past his unimpressive statline and minimal playing time (around 11 minutes per game), there are positive, unteachable qualities. Prince stands at 6′ 8 and weighs in at around 220 pounds, making him one of the more athletic forwards in the NBA. He also sports a great wingspan of 6′ 11.5. All together, he has the body of a NBA star.
Prince could likely develop to the blueprint of DeMarre Carroll, former Atlanta Hawk and current Toronto Raptor. They are the same height, and Carroll is just a few pounds behind Prince. Now, Carroll isn’t known for his scoring or crazy athleticism, but he is considered an elite defender that is capable of limiting stars such as LeBron James (of course no one can stop LeBron, but Carroll has the capability to slow him down). Also, Carroll finds his groove on offense well, averaging 9.6 points a game while shooting .414 this season. He isn’t putting up 20 points a night, but he fills his role and helps his team when they need him.
Prince doesn’t have to become Carroll 2.0, but he does need to tame his athleticism. He has the tools to be a troublesome slasher in the lane and a defender that throws a wrench into opposing offenses, he just needs to continue to build on his strong foundation.
If he can take his development a step further and also develop his shooting, then he can become more than a role player. He could stretch the court, but also keep the opposing interior defenses at bay with his ability to cut to the basket, becoming a matchup nightmare. This scenario would really open up the floor for the Hawks and hopefully revive a now stagnant offense.
In short, Prince hasn’t done anything of note in the NBA yet, save for his entertaining antics on the bench. However, he has the god given gift of athleticism that could be his stepping stone for breaking out one day if he can develop either the offensive or defensive aspect of his game. If he surpasses expectations and becomes a capable scorer or elite defender, then the Hawks might just have a star.