The Hawks dropped yesterday’s contest with the Brooklyn Nets — 65-72 — in what was, let’s be honest, a pretty ugly affair with about a thousand foul calls. After five Hawks (now 2-1 in Vegas) scored in double figures against the Wizards, only two could do so yesterday, Brandon Ashley leading the way with 11 points — no one played particularly well at all. We’ll get to the other Hawk who scored in double digits in a second…
Before we do that though, a quick shoutout to former Hawks assistant and new Brooklyn Nets head coach, Coach Kenny Atkinson, who’s coaching the Nets’ Summer League team and they look like a very well drilled side, much more organised than the two sides the Hawks faced prior to the Nets — Houston and Washington. So, props to you, Coach Atkinson.
Taurean Prince makes his Hawks debut
Despite no one playing that well for the Hawks, there’s (thankfully) something to talk about and that is the debut of the 12th overall pick of the draft, Taurean Prince, who finally received clearance from the league to play, after the trade sending Jeff Teague to Indiana was finalized. He scored 10 points and came up with four steals in just under 23 minutes of action.
Before the game, it was unclear how much we would see of Prince, or if we would see him at all since he hadn’t been allowed to so much as practise with the team until that trade was finalized (which it was just before this game). Because Prince hadn’t been able to practise, it was rumoured that his debut might was going to be pushed back to Wednesday — so that he would at least have a training session to acclimate himself on the court — but that wasn’t the case and we got to see him in action yesterday.
I’m not going to say he played outstandingly well, but he did pretty well considering that he went out there having not had the opportunity to practise with his teammates and having to figure things out on the fly. Some of his shots were a bit un-Hawksy, but that’s to be expected when you haven’t been able to practise.
Let’s go through some of the good things Prince did yesterday.
We’ll look at some of his passing, which is actually a little better than what I thought it was after watching footage of him at Baylor.
He receives the ball at the three-point line, fakes his opponent out, and then proceeds to drive to the rim. Once he draws the attention of the defense, he slips a beautiful pass to the open Lasme, who is unable to finish.
Really smooth from Prince to execute that pass after the step move.
How about a no look pass in transition? Prince collects the rebound, runs the floor, and executes a beautiful no look pass to Ashley who finishes the play.
These aren’t plays that are going set the world on fire, but we can see that Prince has some flash when it comes to his passing, which is good to see.
Let’s look at Prince’s defense, his calling card coming out of college.
I’ve liked the aggressiveness that he has shown and his willingness to get up into his man’s space. Even though there’s a foul called in this sequence, it’s nice to see Prince get in there and make life really uncomfortable for his opponent.
To be fair, he had help doing this, but he was still right there in his opponents’ grill, making him feel him.
In the closing stages of this game, Prince charges to the rim (going between two defenders in the process) and converts a layup at the rim. However, the Hawks are in a sticky situation, needing the Nets to turn the ball over if they’re to have any chance of winning this game.
Throughout the following defensive possession, Prince is active in his pursuit of the ball, makes life uncomfortable for Rondae Hollis-Jefferson in the corner, who does a nice job of getting the ball out of that corner finding Kilpatrick, who gets over the halfway line into Atlanta’s half. Now, you’d expect the Hawks to foul, but they continue to try and force a turnover, and Prince eventually forces one — plucking it away from behind — and he finds Ashley behind the arc who can’t convert, and that was all she wrote for this game.
Great activity from Prince, not just to pry the ball loose, but to secure it himself too. Were it also not for a great pass from RHJ to get the ball away from the corner, the Nets could’ve easily turned it over in their own half — Prince was really causing a problem.
Here’s some more good trapping from Prince: following the inbounds pass, and upon the catch and turn from Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Prince steps in to cut off the lane and RHJ is trapped. Before the double team from Isaia Cordinier even comes, Prince manages to knock the ball out of RHJ’s hands, tips it forward, Bembry collects it, and he feeds Cordinier who smashes it home — one of the better plays from this game. And then Cordinier proceeds to foul on a made dunk not 10 seconds later… Still a fun sequence though.
The defensive instincts of Prince, though, made the initial play.
Speaking of defensive instincts, how about this play? This loose pass is telegraphed by Prince, who gladly collects the ball for the easy dunk. A good example of Prince’s defensive instincts and awareness.
All of this is great. However, other parts of Prince’s defensive game still need work. His off ball defense wasn’t great, he wandered away from his man a little too often, and some of his on ball defense wasn’t great. His plus/minus rating of minus+22 was a game low…
Watch how far away he drifts from his man, Sean Kilpatrick, on this possession at the end of the first half.
Prince was needlessly drawn to the ball and leaves his man wide open for an easy three. This happened a few times too.
But look, you have to remember he played in a weird zone defense at Baylor, so it’s going to take him some time to adjust on the defensive end in the Hawks’ defensive scheme.
All in all, a decent debut for Taurean Prince who we will get to see in action again tomorrow in the tournament phase of Las Vegas Summer League. The opponent and time are yet to be decided.