Big improvement on 3-point shot puts Hawks’ Prince among NBA’s best

Hawks forward Taurean Prince ranks 18th in three-point percentage.
(Photo by Branden Camp)

Taurean Prince is shooting 43.3 percent on three-pointers this season to rank 18th among qualified NBA players. Look at the other 19 players in the top 20 and you’ll see that Prince is third-youngest on the list behind rookies Jayson Tatum and OG Anunoby. Among the players on that list with NBA experience, Prince’s 10.9 percentage improvement on threes this season is third -best behind Chandler Parsons (17.1 percent improvement) Al-Farouq Aminu (15.1 percent)

During his rookie season Prince’s offensive game centered on straight-line drives and he wasn’t very efficient at it: 37.1 percent shooting on 168 drives with turnovers on 10.1 percent of those plays. Prince shot just 32.4 percent on three-pointers last season, significantly below the league average (35.8 percent) and ranking 181st among 232 players with at least 100 attempts.

Now Prince has become a catch-and-shoot three-pointer threat—though somewhat reluctantly, coach Mike Budenholzer said.

“We’re actually sometimes wrestling with him just to shoot it more,” Budenholzer said. “He wants to drive, he wants to attack, he wants to get to the basket. I think he’ll always have somewhat of a balance. He’s not just going to become a catch-and-shoot guy.”

There’s a good reason for that. Prince is a long (7-foot wingspan) and strong wing who can get to the basket through contact and finish. He’s doing it much more frequently and efficiently this season—42.6 percent shooting on 228 drives with turnovers on 8.3 percent of those plays, according to NBA.com stats.

Prince has said his improved outside shooting has created better opportunities to drive because defenders must close out more aggressively to challenge his three-point shot. I’ve noticed that Prince is craftier when he drives, too, and not always looking to muscle his way to the rim.

Prince said that last offseason he worked on the “basics” of his shooting with Hawks assistant coaches Chris Jent and Ben Sullivan: footwork, balance, release points and hand placement. At the coaching staff’s urging, Prince has embraced the Hawks’ “L.T.M.F.” mantra with encouraging results as a catch-and-shoot three-point shooter, an encouraging development for the Hawks as they look to the future.

“Sooner or later I’ll be able to graduate from that and do a lot more off the dribble,” Prince said. “But, for now, I’m playing my part and producing and getting better as time goes on.”

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