Before Taurean Prince walked across the 2016 NBA draft stage in Brooklyn, draft experts had already tagged the Baylor forward with familiar comparison; former Atlanta Hawk, DeMarre Carroll. Billed as role player ready for immediate impact, the slender 6’8” forward has been characterized as an energetic defender who can stretch defenses from deep. Add some dreadlocks into the draft prospect concoction, and voila, the Carroll comparisons caught fire. When the Hawks actually selected Prince as the 12th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, kerosene was thrown onto the Carroll/Prince narrative wildfire.
Before we call in the National Guard, a deeper investigation into the two as draft prospects is required. Remember, this comparison is Prince from Baylor and Carroll from Missouri, not the Hawks.
As previously mentioned, Taurean Prince and DeMarre Carroll comparisons started with position and measurables. Both play the 3 with the ability to slide to 4 in small ball lineups. At 6’8”, they are the same height with similar wingspans (Carroll at 6’10”, Prince at 6’11.5”). Prince, like Carroll, has a leaner body type weighing around 220 pounds out of college. Even their body fat percentages taken at the NBA Draft Combine were almost identical, 6.3% and 6.5%.
Besides a similar body type, Prince’s and Carroll’s playing styles seem to draw some parallels. Both players were All Big 12 First Team selections as seniors. The buzz phrase “good, not great athlete” appears on most draft analysis breakdowns. Although not elite level athletes, both forwards move well laterally on defense with above average quickness. During their senior years, they averaged the same blocks per game (0.7) on defense as well. Classified as “hustle players”, Prince and Carroll loved to run in transition during their college years. Both players burst down the wings on offense and are the first guys to get back on defense. Offensively, they are both straight line drivers attacking the basket off isolations or pick and roll situations.
Though they might appear similar on the surface, a deeper look into the numbers starts to reveal some major differences between these two forwards.
First, we must address the elephant in the room. Being an established wing defender and having the potential to become a defensive stopper are two different things. DeMarre Carroll hounded the SEC’s best offensive options night after night at Missouri. Conversely, Taurean Prince played in a hybrid zone defense at Baylor which prevented him from being matched against top offensive threats on a consistent basis. Carroll’s defense was more translatable to the NBA since zone defenses are rarer than Kawhi Leonard smiling.
On the other side of the ball, the forwards displayed very different offensive games in college. Carroll spent most of his time on offense around the basket, either making cuts or getting put backs, with a 57.9 2P% and an impressive 55.8 FG% overall as a senior. He was not asked to handle the ball much or initiate offense for Missouri leading to 1.5 turnovers per game. Carroll shot 36.4% from three that year but on small sample size of 44 shot attempts. A solid percentage like 36.4% suggests a good shooter from deep, but Carroll averaged an abysmal 21.2% from downtown his first three years (two years were spent at Vanderbilt before transferring to Missouri). From the line, Carroll’s 62.8 FT% during his college career was not outstanding.
At Baylor, Prince had a much more versatile offensive game where he handled the ball, initiated offense, shot from deep, ran pick and rolls, ran iso plays, and was an offensive creator. With the ability to use pull ups, step backs, and floaters while attacking, he has a varied and mature offensive game. Prince was named to the Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year his junior year which lead to him being the focus of the team a year later. Prince took on a much heavier offensive load his senior year which resulted in a drop in FG% from 47.2% to 43.2%. His turnovers rose slightly as well, 2.1 per game to 2.5 per game, while his percentages from three fell from 39.5% to 36.1%. The turnover rise can be attributed to handling the ball much more his senior year than junior year. Despite the slight uptick in turnovers, Prince’s ball handling is above average and translates to the NBA as a secondary or tertiary ball handler. Failing to make a three in 10 games out of 32, Prince was a streaky shooter as a senior. However, Prince possessed a solid 71.8 FT% during his college career.
These numbers show regression as the focal point of an offense, not regression as an offensive player. The data also indicates Prince will not likely develop into a go to NBA scorer which is fine. The Hawks do not expect him to be LeBron James creating offense. Prince was a full year younger (22 two months after 2016 draft) as a prospect than Carroll (23 one month after 2009 draft) which will increase his ceiling slightly.
All the numbers paint different pictures between Taurean Prince and DeMarre Carroll as draft prospects. But, Prince’s numbers, look, and style suggest that being a more offensively charged, less defensively dominant version of Carroll is possible. Make no mistake, reaching the heights that the Junkyard Dawg did in a Hawks uniform will be a lofty goal. Expectations are high when a player becomes a lottery pick, yet Prince has a chance to become a real contributor in Atlanta as he develops in Bud’s system.