Philadelphia 76ers: Taurean Prince is a perfect trade target

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

If the Philadelphia 76ers want to trade their first round pick for an immediate contributor with long-term potential, Taurean Prince is the player to watch.

If you’ve been keeping up with the Philadelphia 76ers trade rumors recently, you’ve undoubtedly seen the name Taurean Prince pop up from time to time, and there’s a good reason for that: He’s one of the few players available at the deadline who could help the Sixers in both the short and long-term.

Measuring in at 6-foot-8, 220-pounds, Prince is a big, athletic 3-and-D wing in the vein of everyone’s favorite ‘Process’ diamond in the rough Robert Covington, and when you compare the two players one-on-one, they share a whole lot more than their physical dimensions.

While neither Cov or Prince made much of an impact as a rookie, the duo put up very similar stat lines in their sophomore and junior seasons; with Prince averaging more points (13.8 vs. 13.15), Covington averaging more steals (1.5 vs. 1.1), and the duo virtually locked in with an identical 3 point shooting percentage right around 37 percent (though RoCo averaged roughly one more shot a game).

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So, you may be asking, why would the Atlanta Hawks move on from such a tantalizing wing option with another year left on his rookie contract, especially when Lloyd Pierce has extensive experience running lineups with Covington at the three?

Easy: Prince’s inefficiency makes him a questionable fit as the team’s long-term small forward moving forward.

While Prince and Covington may share almost identical stat lines over their second and third years in the NBA, Covington was among the best small forwards in the league in Real Plus-Minus over that tenure, whereas Prince has been among the worst.

Now these numbers may not tell the whole story, as much like stat stuffers for a lousy team, playing for a perennial loser can make it harder to be an efficient scorer or defender, but when evaluating his tape, many of Price’s flaws are consistently on full display (check out a more comprehensive breakdown from our friends Peach Tree Hoops here).

Now Covington is hardly known as an elite athlete, but he at least possessed the wherewithal and basketball IQ to consistently stick with his man on the defensive end of the court, a trait that Prince has yet to master, as he’s routinely fooled on double looks, and it makes the wrong moves on switches.

Furthermore, Prince at times takes really bad shots when he doesn’t have to, often throwing up a contested prayer on the wings as opposed to passing the ball for more advantageous opportunities. Now taking a contested 3 now and again will inevitably happen to even the best shooter, but taking a back shot early in the clock when there are surely better options available is a very bad habit.

Who knows, maybe this is the consequence of playing for some truly ‘turrible’ teams, and switching head coaches before he can find his footing in a scheme, but Prince is much more of a prospect at this point than a “starting-caliber” player.

However, that’s what makes him so intriguing to the 76ers.

If Prince were the spitting image of Covington now at the tender age of 24 he would likely be flirting with a new long-term contract to stay in Atlanta, as opposed to a mid-season trade, but buying low on a player who’s averaged 13.8 points a game over the last two seasons hardly seems like a crazy bet.

As things presently stand, Prince would rank fifth on the Sixers in scoring behind the team’s big-4, and have the fifth best 3-point shooting percentage behind  Landry Shamet, Shake Milton, J.J. Redick, and Wilson Chandler.

Furthermore, with Chandler out for an extended period, and potentially on the trade block as part of a bigger deal, Prince could seamlessly transition into the Sixers’ current starting five as a spot starter who could play the three on defense and the four on offense.

With a high-upside player like Prince in the fold, the Sixers could begin to better utilize their starting five and allocate defensive responsibilities more efficiently.

With three starting wing players measuring at 6-foot-8 or taller, the Sixers could become even more switch happy on the wings in a ‘big’ matchup, or settle into a consistent pattern against teams with more defined roles; with Butler guarding the opposing team’s best backcourt player, and Ben Simmons taking on their most athletic frontcourt player.

No longer tasked with blanketing an opposing team’s best scorer wing on the wings, Prince could conceivably step up his defensive output against consistently inferior foes, and finally, settle into the role many envisioned he would play upon entering the league; a 3-and-D wing.

Could it not work out? Totally, as Prince is an ineffective volume score who’s made the most of a bad opportunity, but with one future year under contract for the low, low price of $2.5 million, and the option to retain his rights in restricted free agency, the Sixers could conceivably add a developmental piece with an extra year under contract for the same price they would pay for a half season rental, with the opportunity to extend him out to a long-term deal should his play warrant it.

Though Pierce won’t trade Prince for free, regardless of his connection and admiration for Brett Brown, for the price of this year’s first-round pick and presumably a player liked Furkan Korkmaz (or Justin Patton if they want a center) the Sixers can give themselves yet another chance to procure their big small forward of the future, a position that has eluded the team since picking up Covington back in 2014.

Next. Farewell Corey Brewer, you will be missed. dark

If the deal were to go through, the Hawks would receive a young player with upside who can potentially fill an expanded role in Pierce’s offense in Furkan Korkmaz, a player he coached last season in Philadelphia, and an opportunity to select another developmental lottery ticket for Atlanta’s rebuild, and the Philadelphia 76ers would get a 24-year-old combo forward for a season, and a half that at worst is a marginal improvement over their current bench scorers, and best case could develop into the team’s fifth starter moving forward. That looks like a win-win move to me.