Taurean Prince doesn’t agree with the low expectations that have seemingly been placed upon the Atlanta Hawks for next season.
In fact, he made his stance for next season quite simple: Just win.
A reporter began to ask Prince about the low expectations for next season as they begin to rebuild. Before the reporter even finished the question, Prince stopped him and disagreed with that assessment.
“No, no, no,” Prince said.
While many may believe this is a rebuilding time for the Hawks, the players inside of the locker room are not buying it.
The Hawks have underwent big changes to the team this offseason that have left many wondering if they’ll be able to continue their Eastern Conference-leading ninth consecutive trip to the playoffs.
Gone are players like Dwight Howard, Paul Millsap, Tim Hardaway Jr., Jose Calderon and Thabo Sefolosha. Incoming are rookies John Collins and Tyler Dorsey, while 20-year-old Diamond Stone joins the team following a recent trade from the Los Angeles Clippers. They join a young nucleus of Dennis Schroder, Kent Bazemore and DeAndre’ Bembry among others.
With such an influx of young talent to an already young core, it’s easy to see how many are labeling this Hawks team as rebuilding. While the roster may have changed quite dramatically this summer, the expectations within the organization remain the same.
“I don’t like going off of the ‘rebuilding’ word because I love to win,” Prince said. “Anybody who is on the team, we’re going to make sure that they love to win, too. I don’t expect to have a bad season next year. I expect to have a good season.”
As the Hawks begin to build around their young core, it appears as though there will be plenty of playing time to go around. In past seasons, the Hawks were built to contend for the playoffs and didn’t have much time available for players in a developmental role. But now with those veterans gone, playing time for Prince, Bembry, Stone, Collins and Dorsey appears to have opened up.
Prince played sparingly during the early stages of his rookie season last year and even spent some time with the Long Island Nets of the G-League. His role increased throughout the season and he would eventually start for the Hawks during the playoffs. He averaged 5.7 points and 2.7 rebounds in 59 regular-season games last season.
While Prince eventually broke through into the rotation, Bembry saw uneven playing time throughout. In total, Bembry averaged just 9.8 minutes in 38 games last season. Even though Bembry didn’t play often, one highlight from his rookie year was holding James Harden to six points in the fourth quarter of a come-from-behind victory in February.
Now, Prince and Bembry figure to see ample playing time next season and could solidify themselves as cornerstones for the franchise.
“I like the fact that we’re getting young,” Bembry told Basketball Insiders. “It’s not going to be too many attitudes on the team or too many egos. It’s going to be a lot of young guys that’s just going out there and just trying to get it. Being a lot of hungry young guy that’s trying to go out there and play hard. … I feel like we’re shaping up in the right way and we’re all just young and looking forward to the opportunity.”
If Summer League play is any indication, it appears as though the Hawks’ young guys will be able to make an immediate impact next season. In four games, Bembry led all Hawks players in scoring at 17 points per game, while Collins was second at 15.4 points per game and Prince was third at 13.2 points per game.
As the Hawks’ No. 20 overall pick in this year’s draft, Collins was among the standouts during the Las Vegas Summer League. He averaged 15.4 points and 9.2 rebounds in four games for the Hawks, while shooting 59 percent from the field. He was named to the All-NBA Summer League First Team.
“It’s an opportunity for all of us,” Collins said. “Obviously, we see the organization taking a [different] step, but regardless of whatever the organization does, it’s our job to go out there as professionals and be professionals.”
Of course, a strong Summer League outing is by no means a strong indicator of future success in the NBA, but it has to be a welcomed sign for an organization in the midst of a transition phase.
While most have already written off the Hawks for next season, they still believe they have the pieces needed to compete in the Eastern Conference. Given a young core, and capable players in Schroder and Bazemore, the Hawks are not content with missing out of the playoffs.
As Prince says, the playoffs are still “100 percent” the objective for next season.
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