Brooklyn Nets: Who starts at small forward this season?

Taurean Prince, Atlanta Hawks, Brooklyn Nets. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Taurean Prince, Atlanta Hawks, Brooklyn Nets. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

As marquee free agent signing Kevin Durant is likely to miss the entire 2019-20 Brooklyn Nets season. The starting small forward position is up for grabs.

The two players that could potentially secure the starting spot are returning sharpshooter Joe Harris and young newcomer Taurean Prince. They each have their strengths and weaknesses that can either help the Nets coast back to the playoffs or make the road to the postseason much harder. Let’s take a look at what each player brings to the table.

Taurean Prince

Strengths: 3 point shooting, Athleticism

Weaknesses: Some injury concerns, Shooting can be streaky at times

While the name Taurean Prince may sound familiar to most NBA fans due to his accolades as a player, it might ring a bell because he is also well-known for this classic interview response from his college days at Baylor.

After being selected with the 12th overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft, Prince eventually ended up with the Atlanta Hawks due to a trade two weeks after the event. Due to the absence of playing time available in Atlanta, the young forward was sent down to the G League during his rookie year. Since the Hawks didn’t have a G League team at the time, Prince played five games with the Long Island Nets, Brooklyn’s G League squad.

The 24-year old has enjoyed a solid career since then, with lifetime averages of 11.4 ppg and 3.8 rpg on 42.7% shooting. The reason for his field goal percentage being so low is the amount of 3 point shots he puts up, as he took more threes than two-point shots in 2018-2019. He does have the talent to back up his high shooting rate, sporting a career 38% clip from downtown.

The Nets traded for Taurean Prince back in early June, sending two first-round picks and Allen Crabbe to the Atlanta Hawks. This move also opened up the cap space necessary to sign both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, so Prince has already helped out the Nets without playing a single minute.

Joe Harris

Strengths: Deadly 3 point shooter, Good shot selection

Weaknesses: Slow on defense, Poor performance in playoffs

After leading the entire NBA in three-point percentage in the 2018-19 season, Joe Harris is looking to build upon his breakout year. Harris was sensational last year, posting career highs in points, assists, rebounds, field goal percentage and three-point percentage.

Despite being listed as a shooting guard, Harris played the majority of his minutes at the small forward spot last season. He used his 6’6″ 218-pound frame to free himself from smaller defenders on screens, opening up just enough space to get clean looks from behind the arc. He also has familiarity with head coach Kenny Atkinson, who knows how to get the most out of the sharpshooter on the court.

Harris did struggle in Brooklyn’s playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers, averaging just 8.8 points per game on 37% shooting from the field and 19% from three. This can be attributed to the entire team’s unfamiliarity with competitive postseason play, which should change with the addition of Kyrie Irving.

Prediction: Taurean Prince

Despite being a newcomer, Prince should crack the starting lineup due to his deep range marksmanship and athletic skills. His 6’8″ 220-pound size allows him to use his speed to get around larger matchups without being bullied by them on the defensive end.

However, Joe Harris should still be a starter. His three-point shooting was just too good to last year to justify benching him. He’ll likely move back to his role as a shooting guard with Irving as his backcourt partner.

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His ability to make an impact without the ball in his hands should be a perfect fit with Kyrie’s ball-dominant scoring talent. With Taurean Prince suiting up alongside them at small forward, the Nets should expect to be playing more than 82 games once again.