Why the Tayshaun Prince signing could be detrimental to the Wolves


The Wolves’ signing of Andre Miller came out of nowhere, and while I was okay with that particular addition of an aging player to play limited minutes in a “mentor” role, Thursday’s acquisition of Tayshaun Prince makes considerably less sense.

The only backup point guards on the Wolves roster prior to the Miller signing were a rookie in Tyus Jones and a journeyman in Lorenzo Brown. While I believe Brown to be a solid, NBA-caliber backup point guard, Flip Saunders and Wolves’ brass don’t feel the same way. It’s at least somewhat understandable, as Brown’s impact is largely on the defensive end of the floor and there is some clear concern for his lack of offensive ability.

So if we’re starting with the premise that Saunders sees Brown as a third-string point guard, than it’s encouraging that he also isn’t planning on simply handing a 10-20 minute-per-game backup job to Jones. Add in Miller’s still mostly-positive impact on the offensive end of the floor and it’s an okay signing. It keeps Jones from being forced onto the floor too early into his rookie year and adds the veteran-y, mentor-y element to the back court — something that is clearly important to Saunders.

With Kevin Garnett doing the mentor thing with the big men and Miller in the back court, it seems as though the Wolves would have filled their quota of 39 year-old veteran presences.

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Not so fast. Enter Tayshaun Prince.

And while Prince is “only” 35 years old, his play has declined much more rapidly than either Garnett or Miller. Prince was a valuable player in his prime largely due to athleticism and the ability to stay in front of opposing players. He was a four-time NBA All-Defensive Second Team player from 2004 through 2008 and was able to use his length to his advantage.

In his mid-thirties, however, Prince simply isn’t a good one-on-one defender. Last season, ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus ranked him 74th out of 80 small forwards with a defensive RPM of -4.41 across 58 games with Memphis, Boston, and Detroit. Two years ago, in a season spent entirely with the Memphis Grizzlies, his defensive RPM was a more palatable -1.11, which ranked 37th out of 62 small forwards.

His shot selection is also troubling but will surely fit right in with Flip Saunder’s mid-range-heavy offense. Here’s Prince’s shot chart from 2014-15.

Prince attempted 47% of his shots from mid-range — outside the paint but inside the three-point arc. He only shot 16.7% of his attempts from beyond the arc, attempting just 20 above-the-break threes all season long.

In other words, his 46.3 three-point percentage is significantly less meaningful. And while it’s nice that his career three-point success rate is 37%, only 15.5% of his career shot attempts have come from long-range, according to Basketball-Reference.com.

Prince will likely be a net-negative for the 2015-16 Wolves, but that also may not be a downgrade over the minutes that were pieced together by wings off the bench last season. It likely only become a major issue if Prince’s minutes demands begin to eat into minutes for younger players like Zach LaVine and Shabazz Muhammad in the interesting of winning games in the current season.

It’s also a bit disappointing to see the likes of Prince taking a roster spot from a long-range shooter like Damjan Rudez, which hasn’t officially happened but is no doubt where the roster crunch will eventually be alleviated.

So much of how we can judge this signing will hinge on the way that Saunders distributes minutes in November and December.

Overall, this move is unnecessary, but we’ll only know in time if it will ultimately prove to be detrimental to the Wolves’ rebuilding process and the 2015-16 season as a whole.

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