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Taurean Prince, Nets

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Should the Nets lock up Taurean Prince with a contract extension?

Should the Nets lock up Taurean Prince with a contract extension?

The Brooklyn Nets face a tough decision with newcomer Taurean Prince, who was traded from the Atlanta Hawks in the summer for marksman Allen Crabbe. A 6-foot-7 small forward, Prince impressed with his scoring and constant hustle in early summer pickup games, and he has impressed even more during the preseason, likely even earning a starting spot in the team’s rotation.

Yet Prince is approaching his fourth season in the NBA and in line for an extension, which puts the Nets in a difficult spot after guaranteeing so much money to the trio of Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, and DeAndre Jordan in the summer.

Prince would obviously love to stick around this potential contender:

“I want to be here as long as I can. And whatever happens, happens, but I’m just happy to play good basketball,” Prince told Brian Lewis of the New York Post. “One hundred percent, yeah. For sure. This is the best organization I’ve been in.

“Top to bottom, from [general manager] Sean [Marks] all the way to the cooks to the janitors, [everybody’s] involved in welcoming as far as family. I can 100 percent be myself here. That goes a long way as far as players, because it makes your job a lot easier on the court.”

Prince easily has the best talent around him, compared to his last three seasons with the Hawks. While he could help them in many ways, things could get more difficult next season.

The Nets already have a training camp battle that could keep Joe Harris out of the starting lineup, as Rodions Kurucs has made his case to be part of the best five that coach Kenny Atkinson rolls out during the season opener.

That won’t get any easier once Durant, their highest-paid player, returns for the 2020-21 season and Prince is likely forced into a backup situation. The Nets also extended Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert, giving them a total of nine guaranteed contracts for $129.2 million next season, per Spotrac.

However, Prince is making this awfully hard for the Nets not to give him a chance. He has hit an unreal 14-of-19 from deep this preseason while leading Brooklyn in scoring with 18 points per game on 63.3% shooting from the floor.

Needless to say, Atkinson has been impressed:

“He’s been excellent quite honestly from Day 1. Now it’s continue that,” said Atkinson. “It’s got to be against Toronto and Minnesota and continue that progression and be that 3-and-D guy he was those first two years in Atlanta. That was his real focus. It’s been real positive.”

Prince has done everything to deserve a contract extension, but if the Nets do ink him to a deal, it could mean surrendering Harris next summer, even after a career-best season in 2018-19. The 25-year-old can still become a restricted free agent at the end of the summer, but that potentially means losing him to a contender if the price is too high.

The line is thin, but the Nets will have to think real hard about who they envision playing a backup small forward role next season just as much as who helps them as a starter in the upcoming one before making this gut-check choice in the upcoming days.