There have been two things that have plagued the New York Knicks in recent months- ball movement and perimeter defense.
With that being said, there has been one guy that improves the Knicks in both areas, but until recently didn’t have a major role in Mike Woodson’s rotation and that’s Pablo Prigioni.
The veteran Argentine point guard has had his moments early in his first NBA season, but often showed the look of a guy who deserved more minutes from Woodson, especially when you consider the fact that Raymond Felton has turned in inconsistent offensive performances and has struggled defensively with every point guard in the NBA.
The numbers don’t lie. The Knicks have slipped to 29th in the NBA in assists at only 19.4 per game and are among the worst teams in the NBA when it comes to defending opposing point guards, allowing 21.5, a 45.9 shooting percentage and a 37.8 three-point percentage.
Injuries forced Woodson to tinker with his lineup once again and he may have found something that worked by moving Prigioni into the starting lineup.
Since Woodson made the switch, the Knicks have gone 4-0, due large in part that the ball moves more with him on the floor and they have done a better job at not allowing the opposition point guard to score at will. The past four games, with Prigioni in the starting lineup those point guards have combined to average only 9.5 points per game. That is a recipe for winning basketball games.
Prigioni played only 20 minutes in his first two starts, but was effective, then got only 10 minutes of run against the Raptors on Friday. But Woodson finally gave Prigioni 28 minutes on Saturday and the results were great. He dished out six assists and played his usual tenacious defense.
The Knicks need more of that, but Prigioni has to be on the floor enough to make an impact.
Before his recent four starts, Prigioni had averaged only 15 minutes per game, but looking at his per 36 minute numbers, he deserved much more playing time. Prigioni has averaged 7.8 assists and 2.2 steals per 36 minutes and is shooting close to 45 percent from the floor. Those numbers make him the Knicks best assist guy and puts him only behind Jason Kidd in terms of steals.
He hasn’t received enough time because of Felton and Kidd, but maybe it is time that Woodson re-evaluates the depth chart and how he dishes out minutes to his guards.
In addition, the Knicks score more points per possession, and allow fewer per possession when Prigioni is on the floor. The most telling number is defensively where they allow more than five fewer points per possession when Prigioni is on the floor.
Another telling sign is that the Knicks other players see their performance go up when they play with Prigioni.
When Tyson Chandler and Prigioni play together, the Knicks have an outstanding 19.5 net rating in 256 minutes. As for the Knicks top two scorers, both Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith have been more effective this season when playing with Prigioni. Even Felton has been great playing with the Argentine, even though it has been only 96 minutes. The offense has been better, but so has Felton’s defense, as 2-guards can’t get around Felton as easily as point guards have all season long.
The bottom line is that Prigioni needs to be on the floor.
He makes the Knicks a better team and the other players on the floor better as well. That’s a good point guard’s job. However to play Prigioni more, it likely means less time for Kidd and Iman Shumpert, but so be it. You have to play the guys getting the job done and that’s Prigioni, not to mention he has outperformed both Kidd and Shumpert this season.
It’s about Woodson attempting to fix the Knicks biggest weaknesses- ball movement and defense.
Playing Prigioni more offers up a quick fix.
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