Argentine point guard Pablo Prigioni is just one of several Knicks whose future is up in the air. Prigioni, at 35, just finished his first season in the NBA after spending his whole basketball-playing career in Argentina and Spain. However, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post, it may be Prigioni’s only season in the NBA.
Prigioni moved his wife and two children, all three of whom had never left Spain, to the U.S. while he played for the Knicks. Rumors are, they may want to return to Europe. Of course, it is just speculation; it’s impossible to know what the Prigionis think about and discuss at home, and how they would manage Pablo’s wishes with his family’s.
Prigioni came to the Knicks on a one-year, veteran minimum contract of $473,000. According to Berman, GM Glen Grunwald wanted Prigioni for two years, but Pablo figured he could increase his salary by proving himself on a one-year deal and then earning more money the next time around. The Knicks could make Prigioni a qualifying offer of $900,000, but ultimately, to re-sign him, they’d need to dip into the mini-mid-level exception of $3 million.
First thought of as a back-up, insurance third-string point guard, Prigioni came to be an essential part of the Knicks’ lineup. His overall per-game stats weren’t anything particularly overwhelming – 3.5 points, 39.6% 3FG, 1.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists, .9 steals in 16 minutes per game. However, advanced stats showed Prigioni’s worth to the team. During the regular season, with Prigioni on the floor, the Knicks’ Offensive Rating was 108.8 and their Defensive Rating was 100.9, giving Pablo a Net Rating off 7.9. This would register as the highest of any member of the Knicks besides Kenyon Martin and Earl Barron, both of whom played in a small sample size of the season’s total games. The Knicks’ 13-game win streak in March and April coincided with Prigioni’s first starts. With the point guard starting in the back-court, the Knicks went 16-2 to finish the regular season.
In the playoffs, Prigioni was even better. His overall stats went up: 4.5 points, 43.3% 3FG, 1.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.3 steals in 21 minutes per game. Once again, however, his advanced stats told an even greater tale. In the playoffs, with Prigioni on the floor, the Knicks’ Offensive Rating was 109.4, with a Defensive Rating of 93.2. His overall Net Rating of 16.2 was the best on the team by a wide margin. With Prigioni on the bench, the Knicks actually had a negative Net Rating, meaning they were out-played when Pablo was off the court.
It was a strange season for Pablo. His playing time was inconsistent, and as a rookie to the NBA game, at times he seemed lost amongst a fasterpace environment with far more athletic players. Yet, when given time to run the offense (look at the fourth quarter of Game 2 against the Pacers), Prigioni had some shining moments. He isn’t a flashy player, but a point guard with fundamental roots, who will gladly make a pass before take a shot. He wasn’t a lockdown defender, but a guy who could pester a ball-handler just enough to make a bad pass or give up the ball and get out of the way.
If Prigioni goes back to Spain, it’ll leave a deeper hole in the Knicks’ guard rotation than many would assume. With Kidd aging to the point of ineffectiveness, the Knicks would surely need to seek out another point guard to back-up Raymond Felton.
If Prigioni does indeed head back for Spain, if it was indeed his first and only season in the NBA: it was a pleasure, Pablo. I’m so glad I got to watch you play on the Knicks.