Last season, Pablo Prigioni found himself on the bench for most of every game and coming off the bench for 60 of the 78 games he played. He averaged only 16.2 mpg in the regular season and 20.9 mpg in the playoffs.
For much of the season he wasn’t considered a particularly valuable Knick but in the playoffs things changed. He started all but one playoff game and routinely had the Knicks leading when he left and trailing when he re-entered. Obviously this is not all of his doing, but when looking at the stats, the Knicks are clearly better with their dual point guard lineup than without.
According to basketball-reference.com, as a team in the regular season the Knicks Assist% was 50% when Pablo was on the bench and 57% when he played. What is more telling though is that in the playoffs, against elite defenses like the Celtics and Pacers, the Knicks’s offense became very stagnant without Prigioni.
Players like Carmelo Anthony and JR Smith resorted to their usually inefficient isolation plays, and the team Ast% plummeted to 40% when there was no Prigioni. When he played, however, the Knicks were at an Ast% of 53, much more conducive of winning playoff basketball.
When looking at individual players, Carmelo Anthony, JR Smith, Tyson Chandler, Iman Shumpert, Kenyon Martin, and Ray Felton all improve in True Shooting %, Effective FG%, PPP (points per possession), FG%, 3Pt% (where applicable) when they play with Prigioni, this according to nbawowy.com. This can’t be ignored when evaluating the team. Six of the team’s most important players (and 4 projected starters) all improve, in some cases dramatically when playing with Prigioni.
The difference in statistics when Prigioni enters the game aren’t usually minimal either. For example, Iman Shumpert’s eFG% goes up by 7%, Felton by 6%, and Smith by 5%.
For three pointers, something the Knicks heavily emphasized last season and likely will again this season, the four mentioned Knicks perimeter players all improve greatly. Shumpert and Felton rise by 8%, Smith 7%, and Anthony by 4% in their 3Pt%.
What is a clear theme here is Prigioni is helping create ball movement to get all of the perimeter players open shots. This Knicks team desperately needs that to try and keep their offense in the top three in the NBA in this upcoming season.
Carmelo Anthony really does need someone like Prigioni to play with. Anthony can fall into a rut where he holds the ball for a 5-10 seconds a few feet behind the three point line and takes either a contested jumper or three. Prigioni’s pass happy style of play makes this much harder to do, thus helping Anthony to be more efficient.
It’s evident that Prigioni helps the Knicks greatly offensively, but defensively he is also very important. Last year basketball-reference.com had the Knicks opponents at a defensive efficiency 103.7 when Prigioni played and 108.3 when he was on the bench. For the 18th ranked defense in the NBA last year, the Knicks should look to improve their defense in any way possible. Knicks fans also likely remember Prigioni being very pesky on inbound passes, causing steals in the backcourt more than a few times.
Overall it would be very hard to argue that the Knicks aren’t much better when Pablo Prigioni plays. He is exactly what a team that has players who love to shoot need to counter balance everything. It should be a foregone conclusion that he will start the season in the starting lineup but the Bargnani trade and Woodson’s flirtation with starting JR Smith make the decision anything but certain.