Pablo Prigioni’s first season in the NBA shouldn’t be judged by his paltry numbers. No, there was much more to his 3.5 points, 3 assists, and 0.9 steals per game. If you look closer you’ll see that the Knicks actually scored 6.5 more points while he was on the floor and opponents scored less (100.9 points per 100 possessions while on the floor vs. 104.7 while off the floor). Not bad for a rookie, let alone one that’s 36 years young.
Perhaps the most familiar refrain heard about Prigioni is his reluctance to shoot- something that’s actually refreshing to see in a NBA point guard and an even more desirable trait to have on the offensive heavy Knicks. His pest-like defense, especially during inbound plays, is an even more valuable skill that isn’t shown on a stat sheet. The man Knick message boards affectionately dubbed “Priggy Smalls” didn’t play major minutes, but when he was on the court he always seemed to find a way to do something positive whether it was grabbing a loose ball, hitting a shot clock beating three, or just wrapping his arm over someone after a bad play during breaks in the game.
Overall Prigioni proved to be a shrewd signing that benefited the team all throughout the season. There is a reason he went from being a low cost gamble to being awarded a three year contract that officially makes him one of the only Knicks’ signed through next year’s contractual doomsday.
What We Know
We know that Prigioni is a veteran leader that is more concerned with everyone else scoring but him, and that’s sort of okay. He serves as an extension of a coach’s presence while on the floor and always gives it his all. The Knicks don’t have too many guys that can stay focused if there shots aren’t falling and that’s an area where Prigioni isn’t a worry simply because scoring isn’t what he looks to do.
Though, when he does he is pretty adept at it (look at his .455 FG% and his .396 3P%). We also know that Prigioni is comfortable with the ball and was very effective as a starter in the 18 games he played to end the season. Out of those 18 games the Knicks actually went 16-2 and saw Prigioni perform well even into the post season where continued to do so as a starter.
What We’ll Need
With Jason Kidd gone, the Knicks are going to need more from Prigioni. There’s no way around it and it’s also probably something the Knicks expect to get. After all, you don’t just sign a 36 year old point guard to a three year deal unless you expect him to be productive (there’s a Marcus Camby joke in here somewhere but I’ll leave that for you to figure out). If Prigioni’s health can hold up amidst increased minutes and playing a more important role on the court, he can be a huge factor this year.
As evident from the small sample size of the games he started, he might even allow Felton to switch to being a shooting guard while Prigioni serves as the team’s floor general. While Kidd’s final games with the Knicks will be remembered for his comically awful shooting, one thing he did always do well was move the ball and serve as a calming presence on the court. Even at his advanced age, when Kidd had the ball, he had command of it and always seemed to have multiple plans for how he would get said ball through the hoop.
The Knicks still need that and its something that Prigioni has the best chance of working to become. Let’s also remember that part of what made Kidd a Hall of Fame player was his comfort with shooting, and that’s something that is also going to be needed from Prigioni. Everyone admires a point guard that likes to pass but there were too many instances where he turned down open shots he no doubt should have taken instead of passing. I clearly remember many of those instances being turned into lost possessions and it’s something that shouldn’t happen this year.
What We Can Expect
Now that Prigioni already has his first year of NBA experience under his belt, I expect an even better year. Honestly, its kind of weird to expect a 36 year old point guard to have a more productive year than his previous, but that’s the case with Prigioni.
His final games starting served as an indication of what he can do with an extended role & more minutes and those results were pretty solid. Coach Woodson will have no choice but to give Prigioni more minutes this season and more of a chance to be the team’s floor general and I think it’s a role he has been prepared for his entire career even going back to Euroleague where he won multiple titles.
I don’t expect much of a jump in his numbers but with more control of the ball off the bench, I think it’s a safe bet his assists totals should increase. The Knicks have one of the deepest benches in the league, and with Pablo orchestrating, this could be an area where very little teams can match up against.