Raymond Felton is questionable for the New York Knicks’ Saturday night matchup with the Washington Wizards. All things considered, Felton shouldn’t feel rushed to come back to the team, despite their struggles; he should take his time and get healthy.
In Felton’s absence, the Knicks have gotten productive point guard play from Pablo Prigioni and the reactivated Beno Udrih. Prigioni, of course, deserves increased playing time no matter what, as nearly all advanced statistics show the Knicks are better on both ends of the floor when Prigioni is playing.
Udrih, however, never really got his fair shake after preseason. In five preseason games, Udrih averaged 8.6 points (two games with 12 and 19 points) on 46.8% shooting, 2.4 rebounds, and 4 assists. When given increased playing time, Udrih has put up quality numbers. As mentioned, in preseason, Udrih got the start for Felton, and in 36 minutes, put up 19 points on 7-13 shooting, with 4 rebounds, and 7 assists. Most recently, Udrih got to start Wednesday’s game against the Indiana Pacers, and in 38 minutes, scored 19 points on 9-15 shooting (3-4 from downtown), to go along with 8 rebounds and 4 assists.
The key for Udrih is extended playing time to become more familiar with his teammates, and to also play himself into shape. By the end of Wednesday’s overtime game, Udrih was on fumes, and it’s become fairly obvious that he didn’t come into training camp in game shape. Sitting on the bench hasn’t help either of those two factors.
Udrih isn’t a plus-defender by any means, but early on in Wednesday’s game, he helped set an early tone by fighting through Indiana screens to stay with his man. It was evident early in the game that the Knicks weren’t switching as much, and thus, their defense was greatly improved by not putting themselves up against mismatches.
On offense, however, in the last two games, the Knicks have been nearly five points worse with Udrih on the bench. On the floor, he and the Knicks have a 96 offensive rating (still pretty lowly) — a number that drops to 91.7 when Udrih is on the bench.
But will Udrih have a role on the team when Felton returns? Woodson should try to make it happen. It’s fairly clear at this point that this Knicks team thrives playing small-ball, and coinciding with a four-game losing streak, the Knicks haven’t ran the dual-point-guard backcourt for much of it. Mike Woodson would be foolish to turn away from the Felton-Prigioni starting backcourt, which could leave Udrih coming off the bench to give the Knicks an offensive boost.
It does make the rotation more crowded, but it would seem foolish to move a player with potential out of the rotation. The Knicks are struggling and looking for answers, and playing a point guard who can make crisp passes and hit three-pointers seems like a good place to start improving.