The New York Knicks closed 2013 at, or pretty close, to rock bottom. They lost a home-and-home to Atlantic Division foes the Toronto Raptors, failing to gain any ground in their hopes of capturing a playoff spot they, quite simply, don’t deserve.
There are a lot of things wrong with the Knicks: from the coaching, to underwhelming player performances, to the flat-out construction of the team. In recent games — they’ve lost three in a row — the team has missed Carmelo Anthony, their leading scorer, and a player who uses 31% of the team’s possessions, according to Basketball Reference. They’ve also missed Raymond Felton, their starting point guard who last year helmed the Knicks’ elite-level offense pretty well.
But the Knicks have also missed Pablo Prigioni. Prigioni’s numbers don’t jump off the page: 3.9 points, 44% FG, 1.9 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game. But to anyone who has watched the Knicks, they know that Prigioni’s effect on the floor impacts the Knicks’ success.
In the six games Prigioni has missed since fracturing his foot against the Washington Wizards on December 16, the Knicks have gone 2-4. They also lost that game to the Wizards, getting outscored 27-24 over the final quarter to blow what should’ve been an easy win. The Knicks’ lack of success recently can’t be solely pinned on Prigioni’s absence, but the team has certainly missed him. Prigioni helps create good looks on offense by whipping the ball around the perimeter and passing up good shots for better ones. In addition, though he lacks the foot speed and strength to be a great individual defender, he helps the team on that end of the floor by simply playing smart, team defense and sticking to his man.
Some of the numbers bear out the idea that the Knicks have missed Prigioni, too.
The first chart shows some of the Knicks’ numbers on the year. The Knicks have been generally poor on offense and defense, though their three-point shooting has come up in recent weeks and they’ve taken care of the ball.
The second chart shows the Knicks numbers with Prigioni on the floor for the season. The differences won’t wow anyone, but there is an uptick in shooting percentages as well as offensive rating. Notice that his defensive rating is .1 higher than his offensive rating, which would give him a -.1 net rating. It’s never good to be in the negatives for net rating, but the Knicks have been so bad this season that Prigioni’s -.1 net rating is the second best on the team. Only Kenyon Martin is higher with a +5.3 net rating — all others are in the negatives.
And finally, the third chart shows the Knicks’ numbers over the last six games, which Prigioni has missed. The Knicks have started to find their offensive groove a little bit, as noted by their increased points per game and three-point percentage. However, note the below-average field goal percentage, the decreased offensive rating, and the unbelievably abysmal defensive rating.
And even some of the Knicks’ more positive numbers in the charts are inflated by good games. For instance, in this six-game stretch, the Knicks managed a 111.3 offensive rating in a win over the Orlando Magic. Subtract that game, and the Knicks’ offensive rating during Prigioni’s absence would be 100.1. Additionally, the team’s three-point shooting percentage has jumped in recent games, but it’s come in spurts. During these six games, the Knicks have had three games in which they shot 52.6%, 47.6%, and 41.5% from deep — all good numbers — but they’ve also had three games in which they’ve shot 33%, 26%, and 27.3% from deep, which is hardly ideal.
Again, Prigioni isn’t the answer to all of the Knicks’ woes, but he can certainly help in some regards. The Knicks are 4-4 this season when Prigioni has played 20 or more minutes in a game. Again, hardly ideal, but going .500, compared to the Knicks’ current .300 winning rate is a lot better. Getting back a player like Pablo Prigioni, who understands team concepts, puts others before himself, and all in all works hard, will certainly make this team a lot more fun to watch than their current incarnation.
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