Pablo Prigioni is set to have a bigger impact on the 2012-13 New York Knicks’ success than many fans realize. At the least, the versatile Argentine point guard will wind up being the glue of a deceivingly-flexible backcourt. But that's just the beginning.
Prigioni will surely spot-start some games over the course of the season at the point, and he is one Raymond Felton injury away from taking over there for good, assuming Jason Kidd is unable to tack on the minutes.
Prigioni will begin the season, though, from the bench—third point guard on the depth chart behind Felton and Kidd.
But that will change. With the often-erratic J.R. Smith getting the start, Ronnie Brewer just returning in time for the opening tip from a meniscus tear and Iman Shumpert out, according to ESPN’s Ian Begley, until “anywhere between December and February,” the Knicks’ shooting guard position is currently a weak link.
Kidd might wind up pitching in over at the two depending on Brewer’s health and performance. That would leave mostly just Felton and Prigioni fending for the point.
Now here’s a twist. I think Prigioni’s game is diverse enough to lend itself to the shooting guard position as well. Certainly in a pinch, he can take over. And he’s better than Kidd, at least in terms of shooting.
Take a look at the (great) highlight video below. Admittedly, the clips have been hand-selected, but Pablo’s got some moves to the basket. He can cut to the hoop in traffic, has some speed in the lane and has a nice runner and layup from both sides. He has a nice outside shot, and can hit from close (10 feet) and from behind the arc (which is 22.1 ft. in FIBA compared to 23 ft. 9 in. in the NBA). To be fair, I am not seeing a mid-ranger.
Now take a look at his scoring stats over in the Euroleague from 2003-04 through 2011-12. Check out the percentages. Though from comparatively small samples, they are impressive nonetheless.
Most of Prigioni’s shots are FIBA three-pointers. I think it’s fair to add those to his (much rarer) two-pointers. All together, from about 22-feet in, Prigioni shoots a career 42 percent. Not bad at all.
The upshot is this: Pablo Prigioni is one accurate shooter, and don’t be surprised if he finds time at the number two, as well as chip away at Kidd’s time backing up the one, as the season drags on.
I’d like to see Mike Woodson think outside the box with Prigioni, and it might happen thanks to another asset the guard brings to the table, one Woodson is quite fond of: defense.
Like Ricky Rubio, Prigioni was named to the All-Spanish ACB League Defensive Team and he has above average steal numbers and some respectable rebounding abilities given his size (6’3”).
Will that find Prigioni at the two, and moreso at the one, in close games? Yes.
Finally, we haven’t even gotten to Prigioni’s strength yet, and it’s one that will find him, in the end, more often manning his home position: According to draftexpress.com,
Prigioni is the ultimate pass-first playmaker, a master of the pick and roll play. His virtuosity pairing with Luis Scola reminds us of the likes of Nash & Stoudemire or even Stockton & Malone…he’s incredibly smart and shows an awesome basketball IQ leading his team and a privileged quick mind.
All you need to do is see the second half of the video above to confirm that. Look at that floor managing, the vision, the sharp assists. And you have to like the Nash-Stoudemire comparison.
But let's take a breath. At this point, it’s important to note one important factor, a big one: a lot of this depends on Prigioni’s transition to the NBA. Will it be as smooth as his shooting?
Well, he’s not going to pull all this off in the big leagues: constantly blow by defenders in the key or always be wide open from 20-25 feet. But he will do it enough to make a definite contribution to the Knicks’ bottom line (wins), and extend the team’s endurance down the stretch.
Put all this together and we may be looking at the Knicks’ critical sixth man.
Who else? Steve Novak? Marcus Camby? Kurt Thomas? James White?