Mike Woodson is still figuring out his rotation for the 2013-14 season, but one thing's for sure—Pablo Prigioni needs to be playing a major role.
The Knicks have plenty of options at guard and Prigioni stands out, not necessarily as the best player, but as the one who has the biggest impact on his team's success.
Dating back to last season, the Knicks are 17-4 in regular season games in which Prigioni has played over 20 minutes. Unsurprisingly, the only game New York has won this season—the opener against the Milwaukee Bucks—was the only game in which Prigioni eclipsed the 20-minute mark.
New York is a team that struggles to move the ball consistently and play solid perimeter defense, but Prigioni excels in both areas. He makes the players around him better, spreads the floor, causes turnovers and is generally the type of player the Knicks could use on the court on a regular basis.
How Woodson—a coach who we know values his veterans and the dual-point guard offense—can't see this is beyond comprehension.
Offensively, Prigioni's value is clear to see. He shoots a high percentage from everywhere on the court and is one of the few players on the team whose absolute priority is finding the open man, rather than going it alone or looking for Carmelo Anthony regardless of where he is on the court.
On the other end of the floor, most would assume Prigioni's age holds him back against the NBA's athletic guards, but he's always a step ahead of his opponent which leads to plenty of turnovers. As for actually stopping his matchup, this gem from Chris Herring of the Wall Street Journal says it all:
Prigioni's allowed just 18.2% FG% & .382 points per possession on plays he's defended. Forcing turnovers on 29.4% of plays he's involved in.— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) November 7, 2013
With Tyson Chandler out, it's going to be a struggle for the Knicks to get back on track, but giving Prigioni a consistent, major role will help. It won't directly cover for Chandler's absence, but at the very least it will help get the offense back on track.
Now that Jason Kidd is gone, New York is in need of a veteran presence in the lineup to steady the team when they go through tough stretches like the three-game losing streak they're currently in and the next four to six weeks without Chandler.
This is a make or break year for Woody and the Knicks. Letting a key player waste away on the bench while the team plays mediocre basketball is not going to cut it.
There's still plenty of time to turn things around and Woodson is right to test different lineups early on, but if Prigioni doesn't play a major role this season, it will come back to haunt the Knicks.