Seems kind of crazy how important Pablo Prigioni is to the New York Knicks. After all, Prigioni averages 3.5 points per game and plays 16 minutes per game.
But take a look at the knock-on effect Prigioni has on Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton, and just how concerned you should be over Prigioni’s ankle injury suffered in a meaningless Wednesday night regular season finale will increase exponentially. (Why no expanded rosters, NBA? Even for playoff teams?!?)
In essense, over the final quarter of the season, the Knicks have been employing a two-point guard set often. They did this at the start of the year with Felton and Kidd, but that overtaxed Kidd, while Prigioni, when he played, turned the ball over way too much to be a regular option. The equilibrium the Knicks have found with three players in two roles is no small part of this team winning so often late in the season.
Of all the two-man combos Felton is a part of, he shoots the best with Prigioni. He shoots the highest percentage from three. (He makes more threes only with Kidd.) And by far, his best assist numbers come with Prigioni. Even steals go up when the two of them are together.
Kidd and Prigioni have a similar effect on Kidd’s three pointers attempted and percentage; so that’s more good looks converted. Only Amar’e’s presence gives Kidd a greater assist rate, while his steal rate is highest with Prigioni.
The only tradeoff is turnovers for both players.
There’s another aspect to this, too: no Prigioni means playing Kidd in larger doses, or forgoing the advantage of the two-point guard set. The former could wear him down in the playoffs; the latter will have a detrimental effect on Felton’s play.
Essentially, this is the price Glen Grunwald pays for assembling a team in which everyone, with the possible exception of James White, has had a role to play. There aren’t enough garbage-time players at the end of the bench. And every injury matters.