Pablo Prigioni was officially re-signed by the Knicks this morning to a new three year deal worth right around six million dollars.
His contract used up nearly half of the mini mid-level exception that the Knicks had allotted to them, basically spelling the end of the Chris Copeland era in New York.
Although in my opinion the Knicks will miss Copeland a lot, this move was the right one for the team moving forward.
With Jason Kidd’s retirement, the point guard depth was paper thin. That news, coupled with the possibility that Prigioni was not going to be re-signed, made the situation even more precarious.
The group of free agent point guards currently on the market is not exactly awe inspiring. And when you consider the kind of players who would prospectively take only half of the mini mid-level, the crop gets even worse.
You were not going to see a return of Nate Robinson, or bring in Will Bynum, for the money that Prigioni just signed for. What we did get, though, was a player whom the Knicks and their fans should be thrilled to have back.
Indeed, considering what Prigioni brings to the table for the offense, you can easily see how his value on the court could well exceed the value of his new deal. For example, the Knicks won Games three and six in Boston during the first round of the playoffs thanks in large part to great starts that put the Celtics in an early deficit — starts in which the three point shooting of Prigioni was key.
Prigioni shot 43.3% from three during the playoffs, including 7-12 from deep — good for 58% — in the two aforementioned games against the Celtics.
In New York’s playoff wins, Prigioni shot 13-22 (59%) for 37 points with 16 assists. And while he only played an average 17 minutes during that stretch, Prigioni still put up six points and almost three assists a game off the bench.
Not to mention, of course, that when Mike Woodson finally scrapped the Jason Kidd-in-the-starting-lineup idea and put in Prigioni, the team went on a 13 game winning streak, finishing the season 16-2. When you add winning the first three games of the Boston series, the team went 19-2 overall.
The ball movement, and offense as a whole, simply flow better with Prigioni on the court. Contrastingly, the offense — at times anyway =– seemed to be stuck in neutral with Felton at the controls.
One of the points raised by Chris Herring of the Wall Street Journal was the marked improvement in the three point shooting from Anthony during the playoffs when Prigioni was on the floor.
He tweeted that Anthony shot 43% from three when Prigioni was on the court with him and 26% when they were not on the floor together.
Additionally, his defense also was as pesky as anyone could have hoped for. For a 35 year old, he had a way of annoying anyone he was guarding, and became incredibly adept at stealing the inbounds pass after a made basket.
As Raymond Felton once said about Prigioni, “You’ve ever had like a gnat at a barbecue that just annoys you? Pablo is annoying on defense.”
With the Knicks more than likely going back to a traditional lineup and eschew the two point guard system they used last year — something not everyone will be happy about — Prigs will have a chance to rest more, which could be key if the Knicks hope to wield their depth for a deeper playoff run.
The Knicks absolutely need one more point guard — maybe Aaron Brooks or Toure Murry from the summer league squad? — to round out the point guard position, but the return of Pablo Prigioni needed to happen. He’s the kind of veteran player off the bench the Knicks will need to have; someone that can come in and run the offense to give Felton a breather. He keeps up the flow with ball movement and on defense he can give other guards an issue with his quick hands.
With a little more than three million dollars to spend to help improve the team this summer, the 1.5 million the Knicks used to bring back Prigioni was a great way to start.