While the New York Knicks already have two relatively steady players at the point guard position in Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni, Beno Udrih should have plenty of chances to contribute this season. While the Udrih signing may be seen as merely a depth move by many, it could be a sign that Mike Woodson is committing to utilizing the two-point guard lineups that the Knicks often employed last season.
While Prigioni may technically be the team’s second point guard, he spent much of last season starting alongside Felton, giving the Knicks an effective duo of ballhandlers to create shots out of pick-and-roll situations. For a team to consistently employ lineups featuring two point guards, it needs steady play from a third point guard, so as to stagger their minutes effectively. That’s where Udrih comes in, essentially playing a modified version of Jason Kidd‘s role toward the end of last season, albeit with less rebounding ability and a bit more scoring punch.
Udrih may not be a premier floor-spacer (his career three-point percentage sits at 35 percent, right around the league average), but he’s certainly capable of hitting open threes, which he should have plenty of in the Knicks’ spread-out, Carmelo Anthony-centric offense. He also saw a spike in his three-point percentage late last season after moving from the Milwaukee Bucks (where he hit just 26.5 percent) to the struggling Orlando Magic (where he hit 39.6 percent). Granted, that’s a small sample size, but it demonstrates that he can operate effectively from deep when he’s afforded better spacing.
He might not be an elite ballhandler by any stretch of the imagination, but he’s a capable playmaker with a good feel for the pick-and-roll. Last year, he averaged 7.5 assists per 36 minutes with a 2.77 assist/turnover ratio, which should provide a boost for a team that was at times lacking in perimeter playmaking. While J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert can provide good passing in spurts, neither one is well-suited for running an offense for an extended period of time.
Unfortunately, Udrih will do little to address the existing problems with the Knicks’ perimeter defense. He’s not a particularly effective defender and most starting point guards will be able to take him off the dribble. Forcing turnovers was perhaps the Knicks’ greatest strength last season, but Udrih is mediocre at generating takeaways and isn’t likely to create a lot of fast break opportunities.
While the Udrih singing might not be a blockbuster move, it should help solidify a bench unit that is in great need of some extra playmaking. It could end up being a very smart, underrated move from Knicks GM Glen Grunwald.