Last year, the New York Knicks made a surprise signing, bringing in a 35-year-old point guard with no NBA experience. Few expected Pablo Prigioni to contribute much, and even fewer expected him to be in the starting lineup at the end of the season.
A veteran of the Spanish ACB and Euroleague, Prigioni certainly didn’t play like a rookie. His veteran savvy was apparent immediately and his unselfish play and friendly demeanor quickly won over Knicks fans.
He was capable of playing both point guard and shooting guard and his passing and defensive hustle were infectious. When he stepped on the court, the Knicks seemed to move the ball significantly better around the perimeter. Prigioni was credited with 43 percent of his team’s assists while he was on the floor, per Hoopdata.
The Knicks also gave up nearly five points per 100 possessions less with him in the game, essentially the difference between the Detroit Pistons’ 24th ranked defense and the Boston Celtics’ seventh ranked unit.
Prigioni isn’t especially fast and won’t break opposing point guards down off the dribble with one-on-one moves, but he has a tremendous feel for the pick-and-roll paired with excellent court vision. He can work both as a primary ball-handler and a spot-up shooter off the ball.
In the 2012-13 season, he knocked down 39.6 percent of his three-point attempts and his shooting provided the Knicks’ offense with plenty of space to operate. However, there were a few times where his “pass first, second and third” attitude would get in the way. Occasionally, he’d actually be a little too reluctant to shoot (a rare issue for an NBA player) and he’d pass up an open shot, allowing precious seconds to run off the shot clock, though he got more confident in his shooting as the season went on.
Defensively, he’s not a remarkable man-to-man defender, but he’s more than capable of holding his own against most perimeter players. His biggest strength defensively is his ability to get steals (he averaged two per 36 minutes).
He’s a crafty player on the defensive end of the floor and has great awareness of passing lanes. He also frequently pressures inbound passes and intercepting them has become something of a signature move for him. Even if he doesn’t get the steal, he still forces the other team to slow down, causing them to initiate their offense later in the shot clock than they intend to.
Pablo Prigioni is the ideal role player for a Knicks team built around a star scorer and a group of specialists. He makes the players around him better and takes very little off the table in doing so. While he may not have many years left, he’ll continue to be a key cog for the Knicks until he decides to leave.