Knicks looking to trade Pablo Prigioni? Let’s not freak out…too much

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Early August is the doldrums of the NBA offseason, but late Tuesday evening, Knicks fans were jolted into high alert from this series of tweets from ESPN’s Marc Stein regarding some potential player movement:

 

 

While this may sound sarcastic, or patronizing, it’s not meant to: In just two seasons, Pablo Prigioni has become a darling in the eyes of many Knicks fans. He’s represented the antithesis on a team that a times has came across as dull, unimaginative, and even selfish. His contributions have often been aesthetically pleasing: the extra (and usually correct) pass, the furtive back-court swipes. And the stats – especially during the 2012-13 season – tell the tale as well. The Knicks generally have shot better, moved the ball better, and been better defensively when Prigioni is on the floor. And in the intangible way that sports often provides, he’s simply been fun to watch. The Knicks are almost never easy to root for, but rooting for Pablo Prigioni over the past two seasons has felt right.

If this all sounds a little too reverential, it’s because it is. As a Knicks fan who enjoys watching Pablo Prigioni play, I personally don’t want to see the Knicks trade him. Judging from social media response to Stein’s reporting, I sense I’m not the only one. There’s an admitted emotional attachment and investment at play here. But, you know, the heart versus the head and all that jazz. Indeed, the Knicks probably should trade him.

The Knicks aren’t going through your typical NBA rebuild, bottoming out and stockpiling high lottery picks, but they’re definitely going through a transition. The realistic goal of the 2014-15 season isn’t to win an NBA championship. With a bevy of contracts coming off the books after this upcoming season, the Knicks rightly have their gaze ahead to the future. Whatever the Knicks’ plan is, Pablo Prigioni isn’t likely to factor in whether or not it works. He’s 37, and is a backup on a good team. For all of Prigioni’s qualities, of which there are many, he’s averaged just over 17 minutes a game in his two Knicks seasons. Even the many calls over the past two years for him to get more minutes have been mostly measured. Nobody with any sense is asking for Prigioni to be a 30-plus minute player, because he isn’t one. He’s a good player, at times a very good one. But like most rotation players, he has his limits, and unfortunately given his advanced age, those limitations will increase with time.

We don’t know yet what the Knicks are attempting to get back by attaching Prigioni to Wayne Ellington. Perhaps we’ll soon find out. As it stands now though, for 2014-15, it makes sense for the Knicks to give the majority of the backup point guard duties to Shane Larkin. Larkin may end up being the next Frank Williams, but the Knicks should try and find that out for sure. Keeping Prigioni as the backup to Jose Calderon and inhibiting Larkin (as well as making the back court more crowded for Tim Hardaway, Jr. and Iman Shumpert, guys more likely to figure into the future plans in some sense) might indeed help the Knicks win some more games this season. But as it often is in the NBA, for the Knicks, it’s not about this season.

For now, Pablo Prigioni is still a Knick, and that’s a good thing. But if he’s soon a member of another team, that could be a good thing as well.

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