The Houston Rockets acquired Pablo Prigioni from the New York Knicks for guard Alexey Shved as well as two second-round draft picks.
The 37-year old averaged 4.7 points, on 37.4% three point shooting, and 2.4 assists this season with the Knicks. Overall in his three seasons with the Knicks, Prigioni averaged 3.9 points per game on 41.4% from three-point land.
Now the question is, who is Pablo Prigioni the player? To answer this, I decided to back and watch film on how Pablo would fit in with the Rockets.
Pablo Prigioni brings a contrasting style of play to Jason Terry's and Patrick Beverley's. He's a spot-up shooter that can space the floor with both the starting lineup and second-unit. He has the ability to run offensive sets and create for others. He may not be a lock-down defender, but he can be a pest. Mike Prada posted a video on YouTube with examples of how Prigioni's aggressiveness can warrant positive results.
He made a large impact on the Knicks 2012-2013 season, where New York would advance into a second-round playoff series with the Indiana Pacers. In fact during that season, the Knicks scored 5.2 more points per 100 possessions when Prigioni was on the floor. Also, New York's assist rate was 6.8% higher with Pablo on the floor - meaning he helped promote ball movement and contributed to the spacing offensively.
The Knicks were a great team that season, finishing atop the Atlantic Division, but haven't been the same team since. With the trade to Houston, let's see if playing on a winning team along with a definitive role can allow Prigioni to make a similar impact off the bench.
Pick and Roll
The Rockets run a read-and-react offense which allows players to choose and create based on given options by the defense. This season they have instituted more patterns offensively, repeating certain offensive sets such as HORNS, Chin (Harden Pick and roll), and more, but continue to run a free-flowing offense. The foundation is based on understanding how the defense is playing, making quick and intelligent decisions, and setting up teammates in areas where they can be successful. The byproduct of this style of play is the Pick and Roll, the bread-and-butter offensively for the Rockets.
The Pick and Roll has many variations, and the Rockets promote different looks based on their game-plan. James Harden is an elite pick and roll player, and more times than not sets up his teammates for open looks from the perimeter or finds them cutting inside. With him as the primary ball-handler, the Rockets need someone to step up and take the burden off James to create opportunities for himself and others. This is where Prigioni comes in.
When Pablo played with the Knicks in 2012-2013, his rookie season, he primarily assisted and scored off the screen and roll and pick and roll. I went back to the film-room and picked out specific plays that resemble the current Rockets offense, providing a visual into how Pablo Prigioni can contribute -- mainly with the second-unit.
These two pick-and-roll examples highlight the ability of Prigioni to create for others. In both cases, he has the roll man and a shooter camped on the wing to pass too. If the defenders hedge high off the pick and roll, he can pass it off to the wing or inside to the roll man. If the defenders play off, he can give himself an open three opportunity (as you will see next).
In the first example, two San Antonio Spurs follow Prigioni off the pick and Splitter rotates over to Amare Stoudemire, leaving Copeland wide open on the right wing for three. In the second example, Prigioni runs the pick and roll with the three-man. Copeland sets the screen then receives the pass on the roll where he's able to get past the rotating defender for two. From a Rockets perspective, think of Copeland as Josh Smith setting the screen. Smoove has been the Rockets primary screener since his arrival, and his ability to pass off the roll or finish inside would suit him well alongside Pablo Prigioni.
In this play, Prigioni starts off in the right corner. Jason Kidd pitches the ball to Pablo as he runs the baseline curl off a Chandler screen. With Tyler Hansbrough staying inside to help on Chandler, Prigioni can take the shot himself and connects on a running floater.
Speaking of floaters, during that season Prigioni shot 64.7% inside the paint. Having bigs who can set effective screens pays dividends.
One last point about this play -- it may have looked familiar to Rocket supporters. The reason is because Houston uses a similar play with Corey Brewer, with Brew curling off a baseline screen and finishing inside; either with a mid-range jumper or driving layup. Brewer excels in the Rockets offense when he curls inside and we may see the coaches put Prigioni in similar situations to fully maximize his skill-set.
The final aspect of Pablo Prigioni's pick and roll game I want to point out is his ability to hit the three. In this play, Chandler comes out to set the screen on Lance Stephenson. Pablo recognizes that Roy Hibbert is staying deep in the paint, thus Prigioni takes and makes a WIDE OPEN three pointer.
This is where I believe the Rockets will benefit the most with Pablo Prigioni's game. A smart floor general who can run the offense and has the ability to knock down the three ball at a high percentage.
Let's take a look at his shot chart over the past three seasons.
As for this season, Pablo is shooting 39.6% on above-the-break threes and 50% from the left corner. Now I know why Daryl Morey traded for Pablo Prigioni - another Morey-ball type player.
What will be Pablo Prigioni's role?
We'll have to wait and see how Coach McHale prefers to use Prigioni, whether that be as the floor general for the second-unit or a spot-up shooter that promotes spacing. In my opinion, he's best suited to run the pick and roll with Josh Smith on the top of the key with three shooters. If successful in running the offense and creating for others, his playing time will only increase and he'll more importantly lessen the workload and usage rate for James Harden. As we approach the home-stretch, it's important for the Rockets to find another creator off the bench who can run the pick and roll with the bigs and shoot the timely three. Prigioni, even at 37 years of age, has the potential to be an important part of the rotation moving forward.
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