Time to Believe in Udrih? Nine-year veteran could hold New York down until injuries heal
By Kenny Ducey
Monday’s disastrous finish aside, the Knicks find themselves in an even deeper hole than before thanks to an injury to Pablo Prigioni.
New York has thrived when Prigioni runs the point; they’re scoring six more points per 100 possessions with him on the court, and he’s anchored the Knicks’ best five-man lineup that’s played at least 30 minutes together this season. His ball distribution and superb three-point shooting (43% through 24 games) will be sorely missed.
While Tyson Chandler’s return will certainly aid the Knicks as a whole, there’s still a problem to be solved at guard with both Prigioni and Raymond Felton out. For now, the Knicks are left with Beno Udrih, Tour'e Murry and recently re-called Chris Smith, who averaged under three assists per game in six D-League contests. Judging from that statistic, and given the fact Murry wasn't much of a distributor at Wichita State, it's presumably going to be up to Udrih to conduct the offense the majority of the time.
A trade for Kyle Lowry may be something the Knicks explore, however the fact his numbers are shockingly similar to Raymond Felton's coupled with his lackluster shooting from beyond the arc makes him a less-than-ideal fit in New York. The free agent pool isn't looking very promising either, so it'd actually be best for the Knicks to shop Iman Shumpert elsewhere and forget about trading with Toronto.
In contrast to Prigioni, the Knicks have suffered with Udrih on the court this season, giving up over 106 points per 100 possessions to just over 98 scrored on offense. In turn, Carmelo's advanced metrics are equally as ugly with the veteran running the point.
There may be a bright spot, however, as Carmelo has taken fewer shots from three with Udrih on the floor, and more in the restricted area, which has also led to more trips to the free throw line. In short, Carmelo Anthony has been playing more in the post with Udrih as he did in his career year last season at power forward.
Udrih's tendency to go baseline and find the open man under the basket and make guys like Anthony play big also helps fix a shortage of bodies down low. It's possible this offense, despite what advanced metrics say, could see success with Udrih going forward, especially with Tyson Chandler returning to help Udrih's ugly DefRtg decrease.
To be determined, however, is the trust the team puts in Udrih, who's averaged just 15 minutes per game ths year. In Monday's loss, he got beaten badly by Bradley Beal, and both Mike Woodson and Carmelo Anthony seemed upset with his inability to use the foul New York had to give.
For now, though, the Knicks must put trust in Udrih and wait for Raymnd Felton to return. It would be nice to see Mike Woodson look to Tour'e Murry off the bench (he's going to be forced to until Felton comes back) more often, as he's shown the team during the summer he's capable of aiding the offensive attack. While the going has gotten tough for New York, and it doesn't seem as if there's an end in sight, fans may have something to believe in with nine-year veteran Beno Udrih.
Kenny Ducey covers the Knicks for WFUV Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KennyDucey.