PLAYER: Beno Udrih
CONTRACT: 1 year, $884, 292.00
ACQUISITION DETAILS: Signed by the Knicks to a one-year contract by former GM Glen Grunwald. (Sadly, it was Grunwald’s last gift to the fans; he’s since been sent to the advisory-corner and remains in a timeout.)
WHAT TO EXPECT OFFENSIVELY: The hope is that Beno Udrih will afford the Knicks continued flexibility when they play various two-point guard lineups. More importantly, however, Beno will be relied upon to be a supplemental shot creator for the second unit, which has desperately needed improvement behind the inconsistent J.R. Smith.
If all goes accordingly to plan, Udrih, a lefty guard who relies more upon guile than skill, will likely reprise the role vacated by Jason Kidd after Mike Woodson decided to shift Kidd to the bench. Kidd, who was used by the Knicks both at point guard and shooting guard last season, was surely a useful player — and it could be argued that he changed the team’s culture on the offensive end — but his inability to create his own shot (and make them) limited that usefulness. According to HoopData.com, 73% of Kidd’s shots were assisted on last year. Additionally, per nbawowy.com, New York’s point-per-possession dropped from over 1.1 to 1.041 when he was on the court sans Pablo Prigioni or Ray Felton.
Udrih, of course, shouldn’t be expected to solve all the Knicks’ woes. A solid passer with a good feel for the game, Beno has never been known as a particularly great shooter, but he is a career 35% three-point shooter who has demonstrated long-range effectiveness from above the break and in the corners. Udrih also has the ability to run pick-and-rolls, though his overall ball-handling skills are average. He is particularly smooth going to his left and possesses a nifty spin move off his right dribble that brings him back to his strong hand.
Udrih’s impact is most likely to be felt when the Knicks face off against defensive-minded clubs like the Bulls and Pacers. Chicago head coach Tom Thibodeau and Indiana’s Frank Vogel deploy similar defensive strategies that encourage opposing players to put up mid-range jumpers and both teams do their best to deny penetration into the lane. Udrih is extremely efficient either when pulling up out of the pick-and-roll or creating for himself off the dribble.
Ultimately, Udrih is a capable backup with sound fundamentals who should bring stability.
WHAT TO EXPECT DEFENSIVELY: Early in his career, Udrih was a solid, yet unspectacular defender. Unfortunately, now age 32, he has lost most of his lateral quickness, and opposing guards are easily able to blow by him. Beno has never been a steal artist and he won’t force many turnovers. That said, this is an extremely smart player who does a very good job of recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of his opponent. If Udrih is guarding John Wall, he will dare him to take a jumper. If he is guarding Stephen Curry, Urdih does his very best to stay glued to his chest. In today’s NBA, players who know their limitations and play to their strengths can be invaluable contributors to a winning brand of basketball. (Kind of like…Jason Kidd.)
For those who rely upon statistical perspectives, the defensive metrics on Urdih are a mixed bag. During his career, Beno’s teams have given up 2.3 points more when he is on the court, but, on the bright side, five of the last six seasons have seen him post a net-positive in that category. This likely means that despite his limitations as an individual defender, Urdih understands team defensive concepts.
COMPLETELY SERIOUS AND REASONABLE PROJECTION: In around 25 minutes-per-game, Udrih averages 10.0 points on 47% shooting (35% from three) and 4.0 assists. His contributions force Woodson to seriously evaluate Ray Felton’s performance in high leverage situations.