Saturday, December 3, 2011

Landry Fields: Lion or Lamb

Approximately one year ago, every Knicks fan and NBA expert was singing the praises of Knicks rookie Landry Fields.
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

What was there not to like? Drafted with the 39th pick out of Stanford, Fields made an impression during the Summer League in Las Vegas before putting his stamp on the revamped Knicks by coming into training camp and earning the starting SG spot in Mike D'Antoni's lineup.

Most draft experts did not expect Fields to even be drafted and when he was, the crowd at MSG was less than pleased. However, Fields took the court with a vengeance and quickly turned heads by winning NBA's Rookie of the Month in November and December. Many people were calling Fields the steal of the draft because of his effecient scoring, knack for grabbing rebounds, and tremendous hustle. He was one of the Knicks Energizer bunnies and always seemed to be in the right place in the right time, often igniting the crowd.

After the Carmelo Anthony trade in February though, Fields was a different player, and noticably so. Though his stats did not dramatically drop in all areas (they did drop though), he looked tentative on court. The hustle plays didn't seem to happen quite as often, and the swagger he once so confidently boasted seemed lost. In general, Fields seemed like a misplaced rookie.

Questions sprung from every angle. Was Fields's game ill-equipped to be partnered with Carmelo Anthony's isolation game? Did Fields benefit more from the quicker pace that Raymond Felton ran with other youngsters like Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari? Was he just struggling playing a bigger role on the team? Did he hit the rookie wall? Was he just a flash in the pan?

When the Knicks were swept in the Playoffs by the Boston Celtics, Fields was visibly shaken. He averaged just 1.8 ppg on .200 FG% with only 1.3 rpg, and was actually a liability for the Knicks to have on the court.

So which Landry Fields will the Knicks see this season? Jump!

Fields' stats from the first half of the season were impressive for a rookie. His value really came from the small things he did, but nonetheless, he was leading all guards in the NBA, not just rookies in rebounding. Likewise, for much of the season he was second amongst rookies in points per game and 3FG%. There was a noticable difference after the All-Star break.

Pre All-Star: 32.6 mpg, 10.1 ppg, .519 FG%, .399 3FG%, 7.1 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.1 spg
Post All-Star: 27.9 mpg, 9.1 ppg, .453 FG%, .382 3FG%, 4.8 rpg, 1.7 apg, .8 spg

The three biggest differences in the comparisons come in minutes per game, FG%, and rebound per game. However, per game statistics can be misleading. In their 2011 report cards, Knickerblogger noted that Landry's True Shooting % fell from a December peak of 66% to 49% by the last month of the season.

Once again, Landry will play a big role this year as part of the supporting cast for Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo. The Knicks cannot simply rely on those two and Chauncey Billups to carry them all of the time, and it will be time for Fields and Toney Douglas to step up to the plate.

At his best, Fields spreads the floor with solid 3-point shooting, and is dangerous to lose on offense because of his knack for going backdoor and getting easy buckets. Likewise, he and Carmelo could team up to be a terror on the boards for opposing shooting guards and small forwards.

With the criticism he received for his poor second half and playoff showing, we hope Fields brought the same intensity to his lockout workouts as he did after was drafted. If he did, then we can probably expect more great plays like this:

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