Landry Fields and 5 Secrets to the New York Knicks' Recent Success
The New York Knicks are currently 10-9 and in second place in the Atlantic Division. The last time the Knicks had that record was during the 2001-02 season, when balding and beloved coach Jeff Van Gundy mysteriously quit after 19 games, kick-starting a nine-season stretch of losing.
This year's Knicks team has much more potential than any other previous Madison Square Garden incarnation from the past decade.
A few reasons are blatantly obvious, such as Amar'e Stoudemire and Ray Felton's lights-out play and a schedule that has allowed the Knicks to beat up on the Little Sisters of the Poor.
There are some hidden diamonds in the rough, however, and here are five that have led the Knicks to their recent 7-1 stretch.
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Landry Fields, the 39th pick of the 2010 NBA Draft, was named the Eastern Conference's Rookie of the Month and is the starting shooting guard for the Eastern Conference's most improved team.
Granted, John Wall would have received the award if he were healthy, but who was expecting Fields to win this award before the season?
He is averaging 10.8 points and 7.2 rebounds while shooting over 54 percent from the field. Most importantly, Fields has a plus-43, which is the best plus-minus rating on the entire team.
As far as I'm concerned, Fields can shoot 31 percent from three-point range all day as a starting shooting guard if he continues to average a double-double once every four games.
Turiaf for Mozgov
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In a sports era where it is fashionable to name-drop new-era statistics like BABIP, PER and PECOTA, sometimes the easist statistics do the trick.
The Knicks are 4-0 when Ronny Turiaf gets 28 or more minutes. They are 6-9 when Turiaf receives a smaller amount of playing time or is shelved for a game due to injury.
Turiaf replaced Timofey Mozgov in the starting lineup when the Knicks were 3-8, and the team has gone 7-1 since, although he has missed the last two games with a knee injury. If you want to learn more about why Ronny Turiaf is the right answer for the Knicks, read my article here.
(I am not above shameless self-promotion, but at least I'm honest.)
Meanwhile, Mozgov's confidence is so shot at this point that he is having trouble catching passes down low. He really needs to either get bumped behind Anthony Randolph in the rotation, which may be in Mike D'Antoni's plans, or get sent to the D-League for more schooling.
Wilson Chandler and Toney Douglas: Sixth and Seventh Men of the Year
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Wilson Chandler has intruded into Jason Terry and Jamal Crawford's battle for the Sixth Man of the Year award and may have taken the reins too.
He is averaging 16.8 points, 5.9 rebounds and a maniacal 1.95 blocks per game. Chandler plays like a man possessed on defense, and his lankiness allows him to swat shots at the rim.
Furthermore, Chandler's versatility gives Mike D'Antoni the option of playing him anywhere from shooting guard to power forward, making him a very valuable asset.
Chandler, who is averaging more points than Terry and Crawford, could very well win that Sixth Man of the Year award if the Knicks make the playoffs.
Chandler's partner in crime is Toney Douglas, who will not be receiving any awards this year since giving out hardware for the Seventh Man of the Year is a bit much. Douglas is instant offense off the bench, though, averaging 10.5 points in 23.7 minutes per game. He can be a little too out of control at times offensively, but he brings hustle and intensity every second he is on the court.
Douglas put up 30 points in 31 minutes in a road win against Chicago last month and notched 22 in 24 minutes at home versus Charlotte last week.
Incredible Offensive Efficiency
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It comes as no surprise to any casual NBA fan that the Knicks are the highest-scoring team in the East and the third highest-scoring team overall. That is to be expected from a Mike D'Antoni-led squad.
What is most impressive is the Knicks' offensive efficiency, which is first in the East and fifth in the NBA. Offensive efficiency is a measurement of how many points a team scores for every 100 possessions, and the Knicks currently score 107.7 points per 100 trips down the court.
While Amar'e Stoudemire has been an absolute beast, floor general Ray Felton deserves most of the credit. Cast off by Charlotte in the offseason, Felton has found new life with the Knicks, averaging 18.2 points and 8.1 assists per game. He is a top 10 NBA point guard in the golden age for NBA point guards.
I'm serious. Look it up.
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What's that? The Knicks haven't played defense in 10 years, you say?
Well, that's true, and Anthony Mason, Patrick Ewing and Charles Oakley aren't about to suit up again, but the Knicks lead the NBA in defensive plays, defined as the combined game total for steals, blocks and charges.
New York averages 16.9 defensive plays per game, which also contains a league-leading 7.3 blocks per contest. The Knicks are also top 10 in steals and charges.
New York is giving up 106.8 points per game and is bottom 10 in defensive efficiency, so don't expect fans to bring custom cardboard signs featuring the letter D and a fence any time soon. This isn't the 1990s anymore.
This is, however, a new and exciting era of basketball for the Knicks, and if the team continues its recent spurt of intensity for all 82 games, a playoff spot is all but guaranteed.