The Knicks' Landry Fields had a stellar rookie season by all accounts. Averaging 9.7 points and 6.4 rebounds per game, tying Dwyane Wade for the highest rebounding average among all guards, Fields provided New York with surprising value for a second round draft pick.
While he could stand to be more aggressive on offense he has solid shooting range (39.3 percent from three) and his defensive sensibilities were sound throughout the year.
As the team's starting two-guard, Fields became an integral part of the run-and-gun identity the Knicks built in the first half of the season, prior to the Carmelo Anthony deal. They gutted their roster, giving up a promising point guard in Raymond Felton, an excellent sharpshooter and capable defender in Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler, a versatile sixth man capable of playing shooting guard and both forward positions.
The Knicks received the coveted 'Melo, as well as former-Finals MVP point guard Chauncey Billups, but by dealing such an integral part of their young core they compromised their identity as a freewheeling, transition-based offense under coach Mike D'Antoni.
Few players have the offensive repertoire of Anthony, but he isn't exactly renowned for his open court offense and doesn't work particularly to push the pace. Likewise, Chauncey Billups, who turned 35 this September, works better in a half-court offensive system. While in Denver the offense generally relied on putting 'Melo in an isolation play against a defender, eating up the brunt of the shot clock and stopping the team's ball movement.
Fields didn't mesh well with the Carmelo-era Knicks and frequently seemed out of place in the offense. While some of that can certainly be attributed to him "hitting the rookie wall" so to speak, the Knicks have clearly committed to Anthony long term, giving him a three-year, $65 million contract at the end of last season. While the team's style of play may change, it is unlikely to as long as Carmelo Anthony is the team's biggest star and has the support of D'Antoni and Amar'e Stoudemire.
Fields' late-season disappointment culminated in an extremely disheartening playoff series against the Boston Celtics, wherein he averaged a mere 1.8 points and 1.3 rebounds in just 17.8 minutes per game as the Knicks were swept handily by a veteran Boston team, which raises questions about the future of Landry Fields in New York and what the team should do with the 23-year-old Stanford graduate.
A player like Carmelo Anthony demands the ball on nearly every possession and has an extremely detrimental effect on ball movement and can cause a standstill on the offense that clashes with the way someone like Fields plays. Fields is a decent slasher and could work well with 'Melo because of the attention he draws offensively, but that is contingent upon them developing chemistry, which they showed little of last season.
The Knicks drafted Georgia Tech combo-guard Iman Shumpert out of Georgia Tech with the 17th overall pick in this year's draft. Shumpert at 6'6" has a similar size and build to Fields and averaged 17.3 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists in his junior year, despite shooting an inefficient 40.6 percent from the field and 27.8 from three-point territory.
Most importantly, Shumpert brings perimeter defense to the Knicks, something they sorely lacked last season. His size, speed and strength will allow him to cover both opposing forwards and guards and if he can further develop his offensive game he should see consistent time in his rookie year.
In addition, the Knicks have Toney Douglas on their roster, whose deft shooting touch was a boost to New York's floor spacing all season, and though he had shot selection issues early in the season, his level of play picked up at the end of the year and he had some solid games filling in for Chauncey Billups when Billups was out with an injured knee.
The Knicks have some serious positional needs, specifically at center and point guard. They used a "center by committee" approach last season, playing Stoudemire, Ronnie Turiaf, Sheldon Williams and Jared Jeffries at the five to varying degrees of success and Billups' contract will expire at the end of next season.
Fields' stock is still fairly high, and he could certainly make an attractive piece of a package to throw at an elite center or point guard. A team like the San Antonio Spurs or Phoenix Suns both could use an injection of youth and franchise-building pieces like Fields and have marquee point guards that could help the Knicks immediately.
A package of Fields, Douglas and a draft pick could sway the Spurs to part with Tony Parker who could provide New York with an excellent penetrating guard and capable facilitator. The Suns expressed interest in Shumpert pre-draft and may be swayed to part with Steve Nash for Shumpert, Fields and picks, giving the Knicks the league's most potent offenses.
And surely the Knicks would jump at a chance to nab Chris Paul, regardless of the cost.
Obviously because New York acquired Anthony midseason there was a great deal of growing pains and since there hasn't been any sort of training camp or preseason it is difficult to tell if the team can create an identity that maximizes the talents of both Carmelo Anthony and Landry Fields. If they can do that and find another way to address their one and five needs it may well be worth it to lock Landry in for the long haul.
Fields undoubtedly has serious potential, but his talents may no longer be maximized with the Knicks in their current form and the team should seriously consider any offers that could result in immediate help for a roster with some glaring holes.
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