Last season, Landry Fields took the NBA by storm with a rookie campaign that no one could have ever predicted.
Fields transformed from the prospect that barely any top analyst had ever heard of, into the starting 2-guard for a playoff team in one of the NBA’s biggest markets.
That transformation happened quickly as Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni had enough faith in the second round draft choice to name him the opening night shooting guard and never looked back, inserting Fields in the starting five 81 out of 82 games last season.
For most NBA players entering their second season, the goal often becomes elevating their game to the next level. How can they improve? Some become more dynamic scorers to increase their point production, and others may become stronger and improve their jumping ability to pull down more rebounds.
For Fields however, the key to a successful sophomore season will be his ability to do more of the season. Consistency will be crucial for the young guard, as the Knicks will need him to maintain his level of play and continue to play with intelligence on the court all season long.
On a team that already features dominating scorers like Amar’e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups, Fields’ ability (or lack there of) to score an abundant amount of points is irrelevant. To open up last season, the then unproven Fields was placed in the starting lineup over then-Knick Wilson Chandler, a career 14-point per game scorer who proved he could score in bunches when need be.
If the Knicks had wanted more of a scoring punch in the starting lineup, they could have had it, and Fields would have been relegated to the bench. Instead, he has found an ideal place in New York to play within his means and be a defensive, hard-nosed cog in Coach D’Antoni’s system.
Fields’ smart and steady off the ball play provided a tremendous balance to a starting lineup that already had enough scoring options. The Stanford grad, who many figured would go undrafted, found himself quickly growing, assigned to guard the likes of Kobe Bryant, Joe Johnson, Ray Allen and other multi-time All-Stars.
Moreover, Fields finished last season as one of the league’s better rebounding shooting guards, finishing with a 6.4 boards per game average. With defense and rebounding being two of the Knicks’ weaker suits, to find a strong presence from their starting shooting guard in both categories was truly a gift.
There’s no denying that Fields was a big part of the team’s success last season, but it’s now time for him to prove he’s more than a one-season wonder. The fact of the matter is that although Fields had a promising rookie campaign, he wavered as the regular season came to a close and the team rolled in (and out) of the playoffs.
Though he finished with still impressive averages of 9.7 points 6.4 boards and one steal per game, those numbers seem so close, yet so far away from the 11 plus points and near eight rebounds per game he was producing early on.
With that said, the above theory still holds true. Fields’ success is not dependent on the numbers, simply on his consistency. His sophomore season goal doesn’t need to be to increase his points average up to 12 or 13 like it would be for most rookies.
However, whatever his production turns out to be, it’s important he maintains those numbers as he eases into his role.
Fields admitted to struggling to find his game following the trade for Carmelo Anthony and company, but the simple fact of the matter is, Fields’ role on the Knicks will never change. He was brought in to play defense, rebound the ball and execute with intelligence on the court.
The tangibles and intangibles he brings to the table make him an ideal piece for any playoff team looking to move forward, and that’s why the Knicks need him more than ever. Fields just fits. He’s in the right place at the right time.
Several reports, including the New York Post, say the Knicks are targeting available veteran shooting guards who are more potent offensive players.
More offense is not quite what the team needs, though Fields ability to hit a jump shot occasionally is imperative. After shooting as high as 52 percent from the field earlier in the season, Fields saw that number sink below under 50 percent as the season concluded.
While he may not be a dominant scorer, Fields still needs to consistently be able to hit the corner three or a pull up for a jumper when he finds himself the benefactor of an apparent double team on one of his teammates.
Everything Fields does well is about creating a great deal of balance in the Knicks’ starting lineup. He’s the kind of player who does all the little things correctly. He may not be flashy and/or dominating, but there’s simply no need to be.
There are certainly other options out there but should consistency become one of the top things Fields brings to the table this season, he’s still the right man for the job of starting 2-guard of the New York Knicks.
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