In yesterdays Knick loss to Miami, shooting guard/small forward Landry Fields struggled mightily. He wasn’t great defensively, he didn’t shoot well and he had a few momentum-killing plays. In fact, Fields has drawn criticism from Knick fans all season. There is justification for those criticisms. Fields’ jump shot has regressed mightily from last season and has been transparent all season. His jump shot is as close to broken as broken can get, as Fields is shooting a porous 25% from 3 point land this season. Despite his struggles shooting the ball, I think Fields is a solid player. Many fans look at only his broken jump shot, and automatically assume that the rest of his game is weak. I disagree. While shooting is a huge part of the game, especially for a wing player, it is not the only aspect of the game of basketball. Take Jared Jeffries for example. Jeffries is a below average offensive player, but impacts the game positively in many other aspects, mainly his defense. Now, I’m not necessarily saying that Fields is a wing version of Jeffries. I think Fields can do some good things offensively, as well as play solid defense. From what I’ve seen on Twitter, I think it is safe to assume that many Knick fans believe that Landry Fields “sucks”. However, I am not of that contingent. I get as frustrated as anyone about Fields’ ineptitude shooting the ball, but I do not believe he sucks. I think Fields does a lot of things well and I will tell you why.
I like the way Fields plays defense. His defensive points per possession (PPP) rating of .90 is not a great rating, but I don’t believe that tells the entire story of Fields’ game. At 6’7 with above average athleticism, Fields has the versatility to defend multiple positions. Having played power forward at Stanford, Fields has experience guarding bigger opponents which I think adds to his defensive prowess. Fields can guard the 2,3, and 4 positions adequately, which makes him valuable to the team. There are not many wing players that are big enough to match up against 4’s in a small lineup. I like Fields’ ability to guard on the ball, including in isolations and post ups. While Fields isn’t statistically a great post up defender, a PPP of 1 when guarding posted up opponents, I think you have to attribute that to plays in which Fields is stuck guarding a big in a mismatch. In comparison, Paul George of the Pacers is also a second year shooting guard/small forward and is considered an above average defender. At 6’8, George has more height and length than Fields, yet his defensive PPP on post ups is 1.17.
As a team, the Knicks are very good defensively with Fields on the floor. Fields’ defensive rating, an opponents points per 100 possessions, is a very good 95.9. Defensive rating does not tell the entire story due to the fact that it is a very teammate dependent statistic. However, we can take from Fields’ solid rating that the Knicks are a good defensive team with him on the floor. By comparison, Iman Shumpert is considered an elite defender, but his defensive rating is a 98.2 which is worse than Fields’ rating of a 95.9. I wouldn’t argue that Fields is a better defender than Shumpert, but my point is that he’s a solid defensive player. I’m not the only person that believes Fields is a strong defensive player. Coach Mike Woodson echoed this sentiment yesterday, when asked about Fields’ offensive struggles:
Fields is also a very good rebounder. Last season, Fields (along with Dwayne Wade) led all NBA guards in rebounding, grabbing 6.4 rebounds per game. This season, Fields ranks 7th amongst guards this season, averaging 4.2 rpg. Fields also ranks 6th among shooting guards this season in offensive rebounding, with 0.9 offensive rebounds per game.
Offensively, Fields has taken a step back this season. He is still shooting 46% on the season, but he hasn’t had the impact offensively that you would think a 46% shooter would have. In particular, his jump shot is completely broken. His 3 point shooting percentage has regressed mightily from 39.3% last season to 25% this season. According to Hoopdata, Fields’ mid-range field goal percentage (jump shots from 16-23 ft) has dropped from 39% last season to 35% this season. However, Fields is shooting 63% at the rim and has improved his close range offensive game. From shots 3-15 feet from the rim, Fields has improved, shooting 35.7% this season as opposed 26.8% last season. Now, I’m not arguing that Fields is an elite, or even above average offensive threat. He isn’t, but I think it is unfair that Fields has been labeled as useless offensively by many Knick fans. Fields is a better offensive player when he’s in motion. He shoots higher percentages when cutting to the hoop, driving to the rim and in transition opportunities. According to synergy, Fields shoots 61% when shooting off cuts, post ups, offensive rebounds, hand offs, screens and in transition.
Unfortunately, the Knicks need spot up shot makers right now, and Fields’ jump shot has been awful all season. On spot up opportunities, Fields shoots only 33% and just 24.5% from 3 point range. His lack of a consistent jump shot has been a point of criticism for Knick fans, including myself, but that doesn’t make him a useless player. Whether or not Fields is a great fit for Mike Woodson’s style of offense is another argument, but I don’t believe you can claim that Fields is useless offensively. His strengths do not fit in to what New York needs from him right now. We saw that Fields was a very solid player in Mike D’Antoni’s offense last season (before the Melo trade) and he was very good this season during the Linsanity run without Carmelo Anthony. That is not a criticism of Anthony, but a justification of the fact that Fields plays better in up-tempo, motion oriented offenses. With Anthony, the Knicks play at a slower half-court oriented pace, which plays against Fields’ strengths.
Overall, I think highly of Landry Fields. I think he is a smart, gritty player that gives strong effort every night. Fields isn’t a perfect player by any stretch, but I think he’s better than he gets credit for. I like the way he defends and rebounds. Offensively, he needs to improve his jump shot, but he does do a number of other things well. I think Fields’ biggest problem is his confidence. Shooting the ball is all about confidence, which is part of the reason that a guy like Melo can be a dominant scorer. Anthony has the mentality that even if he misses 12 shots in a row, shot number 13 is going in. With Fields, I don’t get the sense that he has that same sort of confidence. We often forget that Fields is just a second year player. Given the fact that Fields was a power forward in college, I think he has done an excellent job of quickly transitioning to an NBA level wing player. Sure, he has things to improve upon, but I don’t think Fields “sucks” by any stretch. He may not be a great fit with this Knick team, but he is a solid player. Fields is one of those “glue guys” that every team needs. If the Knicks had adequate point guards (not including Jeremy Lin) and more consistent outside shooters, we would be applauding the impact that Fields has on the game. If shooting wasn’t such a problem for the Knicks, we would recognize his strong defense, rebounding and effort. Unfortunately, New York needs Fields to be efficient shooting the ball and he hasn’t done that this season. However, I believe that Landry Fields is a good basketball player. He is a winning player and gives great effort every night. Knick fans should appreciate Fields more and recognize the impact he has on the game.Follow @tarmosino