There’s no doubt that Amar’e Stoudemire’s play during the Knicks’ winning streak has been incredible. Raymond Felton has been amazing as well. Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari are doing a wonderful job of keeping the floor spaced and giving Felton and Stoudemire room to work the pick-and-roll.
It’s certainly surprising that Amar’e is playing at an MVP level without Steve Nash, that Felton is finally playing like a top-5 pick, and that Wilson Chandler has become a three-point marksman. But the biggest surprise in New York this season has to be second-round rookie Landry Fields emerging as the Knicks’ starting shooting guard and the team’s unofficial glue guy.
Fields’ conventional numbers aren’t incredible — through 25 games, the 22-year old Stanford product is averaging 10.6 points and 1.8 assists. But Fields has already proven himself to be one of the most efficient and versatile guards in basketball, and Mike D’Antoni has been relying on Landry to make his rotations work.
Mike D’Antoni’s teams have always thrived by creating mismatches on the offensive end, and that’s what everyone focuses on. But without versatile players like Shawn Marion, whose ability to guard multiple positions was crucial to the Suns, and Fields, who has been wearing a number of hats for the Knicks, “seven seconds or less” falls apart.
No center in the league can stay in front of Amar’e, and Gallinari’s ballhandling and three-point range make him a nightmare cover for any power forward. However, both Amar’e and Danilo have some issues with rebounding and defense, and that’s where players like Fields and Chandler come in. Fields is the best rebounding guard in the league, and the Knicks need every one of those rebounds. Chandler’s “rebound rate” of 14.0 is easily leads all other guards in the NBA, and Dominic McGuire is the only small forward with a better rebound rate than Fields. Given that Danilo Gallinari is dead-last among power forwards in rebound rate and Stoudemire’s rebound rate is the exact same as Fields’, it’s a good thing that Fields is such a prodigious rebounder. (If ‘tweener forward Wilson Chandler is considered the Knicks’ de facto power forward his rebound rate would be 61st out of 73 qualified power forwards.)
Fields has also shown an amazing ability to take and convert high-percentage shots. Almost half of Fields’ field-goal attempts come from the immediate basket area, and he makes 75% of his shots at the rim That’s an incredibly high mark for anybody, let alone someone who wasn’t considered a great athlete coming into the NBA. Fields isn’t a leaper, but he knows how to use his body to protect the ball when he goes to the basket, and that’s far more important. Again, Gallinari doesn’t get many baskets at the rim, so Fields’ relentless forays to the basket give the Knicks’ offense some much-needed balance. “Stretch fours” can be very helpful, but teams still need points in the paint.
Because of Fields’ rebounding, scoring efficiency, and ability to guard multiple positions, he’s been a perfect fit with the Knicks and an indispensable part of their rotation, and the +/- numbers reflect that. When Fields in on the court, the Knicks outscore their opponents by an average of 7.13 points per 100 possessions. When he sits, the Knicks get outscored by an average of 5.21 points. That’s a 12.34 net +/-, easily the best mark for any Knick.
Is Landry Fields as good as Amar’e Stoudemire? Of course not. Should he be in the rookie of the year conversation? Not as long as Blake Griffin continues his campaign against rims. But he’s playing a key role on a good team a few months after being drafted with the 39th pick, and that’s pretty impressive.