Just how good is Landry Fields?

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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.

Pacers’ Myles Turner fined $15,000 for flipping bird at Sixers fans

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Myles Turner had to know this was coming.

Frustrated after fouling Joel Embiid under the basket and being taken out of the game, the Pacers’ big man flipped off some Sixers fans as he walked to the bench.

Saturday the league announced Turner was fined $15,000 for “making an inappropriate gesture toward the spectator stands.” The league, understandably, is not a fan of its players flipping off fans.

That fine is pretty much the going rate for these kinds of incidences.

Embiid went on to score 40 Friday night in a dominant performance, but the Pacers won the game 113-101.

Why are Lakers saving their young core? Reportedly to chase Anthony Davis.

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Anthony Davis is the target at the top of the Lakers’ wish list.

He’s also at the top of the wish list for the Boston Celtics and about 27 other teams, too. But if Davis is put on the trade block — something that is not likely until this summer, New Orleans is working to keep him — the Lakers and Celtics will be at the front of the line.

Which is why, when reports that the Lakers would not include any of their young core in a trade for Trevor Ariza came out, it fit with the Lakers’ long-term thinking. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN discussed this on a special trade season preview broadcast Saturday morning (transcription via Real GM).

“Here’s the line [the Lakers] have to walk: they’re not going to give away picks and their top young players in some deal that makes them incrementally better this season because they have to save all those assets for Anthony Davis, a big trade this summer either pre or post free agency…

“The absolute dream scenario, people talk about (how) they can trade for Anthony Davis or sign a free agent. The dream scenario is they do both.”

The dream is to sign Kawhi Leonard or Kevin Durant and get Davis, and while that dream may be a long shot the only chance they have is if they still have their core players to throw in a package.

The larger point also is valid — the Lakers are not going to beat the Warriors come the playoffs this season (assuming the Warriors are healthy) and L.A. should keep its powder dry for bigger battles. And Davis will be the biggest of battles.

New Orleans wants to keep Davis, they are actively trying to be buyers at the trade deadline, not sellers. Sources have told me the Pelicans’ plan is to win as much as possible this season and show Davis they are serious, then come July 1 offer Davis a designated veteran contract extension worth $230 million (or a little more, depending upon the cap). It’s roughly $40 million more than any other team can offer guaranteed. If Davis and his agent Rich Paul — the same agent as LeBron James — turn down that contract then the Pelicans will be forced to consider a trade.

If we get to that point, then all bets are off and the Lakers are all in. Until then, the Lakers are wise just to be patient.

Despite fast start in Toronto, Kawhi Leonard reportedly still eyeing return to Los Angeles

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The Toronto Raptors are making their case to Kawhi Leonard this season — Toronto is 23-8, in first place in the East by 2.5 games, and look like a real threat to make the NBA Finals. Leonard, averaging 26.2 points and 8.2 rebounds a game, is a guy who has returned to the MVP conversation.

Still, the Raptors don’t know if he’s staying, or what he’s thinking, because Leonard doesn’t talk about it in a meaningful way.

“It’s been good so far,” Leonard told NBC Sports of the fit in Toronto. “Like I said, we’ve been winning, everyone’s playing well. Can’t complain.”

Nothing he’s done has slowed the speculation and buzz about what Leonard will do as a free agent next summer… which Leonard is working to ignore.

“I don’t buy into reading media, don’t have no social media, so just focus on what’s in front of me,” Leonard said before the Raptors faced the Clippers last week. “At that time it’s either my family or playing basketball.”

A lot of the speculation around the league has remained that Leonard is headed back to Los Angeles next summer, most likely with the Clippers. Here is what Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN said on a special trade season preview broadcast Saturday morning (transcription via Real GM).

“They can’t change the geography. They can’t change the weather in Toronto. Those were always be things against them in this,” said Adrian Wojnarowski. “Home and L.A. has been the focus for Kawhi Leonard through all of this.”

“Just wear a jacket,” Leonard said about the weather. “We’re in a building. We’re not outside playing in the snow. And it’s good scenery.”

Clippers president Lawrence Frank and other Clippers executives have been a fixture at Raptors games this season, doing their part to recruit him early. They are going to make a strong play for him. So will the Lakers, although I have heard from multiple sources he’s not likely to play with LeBron and in that spotlight.

Nobody knows what Leonard will do next summer, or even what he’s thinking. Leonard doesn’t speak much, and when he does it’s in cautious cliches providing little if any insight. As long as that is the case, the speculation will continue.

Why didn’t Lakers trade for Trevor Ariza? Suns owner reportedly blocked it.

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There were eight teams (that we know of) having some level of contact with Phoenix about getting in on a Trevor Ariza trade. The Lakers were one and — as with all things Lakers — were the most talked about.

But the Lakers were never going to pull off that trade because the Suns’ owner, Robert Sarver, didn’t want it to happen, according to David Aldridge of The Athletic.

Sarver — a very hands-on owner when it comes to basketball decisions — is probably still stung by buying out Tyson Chandler and watching him go to the Lakers and dramatically helping their defense (the Lakers are allowing less than a point per possession when Chandler is on the court). And certainly spiting the Lakers will play well with the Suns’ fan base.

However, the best franchises put aside petty thinking and do what’s best for them. If the Lakers had made the best offer (and we don’t know if it was) then take it. If it makes the Lakers better this season, or even the next few seasons, so what? If you’re the Suns, you’re in a rebuilding process and should be focused on the long term.

That said, the Laker trade was always going to be complicated and hard to pull off, LeBron James wasn’t going to be able to call up Suns GM James Jones and make this one happen. The Lakers wanted to land Ariza but also wanted to send out Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and KCP doesn’t fit with what the Suns wanted (a point guard and young players or draft assets). That means a third team was going to have to get involved, maybe Philadelphia, and possibly even a fourth. The Lakers were not going to trade any of their four core young players, making this trade even harder.

What the Suns got in the trade with Washington was what they wanted: A point guard (Austin Rivers, who is not all that good, as evidenced by his 7.1 PER this season, but is better than anyone the Suns have) and a young wing in Kelly Oubre who fits on the timeline of Devin Booker and the other young Suns. Phoenix did reasonably well in this trade.

Could they have done better? Doesn’t matter, if the owner is shooting down an idea then it’s dead. That’s his prerogative.