Last year, over at NBAPlaybook Sebastian Pruiti took a look at players who had some success and identified what they needed to do to take the next step. This year, Sebastian is bringing the series to Basketball Prospectus.
Landry Fields went from being an unknown second-round pick to being such an important part of the Knicks' success that they were unwilling to include him in the Carmelo Anthony deal (plus, Spike Lee was wearing his jersey on a nightly basis). For a second-rounder, Landry had a solid season, averaging 9.7 points and 6.3 rebounds per game (grabbing 11.7 percent of all available rebounds). However, if the Knicks are going to be successful next season, he is going to have to take the next step in his development.
What He Did Well
Offense Away From The Basketball
One of the reasons why Fields is going to be such an important player for the Knicks is because he can have success on the offensive end without dominating the basketball. If you look at New York's starting lineup, they have three players on their team (Chauncey Billups, Carmelo Anthony, and Amar'e Stoudemire) who need the basketball in their hands to be successful. That means that there aren't a lot of possessions left for the other guys to use dominating the basketball. Fields doesn't need these types of possessions to score because he can work off of the ball and still get his offense. Where Fields had the most success on the offensive end last season was spotting up and cutting (the two play types that account for 43.2 percent of Fields' offense).
33.4 percent of Fields offense came from spotting up, and in those situations, he scores 1.062 points per possession, which puts him in the top quartileof all players in the NBA.
Spotting up, Fields has success because even though he is off of the basketball, he is always ready to shoot. You see that when his man helps off of him, he'll always have his hands ready and catch it in rhythm, allowing him to rise up and fire before his man can get back to him to contest the shot. This is why Fields is most successful spotting up when taking a jumper right off of the catch, posting a PPP of 1.181 and putting together a eFG% of 58.9 percent.
In addition to spotting up, Fields is very effective when cutting to the rim off of the basketball. This past season, Fields scored 99 points on 76 plays labeled as cuts, shooting 68.8 percent on these plays:
Fields is a very heady player and if his defender starts to pay more attention to the basketball than him, he takes notice and cuts on them, making the defense pay for not keeping an eye on him.
Fields and his work off of the basketball make him an important fourth option for this Knicks' team. When you put him on the court with Anthony, Billups, and Stoudemire, opponents can't double off of him, because if they do, Fields will make them pay, either by knocking a jumper down or by cutting to the rim for an open layup.
What Needs To Change
For Fields to really embrace that role as fourth option on this Knicks' team, he is going to have to improve on the defensive end. Much like New York's stars, Fields struggles defensively. However, you can't really ask the big three to change because you need them to focus all of their energy on the offensive end. So the player that you want to turn into a strong defender naturally becomes Fields. Last season, Fields really struggled defensively.
In isolation situations, Fields had a tough time when his man put the ball on the floor, allowing opponents to score 93 points on 103 possessions while shooting 44.2 percent. In addition, Fields ended up sending his opposing number to the line 15 percent of the time:
In my opinion, Fields simply doesn't have the quickness to stay in front of elite level wings in the NBA. The problem is that you can't stick him on a big man either, because he struggles defending the post as well, giving up 76 points on 75 post-up possessions last season.
So how does Fields improve defensively? Well, he needs to work on his defense before his man makes the catch. If Fields can keep his man from making the catch, or at least make him work hard for it, that can limit the effectiveness of his man once he catches the basketball.
To me, it is important to realize that Fields was just a rookie last season. He'll improve as he gets more and more experience, and I definitely think that Fields can have more of an impact for the Knicks on both ends of the court.
Sebastian Pruiti is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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