Per 36 Minutes:
“But sometimes when you’re different you just need a different song.”- Giraffes Can’t Dance
Have you ever read “Giraffes Can’t Dance”? It is the story of a giraffe that competes in a jungle-wide dance contest. At first he trips and falls because the music just isn’t suited to him, but in time he finds just the right tempo for him and it is then he shows the entire jungle just how well a giraffe can dance. I thought of Landry Fields as I read that book to my kids last night because if there is one Knick who struggled to find the right tempo this year it was Fields.
After a rookie campaign that featured back-to-back Eastern Conference rookie of the month awards, 4th place in rookie of the year voting, and a spot on the NBA rookie first team, it looked like Fields had found his tempo. But in his second year, Fields failed to put together a prolonged stretch of good play. With the exception of slight improvements in AST% (9.0 to 14.5) and steal percentage (1.6 to 2.1), Fields’ stats are down across the board. I’ve read a number of theories on why Fields struggled in 2011-2012. Some blame the sophomore jinx; others say it is Carmelo Anthony’s style of play. A few blame it on Fields own lack of talent, or that he is playing out of position, or that he is regressing to the mean. I’d like to offer that the lack of improvement in year two is not about Fields regressing in any way, but more about him trying to find his way on a team that changed significantly from his rookie year peak. The Carmelo Anthony trade was the most obvious change but I don’t think Anthony’s so called ball-hogging is the issue here. There are two other changes that forced Fields to play a different kind of game in his second year. The first was the uneven–often awful–point guard execution after Felton was traded. The second was the addition of Tyson Chandler.
The two things Fields did really well in his first year was score efficiently (TS% of 59.8 and EFg% of 56.8) and rebound exceptionally well for his position (7.4 rebounds per 36). Fields saw significant drops in each of these areas in 2012, which dropped him from an average NBA player in 2011 (PER .100) to a slightly below average player in 2012 (PER .085). The lack of an effective floor leader that could get Fields the ball where he is most likely to succeed may be what held back his scoring in 2012. In looking at Fields’ shot chart from 2011 and 2012, I noticed that Fields still took about the same number of shots from 3 feet to 23 feet (2 per game in 2011 and 2.4 in 2012) while converting at about the same rate (30% in 2011, 37% in 2012). Landry’s big drop off was in conversion at the rim (72.3% in 2011, 64.8% in 2012) and connecting from beyond the arch (EFg% 59 in 2011, EFg% of 38.4 in 2012). This is just my naked eye and spotty memory here, but it seemed to me that Fields found himself forced to try and create offense in 2012, rather than just get to the right place at the right time as he did in 2011. I’d have to think it is much easier to score on a quick put back at the rim, rather than on a drive with defenders in position waiting for you. Furthermore, rebounding machine Tyson Chandler at center secured many (Jim would say “all”) of the rebounds the previous center (Stoudemire) was happy to let Fields have. Fewer offensive rebounds means fewer easy put backs to help those shooting numbers.
I’m not excusing Fields on offense. I acknowledge that his jumper is severely broken and it might not ever get better but I do think he is still a valuable player. He is average to above average on defense, a good rebounder for his position, he is a good teammate, and he isn’t expensive. I think with a full training camp and time to find his place in the offense; Fields can be a solid contributor for the Knicks. He just needs to find his tempo.
Grades (5 point scale):
Final Grade: C