Back in December, when Landry Fields was named Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for November, I broke down his first month in the NBA and compared it to other notable 2nd round draft picks. Back then he compared favorably to Manu Ginobili, arguably the greatest second round pick since the draft went to two rounds in 1989. With Fields placing fourth in Rookie of the Year balloting, I thought it would be a good time to see if Fields’ first season remained truly one of the great rookie performances by a 2nd round draftee.
It is rare for 2nd round draft picks to be featured in Rookie of the Year voting. The high-profile draft picks have an advantage as they are not only famous, but they also step onto struggling teams that are able to provide a lot minutes of playing time. Still, every few years there is a second rounder that gains league wide notice. Ryan Gomes, Jorge Garbajosa, Paul Milsap, Juan Carlos Navarro, and Marc Gasol were all 2nd round picks that managed to crack the top ten in ROY balloting.
Was Fields the highest placing 2nd rounder ever? The answer is no, though he did place as high as Ginobili did in 2003, four years after being taken 57th by the Spurs. There have been two 2nd rounders that managed to place third: Luis Scola in 2008 (six years after he was drafted 55th by the Rockets), and center Marc Jackson in 2001 (four years after being taken 37th in 1997).
So by Rookie of the Year balloting, Fields posted a remarkably good rookie season, but not the greatest by a 2nd round pick. But voting, of course, is subjective, and its hard to draw any worthwhile conclusions from the ballots. Far better is to look at the large sample size of one entire 82 game season to see how his numbers compare to other great 2nd round picks.
Fields’ 2541 minutes were the third most of any 2nd round rookie since 1989. Only Mario Chalmers (34th pick in 2008) and Nick Van Exel (37th pick in 1993) played more minutes their rookie years. The question then becomes: what did Fields do in those minutes, and how does his performance compare to the other great rookie seasons posted by 2nd round selections:
|Mbah a Moute||10.1||8.3||1.5||1.7||.516||12.3|
A strong showing, no doubt, but clearly not as special of a season as his first month promised. By season end much of the Landry Fields excitement that Knick fans enjoyed early had largely worn off. It appeared to the eye that Fields regressed as the season wore on, culminating in an uninspired playoff performance.
Did the Carmelo Anthony trade truly knock Fields off his game? Or was it that Fields hit the proverbial “rookie wall”? Or, was it that our eyes were deceiving us, and that statistically, Fields remained as productive at the end of the season as he was at the beginning?
Here is a breakdown of Fields’ season:
|Points/36||Rebounds/36||Assists/36||Turnovers/36||3 Point %||TS%|
(*Carmelo Anthony played his first game as a Knick in game # 55)
Surprisingly, Fields’ scoring volume didn’t drop off at all during the final third of the season. In fact, it went up, averaging 1.2 points more than he did during the middle third. Similarly, his turnovers dropped significantly, which is a positive sign for any rookie. His assists stayed consistent too, and though his 3-point percentage dipped, it remained high for a player who supposedly lacked an outside shot entering the league (and especially considering his attempts/36 increased during the timeframe). At Stanford, Fields shot just 33% from three point range his senior year—a rate he eclipsed even after hitting his “rookie wall”.
On the other hand, Fields’ rebounding and shooting efficiency tailed off significantly in the final third of the season. This was a troubling trend for Knick fans mainly because those were two areas of excellence that separated him from your average rookie swingman. During the first third of the season Fields shot a blistering TS% of .604 while leading all guards in rebounding. As the season progressed his efficiency actually increased while his rebounding slipped. Then, after the Carmelo Anthony trade, his efficiency began to slide as well.
So, was it the Carmelo Anthony trade that was Fields’ undoing?
It seems strange that this could be the case. During the tumultuous lead-up to the trade Fields’ name was forefront in trade negotiations. Yet somehow closure to the speculation supposedly made the rookie crack? It seems unlikely, especially considering the numbers show that Fields’ rebounding had already dropped significantly during the month leading up to the trade, and it seems odd that Anthony’s presence would cause any of his teammates to become suddenly worse at rebounding. Anthony’s rebound rate is only slightly better than Chandler or Gallinari’s (and obviously considerably worse than their combined rates, which was the void he stepped into). Additionally, for somebody who was seemingly lost in the isolation offense Billups and Anthony ran, Fields still managed to increase his scoring volume. For these reasons it is hard to finger the Carmelo Anthony trade as the reason for Fields’ decline.
Was it the mythological “Rookie Wall” then?
Though Fields’ numbers dipped in some areas as the season progressed, it wasn’t until the playoffs that they fell off the proverbial cliff. His totals were strong across the board, not only for a second round draft pick, but for any NBA player. More likely than anything, Fields’ post All-Star break performance represented a regression to the mean. It was unrealistic to expect a rookie who shot 33% from three-point range in college to come to the pros and shoot 44%.
So what can we expect moving forward? Could Fields develop his game and join Manu Ginobili, Carlos Boozer, and Gilbert Arenas as one of the all-time great 2nd round draft finds? If he can somehow manage to sustain his 2010 first-half production over the course of successive seasons, the answer is yes. But more likely, Fields will enjoy a long career as an unheralded player, possibly like Luc Mbah a Moute—a low usage, strong rebounding, highly intelligent player that nicely compliments the high usage players around him.
But then there is the pessimism that is endemic among the downtrodden Knick fans that have endured an entire decade of joyless basketball. Fields looked dreadful in the playoffs—lost on offense and abused by Ray Allen on the defensive end. For the pessimists in the house, another comp could be the career of former Cavalier Cedric Henderson. Henderson was a 6’7” swingman who’d played four years of college ball before being selected 44th in the 1997 draft. Henderson played his way into a starting role his rookie year, playing 2527 minutes for a team that made the playoffs. The Cavs lost in four that year, Henderson performing poorly at the end. He then went on to decline in production for the next few years until he took his talents to Europe’s finest cities.
If for no other reason than to watch further episodes of the Andy and Landry Show, let’s hope Fields bounces back from his post-season malaise and sticks in the league a long, long time. Considering the Knicks’ roster composition, a lot of the team’s future success rides on the shoulders of Landry Fields.