Every weekday morning throughout the season, ESPNNewYork.com will tackle a burning question about the Knicks in our "Opening Tip" segment.
Today's Burning Question: What are the reasons for Landry Fields' recent descent?
While it doesn't appear that many people are mourning the loss of Mike D'Antoni, especially because the Knicks are 9-2 under Mike Woodson, Landry Fields could be one of them.
During that stretch, Fields' minutes have decreased to 23.6 per game, while he's averaging only 5.5 points on 35.1 percent shooting (0-for-11 from downtown). Previously, from Jan. 18 to March 12, when Fields was playing his best basketball of the season, he was averaging 31.2 minutes per game, while averaging 11.1 points on 50.6 percent shooting (18-for-61 from downtown).
In the past 11 games, Fields, who's been starting at small forward lately due to the shuffling of the lineup with Jeremy Lin and Amare Stoudemire both out, has seen a drop-off in minutes throughout the game. He goes from 7.7 minutes in the first quarter to 6.0 in the second to 6.8 in the third and then just 4.9 in the final period.
When Fields was playing well offensively under D'Antoni, he was thriving off of two main things: 1.) running the lanes with Lin, an up-tempo player, leading the way; and 2.) facilitating pick-and-rolls. In both of those situations, Fields was fearless attacking the basket, finishing many and-ones, and he was getting to the foul line sometimes seven or eight times per game. That confidence he's been lacking lately.
In addition to Woodson going away from those aspects more, in order to play through Carmelo Anthony in the post and midrange area, and Iman Shumpert on the perimeter, Fields has become more of an outsider in the offense. And his shooting woes have not helped him get more touches. Insiders say that Anthony, who is a primary ball-handler most of the time, shies away from passing to teammates who miss a few consecutive shots. Ironically, Anthony's former Denver Nuggets teammate, J.R. Smith, who's been playing well since Woodson took over, has been getting more minutes from the second quarter to the key moments down the stretch.
While Fields has struggled offensively, Woodson is likely reducing his minutes due to his poor perimeter defense. And we all know that since taking over for D'Antoni, Woodson has placed a greater emphasis on defense. Since Woodson's first game on March 14, the Knicks rank first in the league in points per game allowed (86.3) and opponents field goal percentage (41.5).
Below is a breakdown of Fields' defensive numbers, as provided by ESPN Stats & Info. Keep in mind they are all outcome-based, meaning if the player the defender is guarding shoots, gets fouled, or turns it over, the following stats take that into account. But if the player gets the ball and eventually passes off, that’s not factored in (it’s an inexact science).
As a primary on-the-ball defender this season, Fields is allowing 0.915 points per play. Among NBA players with at least 200 defensive plays, that ranks tied for 229th out of 273 players.
The player Fields is guarding scores on 42.1 percent of the plays in which a field goal occurs, a shooting foul is drawn or a turnover occurs. His 42.1 percentage ranks tied for 228th out of the 273 players who have at least 200 defensive plays. (Score percentage is the percentage of plays in which at least one point is scored.)
Among the 14 Knicks players with a minimum of 50 plays as an on-the-ball defender, Fields ranks dead last in allowing points per play (0.915) and score percentage (42.1).
Clearly, Fields has to step it up in many facets, but Woodson admits he needs to spend more time working with the second-year player.
"I've got to help Landry more," Woodson said after Monday morning's practice at the Knicks' training facility. "Landry's a pro, he's a young pro. He's still learning. He's going to be fine. I don't want to put added pressure that, hey, he's got to to go out and score 20 points. He's got to be himself, relax and go out and play."
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