Landry Fields: Should Knicks Match Raptors Offer Sheet?

As the free agent signing period of midnight tonight continues to rapidly approach, a lot of Knicks fans have shifted their attention to making the signings of Marcus Camby, Jason Kidd, J.R. Smith, Steve Novak and the matching of Jeremy Lin’s offer sheet official. Lost in all of the choas seems to be the three-year, $20 million offer sheet the Toronto Raptors signed Knicks swingman Landry Fields to early on in the negotiating process.

There’s a pretty good reason we’ve lost Fields in the shuffle: nobody around the Knicks believe he’s a $20 million player at this point in his career.

In his brief two-year career, Fields has played in 148 games, starting in all of them except five. He’s averaged exactly 30 minutes a night. He’s put up 9.3 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists each night while playing the shooting guard position. After a surprising and stellar rookie season, Fields’ production dropped to 8.8 points, 4.2 reboudns and saw his shooting percentage drop from 49.7% to 46.0%. Not to mention, from the free throw line, he tumbled from a 76.9% in his rookie year all the way to 56.2% as a sophomore.

Every Knicks fan loved the intangibles Fields brought to the floor each night. He hustled, he grabbed important rebounds and he even had energetic sideline dunks that got fans out of their seats. However, of all the numbers I’ve listed above, do any signal to you that he’s worth $20 million over the next three seasons?

The reason the Raptors gave Fields this large of a contract was in part to keep the Knicks further out of the Steve Nash sweepstakes. Toronto believed that the Knicks best shot at snagging Nash, a player the Raptors front office circled at the top of their off-season agenda, was including Fields in a sign-and-trade offer to Phoenix. So, the Raptors brass offered Fields a “poison pill” contract that, if the Knicks matched, would be almost undesirable. That plan backfired in three crucial steps for Toronto.

The first, the Knicks came out almost immediately and said they wouldn’t match that offer. Second, the Knicks surprised a lot of people by showing their willingness to include promising guard Iman Shumpert in a sign-and-trade deal if it meant acquiring Nash. And, most importantly, the Suns eventually agreed to trade Nash to Los Angeles, making all of these efforts null and void. Yikes.

As for the Knicks, there has been a lot of talk recently that losing Fields hurts the Knicks depth off the bench. I don’t agree with that sentiment. Yes, obviously losing Fields doesn’t immediately make the Knicks bench any better than last season, that much is true. But, its important to remember that swingmen in the NBA are a dime a dozen. Every year, it seems at least one team finds a hybrid two-guard off the scrap heep that not only makes the team out of training camp, but then plays a strong role either off the bench or in the starting line-up. We’ve seen it with Willie Green in Atlanta, Gerald Green in New Jersey Brooklyn, or looking even further back to players like Shannon Brown, Jared Dudley, Lou Williams, or, you know, Landry Fields.

I’m not saying James White is going to be the next Landry Fields. I am, however, saying one is out there that the Knicks can find either on the waiver wire or at a veteran minimum. They exist.

So, let me ask you one very important question. Would you pay $20 million to a player you can replace with 1/20th the amount of money?

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Tags: Gerald Green Jared Dudley Landry Fields Lou Williams New York Knicks Shannon Brown Steve Nash Toronto Raptors Willie Green

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