While there were questions as to whether Fields would even make it off the bench this season, he followed up a pleasantly surprising summer league performance with an even more impressive preseason, averaging 8.6 points in just 19 minutes per game. More importantly, he was one of the Knicks’ best shooters, shooting 43 percent from downtown and 55 percent overall.
Visibly impressed, coach Mike D’Antoni named Fields the team’s opening night starting shooting guard, over the likes of Wilson Chandler and Toney Douglas.
It was Douglas’ preseason surge that carried him into the starting job conversation, but the Knicks have no other backup point guard, and his instant offense may be better suited as a spark off the bench.
Chandler, however, has occupied a spot in the starting lineup for much of the last two seasons. While he did have a decent preseason, D’Antoni likes the versatility Chandler provides the Knicks, should he come off the bench.
And then there’s Fields, the once rarely known rookie. Although he’s not spectacular in one specific area of his game, Fields is consistent and does all the little things a successful team needs. The intangibles he provides could be very useful in a starting lineup that already features offensive threats Amar’e Stoudemire and Danilo Gallinari.
Ironically enough, while being praised for his play off the ball with the Knicks, Fields led the Pac-10 in scoring during his senior year at Stanford, averaging over 22 points.
Perhaps an even more important statistic for the Knicks was the almost nine rebounds the 6’7″ Fields also averaged during his senior year.
The team’s rebounding numbers over the past couple seasons have certainly been woeful to say the least, but with new big men like Ronny Turiaf and Timofey Mozgov in the fold, the Knicks hope to increase those same numbers. While he may be smaller, Fields figures to have an impact in that increase as well.
It is obvious that Fields can do so many things right, but is starting him the best way to capitalize on his skills, or would using him as a boost off the bench be more fitting? That same type of boost is something D’Antoni hopes Chandler will provide.
Chandler, next to Eddy Curry, is the longest tenured Knick. He has often guarded the opponent’s best offensive player. Although Chandler is consistent, the Knicks have been looking for his scoring and rebounding numbers to increase, and it just has not happened yet.
Starting Fields over Chandler may balance out the starting lineup, but can he handle the league’s best offensive players like Chandler has in seasons past?
The fact of the matter is that the Knicks have not been a winning organization, so lineup shakeups can be justified until the team finally starts to win. Perhaps on this particular Knicks squad, Chandler is better suited coming off the bench.
However, there is no doubt that should Chandler begin to outplay Fields, D’Antoni will not hesitate to make an adjustment.
Most rookies will make mistakes during the season. The Knicks saw it with Toney Douglas last season. Although it’s bound to happen, Fields’ intelligence has been highly praised, and playing off the ball so often may keep any of his mistakes under the radar.
For now, though, the Knicks are simply smitten with Fields. Whether anyone expected it or not, he now has the ultimate chance of proving he belongs in the NBA, while making an impact on the Knicks.
Fields and the Knicks open up their season Wednesday night in Toronto against the Raptors.