Fields was a pleasant surprise for the Knicks during his rookie season, but once the Knicks made the trade to acquire Carmelo Anthony from the Denver Nuggets, he struggled to find his role with the team. He averaged 8.8 points and 4.2 rebounds with a 25.6-percent three-point shooting percentage last season in 28.7 minutes per game.
“His value was diminished,” said Ian Begley. “If you look at 2010 for the first half of that season, he was a clear-cut rookie of the year candidate. He was shooting the ball well, he was really producing above and beyond expectations, but that changed once Carmelo Anthony came into the fold. The opportunities for Landry once Carmelo came here really dried up and he never seemed to be able to adjust his game once Carmelo came onboard. “
“He really struggled last year,” Begley added. “His numbers were down across the board from his rookie season, so he took a step back and I didn’t expect the Knicks to many offers for Fields, particularly the one that Toronto put on the table.”
In 2011, the Knicks selected Iman Shumpert with the 17th overall pick in the first round and didn’t disappoint as a rookie, finishing fifth in the 2012 NBA Rookie of the Year voting. He proved to be a solid defender, but after suffering a torn ACL and meniscus in his left knee while dribbling in midcourt during a first-round playoff game against the Miami Heat, it’s anyone’s guess on when he’ll be able to perform on the court.
“It’s hard to tell at this point when Iman will come back,” Begley said. “People have talked about January, February and maybe even March. It’s going to be awhile because it takes a long time to rehab from the surgery and then once you rehab you have to get back in game shape, so the Knicks are not going to be with Iman for awhile, but what they did and this was a smart move in the offseason, is they were able to pick up Ronnie Brewer.”
“Brewer is a guard from the Bulls who is a very good perimeter defender similar to what Iman brought to the Knicks,” Begley added. “He did not shoot the ball well, but neither did Iman in his rookie year, so I don’t think there’s going to be a huge drop off between Brewer and Shumpert and then once Shumpert gets healthy that gives them even more depth in the backcourt.”
Aside from signing Brewer, the Knicks also had to resign J.R. Smith, who decided to opt of his contract in order to gain a 20-percent raise after playing just 35 games last season. He averaged 12.5 points, 3.9 rebounds with a 40.7-percent three-point shooting percentage after a brief stint in China.
“He definitely had offers that were more lucrative from other teams, but the rational is that by resigning, the Knicks will now have J.R.’s early bird rights going into next season,” Begley said. “They’ll be able to match anybody else’s contract offer to J.R. They’ll also be able to go above and beyond the salary cap to resign J.R. after the year, so he’ll be able to. If he plays well this season, he’ll be able to bank on a big contract at the end of the year.”
The Knicks will have to choose a starter between Smith and Brewer and the odds are that Brewer will be the starter since he was added to provide defense and Smith is known for his ability to come off of the bench and give his team a spark with three-pointers.
“I think Ronnie Brewer is going to start because if you look at J.R. Smith’s history, he can give you a lot one night and not have his shot the next night and he can really hurt you,” Begley said. “He’s a player who I think is best suited to come off of the bench because if you see that he doesn’t have it one night, you can pull him from the game, but if he’s in your starting lineup, you’re pretty much committed to playing him 25-30 minutes a night and that could end up hurting you, so I think Ronnie will be the starter and J.R. will come off of the bench where he’s best suited.”