By Jerald L. Hoover
The power of advance scouting took a turn for the worse as 29 teams didn’t get the memo on Knicks rookie Landry Fields. Mysteriously picked in the second round with the 39th pick, he wasn’t even on the radar as a potential draft candidate. And this despite averaging 22 points and 9 rebounds his senior year at Stanford University. True, the Pac-Ten Conference was rather weak this past year, but Fields has had some monster games against serious competition.
Case in point: Against the John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins-led Kentucky Wildcats, Fields notched 25 points and 12 rebounds. Albeit it was in a losing effort but as Cousins admitted, “we couldn’t do anything with him.”
A lot of NBA teams are drafting on alleged potential, and they seem to think if a person stayed for four years in college, something must be wrong. It’s that type of imprudent thinking that sets some franchises back or even gets coaches fired. Many ‘one and done’ players aren’t mentally or physically strong enough for the riggers or strategies of the NBA.
Fields, on the other hand, after spending four years in college was more NBA ready. In fact of the 38 players selected before him, only the aforementioned Wall and Cousins were in the opening Night starting lineup for their respective teams. And Cousins only started because of an injury to veteran center Samuel Dalembart. And only second-year Rookie of the Year candidate LA Clippers Blake Griffin has more double-doubles than Fields. But, Fields was able to win Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month. That feat hadn’t been done in New York since former Knick Channing Frye won it in November of 2005.
Talk about being a steal of the draft: at present Fields is the NBA’s leading rebounding guard. That’s right; all guards — not just rookies — at a rate of almost eight per game. And once he gets his jumpshot more sound (he will however chuck up a few threes per game) he’s going to be even more dangerous.
If there’s a player that Fields may be compared to, it would be Houston Rocket and former Duke Blue Devil Shane Battier. Battier also stayed in college for four years, but he played on the highly ranked Duke team and was much more of a high profile player in college. But, his impact as a rookie wasn’t as high as Fields’ is at this point.
Fields should keep improving, and barring health issues he should be playing in this season’s NBA Rookies vs. Sophomores game during All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles. That’s not bad for a guy not even thought of by 29 teams on Draft night.
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