How Good is Knicks Landry Fields?

| by David Berri

The amazing Landry Fields is the subject of a Wall Street Journal article by David Biderman. For those who have not been paying attention, Fields was the 39th player chosen in the 2010 draft. Despite being drafted in the second round, Fields has started every game for the Knicks this season. He has also been the most productive player on the Knicks this season (by a fairly wide margin). Furthermore, he has been the most productive rookie (by a very wide margin).

As Biderman notes, Fields is not a productive scorer. As the following table indicates (above average numbers in red), though, Fields may be considered a classic Wages of Wins player.

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The Wins Produced metric (detailed in both The Wages of Wins and Stumbling on Wins) argues that wins in the NBA are determined by shooting efficiency (the ability to put the ball in the hoop) and the ability to gain and keep possession of the ball (i.e. rebounds and turnovers). As I noted in my sports economics class this week, this observation about wins in the NBA should be fairly obvious. But because player evaluation in the NBA is dominated by scoring totals, it seems hard for many fans to accept the notion that a player like Fields – who has below average scoring totals – is producing wins in very large quantities.

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The above table, though, should illustrate how good Fields has been. Relative to an average shooting guard, Fields has been amazing with respect to shooting efficiency and Net Possession (rebounds + steals – turnovers). Consequently, we should not be surprised that Fields is on pace to produce more than 16 wins this season.

What may be surprising is that Fields’ projected productivity eclipses the combined first year production of all players selected with the 39th pick in the draft since 1977 (as Biderman notes, these players combined to produce 4.0 wins since 1977).  Furthermore – as the following table notes – Fields projected Wins Produced is only eclipsed by seven rookies since 1977.

Of course the big question is whether Fields can continue to produce at this rate. Again, Fields has only played 12 games, and that is a very small sample. Then again, Arturo Galletti has argued that small samples in the NBA do tell us something. So maybe Fields is for real. And if that is the case, the Knicks might have found the productive star they sought in the 2010 free agent market in the second round of the NBA draft.

- DJ