How fitting that right after I post my OffSeason Primer, talking about the free agents the Raptors are looking at, that they go out and sign a free agent straight out of left field to a reported $20 million offer sheet. Landry Fields’ name had not been mentioned at all among the free agents the Raptors were interested in.
Keep in mind that Fields has just signed the offer sheet. Being a restricted free agent, the Knicks can still match, if they wish. What might prevent them from doing so is that Toronto has apparently offered a backloaded one, with a “poison pill” provision. Mark Stein reports that the contract is worth approximately $20 million, over three years. While it’s probably more than Fields is worth, it’s not too bad. I’m going to hazard a guess that it’s $5.5 over the first two years and then $9 in the last season, if it is a backend loaded deal.
Now, I am a fan of Fields’ game. He’s an old school-type guy who does everything well. While he’s not a great scorer, he can score when he needs to, both inside and out, he’s a very good rebounder for his size, and a first rate defender.
What I like about the signing is that he’s actually coming off an off year, where a sophomore slump saw his statistics decline in just about every category. This is not a case (like with Ersan Ilyasova or Jeremy Lin) where they would be trying to sign a contract to a player coming off a career year. It’s a pretty safe bet that Fields will improve, especially once he gets away from Carmelo Anthony, who might actually make his teammates worse, instead of better.
Now with this signing, it appears both Nicolas Batum and Ilyasova are out of the picture. It simply wouldn’t make sense to go after either one, plus I have no idea where they would get the money, since they still apparently have the offer on the table for Steve Nash.
Speaking of Nash, there’s one thing that had me thinking about the Raptors signing Fields. You see, one of Nash’s other suitors is the New York Knicks. The Knicks can only pay him the MLE unless they do a sign and trade. And Phoenix was apparently open to taking on Landry Fields in exchange for Nash, which was good for the Knicks because, unless they include Amare Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler or Anthony (none of which I can see Phoenix agreeing to) the Knicks have very little else they can offer the Suns.
So by signing Fields to an offer sheet, Colangelo has effectively taken the Knicks out of the running for Nash, unless Nash decides to take substantially less to play in New York. What makes it even more brilliant, is that the Knicks don’t even have to let Fields go in order for it to work. A 3 year, $20 million isn’t THAT out of line and New York might not want to lose a talented role player, but it means they can turn around and use him in a sign and trade with the Suns.
A brilliant move by Colangelo in order to get Nash, I just wish that Nash was someone he wasn’t going after.
While I like Fields and think he’ll be a very good Raptors, if the Knicks don’t match, I would rather the Raptors try and sign Batum, who I think is simply a better player with a much higher ceiling. Fields is an excellent role player, while I see Batum having All-Star potential. Again, Colangelo played it safe. Fields is going to help the Raptors make the playoffs, for sure, but Batum would have helped the team go beyond that, if he reached his potential.