Yesterday, Trill Will stole my idea for a post and wrote about John Salmons, complete with a terrible title. Not to belabor the point, but I’m going to follow up a little bit before I drop today’s gameday post.

While Will’s conclusion is that Salmons isn’t all that terrible – he’s a negative on offense and a positive on defense – I would tend to disagree. He is terrible.

I don’t need any statistics to back this up, but consider the following:

John Salmons Stat Qualified NBA Rank (of 186)
PER 7.6 185
TS% 44.8 182
Rb% 5.5 154
Ast% 12.9 90
TO% 11 51

You want to know why Salmons plays over 20 minutes a game and is used as a secondary ballhandler on the second unit despite all evidence being contrary to the idea that he has offensive value? It’s that last column – Salmons doesn’t turn the ball over much, so he’s a safe play. He can dribble late in the shot clock without pissing himself.

He also doesn’t do anything with the ball – he doesn’t score well, he doesn’t facilitate well, and he doesn’t rebound. His average shot comes from 17.5 feet away, but the only time he ever scores is on threes, 92.1 percent of which have been assisted. He shoots just 26.7 percent on drives and 36.1 percent on pull-ups. And again, he doesn’t get assists. This late-clock creation or secondary ballhandling may exist, but it’s not effective. On offense, he is essentially a complete negative except as a spot-up floor-spacer.

The net result is disastrous for the Toronto Raptors offense.

With John Salmons on the floor, the Raptors score 102.8 points per 100 possessions. When Salmons sits, that number rockets to 108.8. That is the difference between a below-average offense and the league’s third best unit. And his gains on the defensive end don’t make up for it – the defense improves by 3.5 points per 100 possessions with Salmons, yes, but the team is 2.6 points per 100 possessions better without Salmons than with him.

There aren’t great options to replace him. I realize this. Nando De Colo or two-point guard lineups with Greivis Vasquez leave the team somewhat exposed defensively, Steve Novak can’t reliably slide to the three, and Terrence Ross and DeMar DeRozan can only play so much.

So it’s time to dust off Landry Fields.

I know, I know, he’s been terrible. In 113 minutes (post-trade) with him on the floor, largely garbage time, the team has been outscored, and he’s one of the only players on the team for which that’s true. That’s a really small sample, though, and it’s tough to evaluate a player when totalling up a bunch of 30-second garbage-time appearances.

On the two instances since his return from injury that Fields has played, he’s actually looked pretty good. He played 25 minutes in the team’s March 2 win against Golden State, hitting 4-of-5 from the floor and grabbing six rebounds. In the March 30 win against Orlando, he shot 2-of-3 with two rebounds and two steals in 17 minutes with a +12 rating.

I understand that FIelds has basically burned any goodwill remaining with Raptors fans, and I can’t guarantee he’ll be any better than Salmons. It’s simply too difficult to evaluate a post-op Fields given how little he’s played. But Fields at his worst has been a more effective offensive player than Salmons, thanks in part to the enormous rebounding edge he provides. I’m sure Dwane Casey has his reasons, and the last time I saw Fields shooting at practice, his shot still didn’t look “fixed” – he’s still 0-for-5 on threes for the season, a key area he was expected to provide value – and maybe his confidence isn’t back yet. Those are valid concerns.

However, Fields isn’t that far off of Salmons in terms of defense, with the ability to guard three spots to some degree of effectiveness. He’s not the pick-and-roll defender Salmons is, but he’s solid, more athletic, and a far superior rebounder. Whether the defensive drop-off with Fields is enough to warrant playing Salmons over him is unclear. There are no double-blind tests in sports, and it’s certainly possible to craft a rotation in which either would be a helpful fifth component.

However, the reason I’d like to see Fields dusted off for some additional run right now is because the cost of experimentation is about to sky-rocket. Come playoff times, rotations shrink (or should). Casey is likely going to employ a rotation that looks like this:

Guard: Lowry, Vasquez
Wing: DeRozan, Ross, Salmons
Bigs: Johnson, Valanciunas, Patterson
Specialist: Hayes, Hansbrough, Novak

An eight-man rotation is the norm in the playoffs, and a ninth option will probably only be used situationally – Novak for spacing, Hansbrough for shit-disturbing, Hayes if the team faces a post-up threat. But look at that rotation and tell me what part scares you the most. It’s undoubtedly Salmons.

I’m not suggesting I’d be any more comfortable with Fields in that rotation; I wouldn’t be, at present. But Salmons is very clearly the team’s weakest link right now, and with eight games to go, there’s little harm in giving Fields extended run to find out if he can strengthen that final rotation spot. Maybe the time off and the re-tooling of his shot can pay dividends; maybe he’ll be incredibly motivated to run with the opportunity; maybe he’ll do something other than hit an occasional open three.

The game’s played on both sides of the ball, and there’s value in reliability and savvy on the defensive end. There’s also value in not playing 4-on-5 on offense, and experimenting with Fields over the next few games has the potential to add some athleticism and energy to the rotation that Salmons can’t provide. It’s worth a shot now, while the cost of trying is low.

  • sitnonDfence

    “I understand that FIelds has basically burned any goodwill remaining with Raptors fans”
    I wasn’t aware that there is malice toward Mr. Fields in the raptors community. He’s done nothing but take a contract that was offered to him, work his tail off and have a 1 in a million injury. He still has well above average basketball IQ, and moves great off the ball, something we tend to lack greatly. All to often do I find the team standing around waiting for demar or lowry to make something our of nothing. Also,Great hustle, and with a working jumper there is no reason why he cant be a large part of the raptors reign for years to come.
    Dust him off indeed sir.

    • robertparish00

      Agreed. You don’t root for the Raptors if you don’t love the underdog. Fields has assumed that stapled to the bench underdog role. We love that stuff. But when he bricks a couple three pointers we will all bitch and moan about him and his contract again. Then we will forget and the cycle will continue.

    • DDayLewis

      Except, he doesn’t have a working jumper. That’s the biggest knock on Fields.

      • JRedmond14

        Not everybody needs to be a shooter though. Personally I liked him in a bench lineup of Vasquez-De Colo- Fields-Patterson/Novak(Offense Lineup)-Hansbrough. You get good shooters in Vasquez, De Colo, and Novak or Patterson. You get offensive rebounding from Landry and Hansbrough. You get cutters from De Colo and Fields. You get a PnR offense from Vasquez and Hansbrough. You get a PnP offense from Novak. That would be a solid bench scoring unit and I don’t think they would fare too badly on defence, except for maybe the Novak lineup( just one too many below average defenders.

        • DDayLewis

          I agree, Fields’ shooting woes can definitely be masked when surrounded by shooters. The main issue is that if Fields were to take Salmons’ place in the lineup, he’d play with DeRozan, Vasquez, Hansbrough and Patterson. There’s not a surplus of shooting in that lineup.

          • JRedmond14

            Agreed. Especially if Vasquez and Patterson run a PnP, no shooters to kick to except for maybe DeRozan but he would covered most likely. If you put De Colo or Ross into that lineup though for DeRozan you would have an effective shooter on the wing. It might not be a bad idea though to have no 3 pt shooters on the court. It might force them not to settle for late clock, contest heaves like the second half versus Miami

            • DDayLewis

              Nah, no 3 point shooters in the modern NBA would kill an offense. I like the idea of putting Ross into the lineup with DeRozan to buoy in the second unit, but then where would Fields play?

              • JRedmond14

                Memphis does pretty well but they do have exceptional post scoring. DeRozan already plays 38 minutes a night, he has to rest at some point. Using Vasquez-Ross-Fields-Two Bigs, you could get your shooting from Ross and Vasquez. Remember as a point forward, you could literally run PnR or PnP with Landry and have Ross and Vasquez off ball. Last time Landry had a PnR:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OQsD1BwjaD4

                • DDayLewis

                  Lol that dunk came out of nowhere. I was shocked because I had no idea he had ups like that.

                  I like the idea with Fields as a point-forward, but the offense would need to be heavily reworked in that scenario. The coaching staff might not have enough time to drill that in before the playoffs.

      • Pong

        I just don’t get where his 3pt shot went to. He was a 39% 3pt shooter in his rookie season with the knicks. Is it really his injury that f’d it up?

      • afrocarter

        To be fair, Salmons doesn’t seem to have a working jumper anymore, either.

    • iHeartLowry

      Fields was almost run out of town last year when he started the season off horribly. Yes, that’s been forgotten by some (who I think are being overly optimistic), but I think others are still pretty bitter about that, as well as (unfairly) his contract.

  • JRedmond14

    The other factor you didn’t discuss is Salmons leg’s. After so many minutes in a game, he can’t even play defense. He is awful on back-to-backs and I know there aren’t b2bs in the playoffs but every possession is important in the playoffs and getting back to stop a fast break lay up could be an X Factor. There is also the fact that Salmons doesn’t look like he gives a shit half the time. He will get blown by at the top of the key and watch as an easy layup/dunk or JV/Amir foul will happen. You should check what Landry’s TO% is because I would be shocked if his is worse than Salmons

    • DDayLewis

      Landry’s TOV%: 12.5
      Salmons’s TOV%: 11.1

      • JRedmond14

        Marginal at best. Maybe a little more playing time would favour that stat. All I know is Salmons turnover rate in 3OT is 100%

        • DDayLewis

          By that logic, his block% is also 100% in 3OT, because he got the ball back on that possession.

          • JRedmond14

            FT% 0%? Landry would have made one FT

            • DDayLewis

              How do you know that? Fields’ career FT% is 66.3% and he’s shooting 63.6% this season. Salmons is a career 80.0% FT shooter, and is shooting 73.0% this season.

              There’s plenty of arguments for why Fields should play over Salmons. Those two missed free-throws, in terms of relevancy in this conversation, is at or near the bottom.

              • JRedmond14

                I know merely joking. I can’t say I have ever been a fan of what Salmons has brought to the table though. I would rather have a guys who facilitates and is a solid cutter than a ball stopper and iso shooter. Salmons game does really remind me of Rudy in ways. I have been saying play Landry for a while now or give Ross more minutes. I think a point forward like Landry would be good for the team seeing as we have a lot of athletic guys who can cut to the basket. If Landry can step into the starting lineup like he did against Golden State and play solid defense against Curry and Klay, why can’t he lock down the backup spot?

                • DDayLewis

                  I agree on your point with Fields, and I’m just as eager to upgrade from the shitty performances that Salmons has put in of late. I’m a little concerned with the logistics of a Fields/Salmons switch, because it would require a whole new offense, which the Raptors might not have time to master in time for the playoffs.

                • JRedmond14

                  Fields is a solid glue guy though. I think you can throw him into any situation and he would probably be fine. Plus after Houston and Indiana we could do some experimenting with the concept against 76ers, Detroit, and Milwaukee x2

  • Roarque

    I guarantee you that Salmons energy problems are nutrition based. The man is in his thirties not his fifties. Someone on the training staff should find out what the guy eats to find the poison he loves to chow down on. I’m not a kook on the old ‘you are what you eat’ but eating the right food before a marathon is pretty basic stuff and it should apply to a cardio battle like an NBA game.

  • Nilanka15

    I’m in favour of the idea. After all, Fields will still be here next year. Salmons may not.

    • jjdynomite

      Also Landry will earn a big fat $8.5 mil poison pill next year, thanks to Colangelo’s retarded and (thankfully) futile machinations to secure Nash. But that’s a lot of cap space that can be packaged up and get a quality asset in return, much like Washington traded for Gortat with the dead weight expiring contract Okafor (and a first round pick). Of course, Fields will net a lot less than Gortat on his own, but he’s still a tool in Masai’s toolkit.

      Of course, if Landry never gets off the pine, Masai has nothing to showcase.

  • andre

    Casey hasn’t yet figured out a way to properly use Steve Novak out there. Let’s be honest here, for Novak to have a good game, the ONLY thing he has to do is shoot better than 40% from the 3 in the limited (7-10) minutes he might play. Moreover, the likelihood that Novak will drop you a stinker, as in doing anything else, is probably greater than him being a positive. I feel like the same can be applied to Salmons, he has to do a couple of good things, play good defense (especially on the pick n roll), ball handle a bit on the second unit, and generally speaking not turn the ball over. In other words, those players are EXTREMELY ineffective whenever they aren’t doing what makes them “good” and can be readily exposed as a result.

    So in that sense, perhaps could you fault Casey for believing that what makes Landry Fields good, simply doesn’t outweigh what Novak or Salmons brings? I mean this is coach’s judgement call. If it was me, this would’ve happened a long time a go. There has to be something else to this I feel. Look why didn’t Landry play on Sunday against the Magic, letting Salmons rest up for the Heat? Even then, why not split minutes between the both of them letting Landry play in the first half of the game and Salmons play in the latter part? Better yet, who’s going to be on this team next year, Salmons or Fields?

    I’d love to entertain the idea that if Casey would have had his contract extension already, maybe he’d take more risk. You’re talking about a guy who knows the road to success in the NBA and he’s keen on not blowing the opportunity he already has but at the same time too, playing Chuck Hayes late in the game, switching Salmons in for Ross, benching Fields, not having better control of Psycho T, all of these things are starting to add up. In your last article you wrote about the collective groan the fanbase makes whenever Salmsons gets on the court, what about the collective groan whenever us arm chair coaches see Casey YOLO.

    It’s frustrating because I do feel like Landry can do A LOT for this team. If he could shoot, you could argue that he’d be starting over Ross. It must be stupid frustrating being Fields and having the presence of mind that defenders will give you space to shoot because they know you have a hard time knocking it down. But he can help the team out in other ways, we all know what those ways are, I think it’s LONG overdue for him to get some extended minutes.

  • j bean

    Salmons is supposed to be providing veteran leadership. Not necessarily verbal, but at least showing how to play like a pro when it’s show time. If he can’t do that because of whatever reason,I’d give his minutes to Fields. Landry has looked good the last two games he was given minutes. He is a young guy, with good instincts, who has had to fight through a lot of adversity. Give him a chance.

  • uke2themax

    I think the other benefit to giving Fields some time now is that even if he doesn’t prove to be as or more effective than Salmons, the latter will at least get some much needed rest. We’ve seen the difference a few days off makes for Salmons, and so giving Fields a shot will at a minimum give Salmons some time to get prepared for the playoffs. Arguably, doing so may also result in a drop in Salmons’ confidence, but I think he’s a savvy enough vet to not let something like this affect him.

  • Bendit

    Stats…spats…do older players in bb get the yips at the foul line like golfers over an important and normally makeable putt?

    I still cant get over those missed FTs at the end of the OKC game. Anyone have the measurement and wgt. of Salmons/Fields cojones? Winner gets the nod.

  • black angus

    I think Fields has the highest basketball IQ on the team (Lowry and Hansbrough close behind). I would actually start him in certain situations ahead of Ross. Why?…he is bigger and stronger and can guard bigger wings, we don’t need more scoring with Lowry, DD and JV on the floor, and Ross can add some scoring punch to the second unit.

  • afrocarter

    I’m for this. I’m not convinced that Fields is necessarily the savior this site has (recently) made him out to be, but at the moment he’s certainly he can provide better minutes than Salmons, right?

  • Will

    Another thing I don’t get is why none of the media has asked Casey about this situation. Surely they see the same things we do. Have they been told that asking the coach about his rotations is off limits? If I were a beat reporter, I would’ve asked him a long time ago.

  • Schuyler Leenhouts

    I get this feeling that Fields isn’t in that funk like he had at the start of the season, missing those wide open layups and stuff. Post injury I think he is actually a decent bench player at this point, he just needs to gain that confidence he had when he played for NY.

    • Will

      He seems plenty confident when he’s been able to get more than 30 seconds of playing time. It’s Casey that’s holding him back, not his injury or his confidence.

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