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Raptors Get Cute in Halting Nash-to-NY, but Did They Get Too Cute?

PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 25:  Steve Nash #13 of the Phoenix Suns stands attended for the National Anthem before the NBA game against the San Antonio Spurs at US Airways Center on April 25, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Spurs defeated the Suns 110-106.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Rob MahoneyNBA Lead WriterJuly 3, 2012

How about this for creative managerial work: The Phoenix Suns were rumored to be interested in the Knicks' Landry Fields—as part of a package, mind you—in a potential sign-and-trade for Steve Nash. So Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo, a Nash suitor himself, comes to terms with Fields on a three-year offer sheet (per Marc Stein of ESPN.com):

Just going up online and via SportsCenter: Raptors and Knicks' RFA Landry Fields have agreed to three-year offer sheet

— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) July 3, 2012

By giving Fields a back-loaded offer sheet, the Raptors have not only forced the Knicks' negotiating hand, but removed Fields as a sign-and-trade possibility—thus limiting New York's options to steal away Nash. It is, in itself, an incredibly clever move, but as reports began to trickle in that Fields' deal with the Raps was worth $20 million over three seasons, the cost of that creativity became a point of necessary debate.

Fields is a difficult player to assess at this particular point in his career; he has less than a full season of quality NBA basketball to his name, but at the same time, most of his struggles seemed to stem from the fact that he could never get a handle on playing with the ball-stopping Carmelo Anthony. The Knicks' entire offensive dynamic changed on the day of the Anthony trade, a point which was particularly unfortunate for a strong cutter and willing passer in Fields.

There's no doubt that Fields regressed in his second season with New York, but how much of that was natural letdown and how much was systemic complication is difficult to say. Either way, the final year of this particular deal is certain to be a bummer for whichever team Fields ends up with, and considering how little he gave the Knicks this season, one that New York may not be able to reasonably afford (in a cap/tax sense, if not in terms of strict salary).

Should Fields and Nash both wind up in Toronto, their stint together could serve as a more accurate reflection of Fields' off-ball worth. Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus dug up an interesting gem about Fields' play last season that could bode well for the possibility of playing alongside an elite playmaker:

Per NBA.com/Stats, Fields' 2P% improved from 50.2% to 55.7% playing with Jeremy Lin last season.

— Kevin Pelton (@kpelton) July 3, 2012

If Lin alone made that kind of impact on Fields' play, it's dizzying to think what Nash might do. This move could backfire if 1) Nash ends up signing elsewhere, or 2) the excessive salary committed to Nash and Fields ends up coming back to haunt the Raptors.

But if nothing else, Colangelo has his eye on a familiar prize and has gone to great lengths to ensure that he gets it. This combination doesn't exactly make the Raptors title-bound, but it makes them instantly competitive and viable on offense, while also grooming—under head coach Dwane Casey—their defensive potential. 

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