Most of the attention in Philadelphia went to two young guards in the buildup to this season — the explosive upside of Zhaire Smith following a big draft night trade, and Markelle Fultz, following an utterly bizarre rookie season and a summer filled with 160,000 jump shots.
Landry Shamet, understandably, wasn’t talked about quite as much. He doesn’t have the pressure to start becoming the Sixers’ third star like Fultz, or the dynamic potential (and characteristic longer-term injury of a Sixers first-rounder) of Smith. After all, you don’t generally expect late first-round picks to contribute much for a 52-win team.
Injuries have helped Shamet hit the ground running with a chance to prove himself early on. In preseason, Shamet saw plenty of run with 18.1 minutes per game and put up decent scoring numbers, averaging 8.8 points (35.3 percent from deep on 4.3 attempts) thanks to some crafty attacks inside and the shooting that built his reputation at Wichita State. He generally impressed all around.
Now, Wilson Chandler’s strained left hamstring has freed up a few minutes on the wing, providing more room for Shamet in the rotation and necessitating some smaller lineups, while Ben Simmons’ back tightness gave Shamet the opportunity to start on Tuesday against Detroit. Through five games, Shamet has averaged 19.1 minutes, 4.2 points, 1.8 rebounds, one assist, 0.4 turnovers, and shot 33.3 percent from deep (1.2 makes), which will surely be on the rise when his spot-ups start falling.
And Shamet isn’t just filling in on the court out of necessity. The Sixers need shooting more than ever. That was always the case with an offense built around Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, and it’s even more pressing with Fultz in the mix as a starter.
Shamet’s shooting numbers were brilliant in college. In his final year he shot 44.2 percent from 3 and made 2.6 triples per game. Beyond that, he ranked in the 99th percentile on spot-up jumpers and, per The Stepien, hit 38.84 percent of his 3s from NBA range.
He’s so much more than just a reliable, standstill shooter, though. While he isn’t an athletic shot creator off the bounce, he shines when nipping around off the ball to find space, curling off screens, and firing from deep out of dribble hand-offs, routinely firing in a flash once he has set his feet. He’s always confident, happy to shoot in a variety of ways:
Shamet is only working to get better off the ball, too, now that he has one of the best shooters in NBA history to learn from, as he explained in a Q&A with The Athletic's Rich Hofmann.
“It’s all specific," Shamet said when discussing what he's learning from JJ Redick. "So just like how you get off of a screen, with your feet sometimes you might have to hop into a catch depending on where you’re coming, where your body angle is at. Sometimes it’s a pivot, it just all depends. He’ll point me out and say, ‘Hey your left foot was behind you,’ or ‘That might have to be a hop because the defense is doing this.’ So I can’t just tell you one thing, it’s all very relative.”
Shamet’s 4-of-7 3-point shooting against Chicago on October 18 was another example of how he can help. He spread the floor well in transition and gave Simmons and Fultz another target on the perimeter, while also providing some active defense to pressure the ball and start a couple of fast breaks:
Landry Shamet looked really good in preseason and had another solid game yesterday with 12 points (4-of-7 from 3).— Tom West (@TomWestNBA) October 19, 2018
His shooting and movement off the ball give him a chance to keep getting minutes (some active defense to help start fast breaks here too) pic.twitter.com/IpxVpAqsij
Shamet’s shot wasn’t at its best on Tuesday night against Detroit (1-of-4 from 3), but this make in the third quarter was another nice demonstration of how comfortable he is on the move when dribbling into his shot:
For a team with no primary ball handlers who are threats as shooters (Fultz could get there in time), Shamet having some pull-up ability in his arsenal is valuable. If he can not only space the floor but provide the best pull-up 3-point shooting on the team after Redick, then his skill set will deserve even more playing time.
Shamet’s defensive effort shouldn’t go unnoticed either. Of course, he has obvious limitations. With a slender frame and no major length (he has a 6’7” wingspan) or athleticism, he isn’t built best for switching onto forwards or the league’s toughest guards. That said, he still has size at 6’5”, quicker feet than he gets credit for, and, as we’ve seen in his short time with the Sixers so far, sound awareness and effort to compete, fight around screens, and try to stick in front of his man.
This possession was a perfect example of all of that. He shows off some lateral quickness to stick in front of Reggie Bullock and nip past Blake Griffin, ensuring Bullock couldn’t create any separation from two dribble hand-offs. Shamet forced a reset after the initial hand-off, and finished the play by making Bullock pass back to Griffin yet again:
The long-term dream for Shamet is to become the next Redick. Until he’s had years more experience to approach his prime, though, the only role the Sixers and their fans will hope Shamet can fill (to an extent, at least) is that of now-Spur Marco Belinelli. With his movement, mobility, and quick release on the move, there’s no doubt Shamet has the potential to make that happen one day. And seeing as Belinelli’s defense was a major liability at times, it’s not like the Sixers need Shamet to fill any All-Defensive shoes there either.
Yes, it’s early, and we're working with a small sample. But so far, Shamet has done pretty much all the Sixers could have asked for. He’s provided helpful minutes and more spacing when they’ve needed it, a touch of extra ball handling, willing ball movement, and more shot making, all capped off by pleasantly surprising defense. When his shots start falling consistently — and everything we know about him says they will — he’ll be able to show just what he can do. Anything he does to contribute besides stretching out defenses is a bonus, and should keep him playing when this team is healthy.
Shamet looks like he can start exceeding expectations this year.
All statistics courtesy of NBA.com unless stated otherwise.