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Landry Shamet shining in Sixers preseason play

The rookie guard is showing he already deserves a spot in the Sixers rotation.

2018 NBA Rookie Photo Shoot Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The Philadelphia 76ers’ selection of Landry Shamet with the 26th overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft was not met with universal praise. The choice was largely regarded as a reach by the Sixers, as the Shockers guard had been projected to go in the early-to-mid second round in most of the mock drafts floating around the greater NBA draftsphere. Many Sixers fans, myself included, lamented the team passing on a sliding Robert Williams, a feeling amplified when the hated rival Celtics snagged the Texas A&M big man with the very next pick.

Then, in his very first Summer League game, Shamet sprained his right ankle, yet another player in a long line of Sixers rookies to fall victim to the curse placed upon the franchise. With the way things were trending, it seemed like Shamet might be better served here asking about Wilmington, Delaware, than Philadelphia:

However, the “collaborative” Sixers front office was firm in its evaluation of Shamet, in particular noting how his rating in the 99th percentile on catch-and-shoot jumpers would translate perfectly to the JJ Redick-Marco Belinelli role the team employed to great effect last season. After a ho-hum preseason debut against Melbourne United, we’ve seen what Brett Brown and company saw in the former Shockers sharpshooter. Shamet has been absolutely lights out the last two games, averaging 15 points per game, while shooting 5-11 from behind the arc. I haven’t seen a Landry exhibit this much killer instinct since Season 2 of Friday Night Lights.

Simply listing his box score line doesn’t fully illustrate the variety of ways Shamet has been effective shooting the basketball. Even in a more standard, stationary catch-and-shoot situation, Shamet displays a good knack for sliding into open space to create a clear path for the kick-out from the post. Here, it’s Dario Saric on the feed, but you can envision plenty of assists from Joel Embiid on similar plays this season.

Shamet can also make the more difficult shots while on the move, capably knocking down triples either off a handoff or a screen.

On the occasions the natural action of the play doesn’t provide an immediate good look, Shamet has the ball-handling chops to work himself into an open shot.

He can even take it off the bounce all the way to the rim, when necessary.

A few preseason games are a small sample size, but thus far, everything points to Shamet being able to fill the former Belinelli role off the bench this season. Brett Brown has inserted the rookie into each of the last two games in the first quarter. Maybe Shamet was initially bumped up in the rotation due to the Wilson Chandler injury, but Landry has certainly acquitted himself well, and when exactly have the Sixers not had to deal with some sort of injury?

Belinelli was a valuable spark off the bench last season, but you can make a valid argument that Shamet actually represents an upgrade to the once-again-Spur. In addition to his prolific shooting ability, Shamet has experience playing point at Wichita State, so he brings more ball-handling and passing ability to the table. Shamet’s defense was seen as a potential liability during the draft evaluation process, but he has held his own on that side of the ball thus far, while looking comfortable within the team’s defensive scheme. The defensive bar was set so low with Belinelli last year that even passable effort from Shamet will be worthy of a premature confetti cannon explosion.

Beyond this season, Shamet could graduate from filling Belinelli’s role up to that of JJ Redick. The only reason the Sixers were able to re-sign Redick this past offseason was because they struck out on the biggest free agents. The team hopes to avoid a repeat next summer before their window of having max cap space available closes.

Joel Embiid and Robert Covington are already on their second contracts. Ben Simmons and Dario Saric will be next. If Shamet can provide valuable rotation minutes on a contract totaling $9.6 million over the next four seasons, that’s a huge boon for the franchise. Finding cost-effective role players to slot in around the expensive franchise players is the most straightforward way for a contender to extend its title window.

On draft night, Sixers fans were initially ecstatic to draft Mikal Bridges, a player ready to immediately step on the court and offer help on the wing. Then, the trade for Zhaire Smith helped bolster the team’s future, both via the Miami draft pick and the younger prospect in Smith. Meanwhile, lurking in the background all along was the team’s other first-round pick. Landry Shamet could be a valuable bridge for the Sixers across both the present and the future.

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