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Attacking the basket is the next developmental step for Sixers rookies

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Landry Shamet and Jonah Bolden look like rotational pieces moving forward. Implementing dribble penetration would be a welcome addition to what they currently bring.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Rookies are spearheading head coach Brett Brown’s bench, a unit heavily criticized for its lack of depth. Landry Shamet rivals Atlanta’s Kevin Huerter among the premier 3-point marksmen of the 2018 draft class, while Jonah Bolden came into this season as a potential 3-and-D big man. We’re now 49 games into the regular season and the pair of rookies are integral members of Philadelphia’s rotation.

Shamet currently stands second among rookies who’ve taken 300 shots in effective field goal percentage at 58.7 percent, as his swift catch-and-shoot setup and motion are beneficial for Sixers facilitators. Under Brett Brown and JJ Redick’s tutelage (hashtag veteran presence), Shamet’s progression as a shooter this season has been evident in his totals. He is a scalding 44.8 percent from 3 in January, raising his season clip to 40.5 percent.

With regular minutes this month, Bolden is developing into a dependable catch-and-shoot outlet in Philadelphia. As a face-up rim-running big man who takes his attempts almost exclusively behind the arc and at the rim, Bolden is a shade under Shamet at 58.3 eFG%. Bolden is a 6-foot-10 lob target with a condor-like 7-foot-3 wingspan. Additionally, he showed an ability to attack off the dribble from the perimeter and finish Wednesday against San Antonio.

Bolden doesn’t hesitate receiving the swing pass from T.J. McConnell. He blows by Spurs center Jakob Poeltl off the dribble and finishes a finger roll with flair. While he’s not as bouncy or mobile as former Sixer Richaun Holmes, Bolden looks to possess good coordination, dribbling with his left, then finishing with his dominant hand. Bolden’s uptick in 3-point percentage, now sitting at 30.8 percent, ties into how he can win off the dribble.

Opposing big men will have to honor his shooting. In pick-and-pop situations, if a center paces for Bolden as he receives the feed, Bolden can assess the proximity between him and his defender and make an adjustment for dribble penetration. Contrasted to Mike Muscala, who seldom attacks, Bolden implementing some dribble drive into his offensive arsenal would add another dynamic in his approach.

I’ve been transfixed, to a point, on how Shamet would thwart closeouts. He warranted immediate attention as a catch-and-shoot off-ball guard and would benefit from an avenue when pressure affects his shot. Shamet, like Bolden, beat his man off the dribble en route for a layup Wednesday. Shamet plants with his left foot to begin momentum and coasts for a layup.

Ben Simmons does a tremendous job sealing off DeMar DeRozan to prevent DeRozan from rotating. Simmons is also one of the potential beneficiaries from Shamet forcing collapses from opposing teams. Shamet can bounce pass to a player in the dunker spot or shoot a floater. He has recently received time running point with a game out of reach and was Wichita State’s point guard last season; those play-making skills are worth exploring.

Given his shooting touch, Shamet could be an adept guard when attempting runners. The slender 6-foot-5 Shamet is competent finishing at the rim, shooting 64.4 percent from three feet and in, and his shooting provides another indication of his floater potential. The slashing aspect plays more into Shamet’s skill set than Bolden’s. If Philadelphia’s two rookies can progressively implement dribble penetration, Brown’s offense will be more formidable.