Landry Shamet can shoot the basketball, this is no surprise. As a 6’5″ lead guard for Wichita State, Shamet shot 43.7% over 3 seasons in the NCAA on an average of 5 attempts per game. The questions about Shamet were never about his shooting, but rather if he could play good enough defense and play at the pace and speed of the NBA game. Eight games into his NBA career, he is showing maturity and decision making that is paying off in increased playing time for the Philadelphia 76ers.
On Monday night against the Atlanta Hawks, Shamet played nearly 25 minutes and scored 13, all while playing sound defense in a scheme that is totally different from what he played in college.
“Oh no, it’s completely different from what we played in college,” Shamet said when asked to compare his college and NBA schemes. He specifically cited switching and the rules logic associated with it as points of differentiation from the scheme at Wichita State.
On one particular defensive possession in the first half, Shamet seamlessly switched out on a ball handler who was trying to rub Markelle Fultz off him coming up the sideline out of the right corner. After picking up Fultz’ man, Shamet looked into a screener trying to rub him and fought through the screen to keep his man from turning the corner or taking the shot. The sequence was not a highlight you will see, but it showed quick and – more importantly – correct decision-making that kept the Sixers’ defense intact.
Switching logic, communication, and execution have been a particularly troublesome area for the Sixers so far this season, but Shamet seems to be picking the defensive rules up faster than one might expect.
“It all depends on the scouting report really. The coaches have been great at getting us prepared, and I just execute the scouting report,” said Shamet after the game.
After the home game against Atlanta on Monday night, Shamet talked about his willingness to play whatever role the team needs from him. “I played point guard in college, but here I will do whatever they need,” Shamet said. “If they need me to be a baby JJ, that’s fine.” He continued, “If I had gone to a place that needed point guards, I’d be fine playing that too; really, whatever the coaches need from me.”
Obviously, the 76ers have multiple options at point guard, both from a depth and stylistic standpoint. Ben Simmons is a 6’10” downhill power guard. Markelle Fultz is the sleepy crafty ball handler who likes to lull defenders into mistakes to get where he needs to be. TJ McConnell is the pitbull who pressures teams full court with a frenetic intensity. Landry Shamet is something more conventional, quick, decisive, and sound.
Questions and Answers
Foot speed, burst, and explosiveness were major question marks for Shamet leading up to the draft, and a big part of why he was available at 26 (and considered to be a reach by some) were questions around his ability to play at NBA speed. Those questions about being able to play up to speed seem to have, for the most part, been answered. He will not rise up and posterize elite rim protectors in traffic, but Shamet’s athleticism concerns seem to have been overblown.
This is particularly notable given some of the less visible struggles that Markelle Fultz has gone through this year. Brett Brown in the pregame press conference specifically called out Markelle’s defense as a point of emphasis coming into a matchup with Trae Young. While Markelle is making consistent strides in comfort offensively, his defensive awareness and decisions remain an area ripe for improvement.
Landry Shamet, meanwhile, continues to earn progressively more trust as well as the playing time that comes along with it. Over eight games, he is averaging 5.8 points per game on 35.5% shooting from beyond the arc. He has played more than 20 minutes in 4 of those 8 games and has scored in double figures twice.