While the Philadelphia 76ers wait to see if Markelle Fultz and Zhaire Smith will ever pan out, a new star of the future has emerged out of this year’s rookie class.
Landry Shamet won’t win Rookie of the Year, but his production to this point can’t be ignored. In their 128-105 victory against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, Shamet finished with 16 points in just fifteen minutes, knocking down four out of five three point attempts.
The rookie from Wichita State, who was selected with the 26th overall selection in this year’s draft, has vastly exceeded expectations. Though not initially expected to have a prominent role in Brett Brown’s rotation, Shamet has carved a role for himself as an outside scorer, shooting an impressive 41% from beyond the arc.
To compare, Sixers’ resident sharpshooter J.J. Redick is converting his threes at roughly the same rate as Golden State Warriors sniper Klay Thompson. Shamet is shooting about 6% better than both of them. Fellow rookie Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks, who has drawn comparisons to Stephen Curry, is making a paltry 24% of his threes.
This isn’t to say that Shamet is a better player than any of the aforementioned players, though it’s hard to not be impressed by what he’s done thus far. Shamet’s true shooting percentage is fifth among all rookies. Three of the four players ahead of him are big men, and the fourth is Brooklyn Nets forward Rodion Kurucs, hardly a deep-range shooter.
When analyzing Shamet’s effectiveness, the numbers don’t lie. He has made 45% of his three-point attempts in the last five games, with only nine out of twenty-nine field goal attempts coming from inside the arc. It’s fairly clear what his role in the offense is.
Of course, Shamet isn’t perfect. He’s a bit of a liability on defense and isn’t a terrific passer. Fortunately, Brett Brown has found a way to maximize his strengths while the rest of his game catches up over time.
Once Zhaire Smith, a shooter in his own right, returns from the bizarre injury and peanut allergy hiatus that have cost him his rookie season, the 76ers should have a solid backcourt that can intimidate defenses from the outside while clearing the inside lanes for Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Jimmy Butler. If Markelle Fultz can re-emerge as the star he was expected to be when he was selected first overall, Philadelphia will have the best team in the East.
For now, Shamet is the impressive rookie draining shots from the wing and getting cocktails named after him in Philadelphia. After years of stumbling into pyrite in the first round, the 76ers seem to have struck gold.