Philadelphia 76ers: Landry Shamet is a dark horse ROTY candidate

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Are Philadelphia 76ers rookies cursed? Maybe but Landry Shamet is quietly putting together a dark horse campaign for Rookie of the Year. Yes, really.

Has there been a more surprising Philadelphia 76ers storyline to follow over the first 20 games of the 2018-19 NBA season than the unexpected arrival of Landry Shamet?

Yes, trading for Jimmy Butler, Markelle Fultz‘s current saga, and Zhaire Smith‘s sesame allergy all come to mind, but still, it’s hard not to be hopeful that the team hit a late first round pick out of the park, especially when many pundits believed Shamet wasn’t even worthy of a top-30 selection.

Brett Brown; you did good on this one.

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But just how good is Shamet playing so far this season, when compared to his fellow rookies? Statistically, pretty darn well.

Through the first quarter of the season, Shamet ranks 10th overall in points per game (8.2), seventh in steals (11), 12th in assists (23) and second in 3-pointers made (41-105). While none of these stats are particularly flashy, outside of maybe out shooting Trae Young, Mikal Bridges, and really everyone not named Luka Doncic from 3, the fact that the 26th overall pick in the draft is seriously punching above his weight class is impressive.

And if he continues to develop in his current role off the bench as a ‘mini-J.J. Redick‘ it’s not outside of the realm of possibility to imagine those numbers getting better and better moving forward.

A college point guard for the Wichita State Shockers, Shamet has almost exclusively been asked to play off-ball as a pro, typically logging about 21 minutes a night as the team’s reserve shooting guard/occasional small forward.

While having the foresight to identify a talented shooter playing out of position from a small college is pretty impressive, it’s worth wondering why the team hasn’t at least attempted to put the ball in Shamet’s hands more frequently. On paper, the 76ers are pretty desperate for secondary playmaking ability, especially after shipping point forward Dario Saric to Minnesota in the Butler trade. If Shamet can continue to knock down tres at a 39 percent clip and increase his assists per game, we could be looking at a very handy combo guard who could potentially serve as an heir to Redick’s role as the team’s starting shooting guard.

But even if that all does eventually happen, can Shamet seriously elevate his game enough to become a candidate for Rookie of the Year over the next 50-plus game? A candidate? Sure, but can he win it outright? Probably not.

Because of Shamet’s limited role, playing roughly 40-percent of any given game, it’s going to be hard for Landry to bruise past established full-time starters like Jaren Jackson Jr., Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, or Luka Doncic, even if his per-36 numbers are better than all of those players in one area or another.

No, at this point, it’s basically impossible to imagine the Sixers getting a Rookie of the Year two-peat, baring some sort of fantastic transformation, or a string of playing field-leveling injuries. However, unlike say Doncic, Bridges, SGA, and Young, it seems almost guaranteed that Shamet will get his first taste of post-season basketball next spring, and play some serious minutes for the Sixers as they attempt to represent the East in the 2019 NBA Finals.

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That experience, when coupled with some premium placements on All-Rookie teams look like great rewards for Landry Shamet’s efforts, as he’s quietly become an amazing asset for the Philadelphia 76ers as a 21-year-old rookie.