Philadelphia 76ers: Through good and bad, Landry Shamet looks like a long-term piece

The Philadelphia 76ers got a potential gem in Landry Shamet with the 26th overall pick.

Most people expected the Philadelphia 76ers to walk out of the 2018 NBA Draft with Mikal Bridges and a few developmental pieces. When that didn’t happen, most were focused on the surprise — the Sixers making a long-term move, dealing away the hometown kid for a raw (but explosive) Zhaire Smith.

Now 23 games into the season, Smith hasn’t played a game yet. He’s currently working behind the scenes to recover from a broken foot, with complications related to a food allergy pushing his recovery timeline back further than expected.

The rookie curse and it’s fixation on the Sixers is strange, but to this point, Smith has been its only victim in 2018. The Sixers’ other first-round pick — Landry Shamet — continues to produce in important minutes off the bench.

On most competitors, Shamet probably doesn’t get the opportunity to play, much less consistent minutes. Part of that is the Sixers’ depth, but another is the fact that Shamet fills an important role. And, to this point, he’s filling that role at a high level.

Shamet was always an elite shooter in college, but his role was diametrically opposed to the role he now occupies. A point guard at Wichita State, Shamet now makes his living off the ball — curling around screens, darting to open space and knocking down spot-up jumpers.

The Sixers are a team reliant on shooters. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid make it a necessity, as one can’t shoot and the other thrives in the post. The Sixers can’t win without high-level shooters on the roster. It’s difficult to picture the second unit without Shamet’s presence.

It hasn’t been a flawless start for Shamet. He’s a dreadful defender who, due to limited physical tools, can’t contain more dynamic guards. He’s also prone to some down games, as is the case with most rookie guards.

But the latter portion is important: Shamet is a rookie guard, and expecting immediate, impact-on-winning basketball normally doesn’t end well. Shamet can have underlying flaws and still represent one of the Sixers’ most promising young assets.

Now 34 years old, J.J. Redick won’t be around forever. He’s currently the Sixers’ most important player outside Embiid, Simmons and Jimmy Butler. His ability to come off screens and drag defenders around the perimeter has become a staple in Brett Brown’s playbook.

The Sixers design several sets around Redick’s unique skill set, many of which put Embiid and Simmons in better positions to score. His gravity can’t be understated, and there’s a reason the offense took a step back when Markelle Fultz was starting.

Redick has defensive concerns of his own, but the Sixers would be hard-pressed to sustain their current offensive success without Redick — and that’s with Embiid and Butler anchoring the starting five.

That’s why cultivating Redick’s replacement is so important. Fans were clamoring for Kyle Korver, but now he’s off the table. And maybe that’s for the best. With the Warriors (and potentially Raptors) dominating the 2018-19 season, bringing along younger talent might have benefits when the Sixers’ title window really opens.

Shamet is shooting 39 percent from three-point range on 4.8 attempts per game. As The Athletic’s Jackson Frank pointed out, that number jumps to 42.6 percent if you remove the Memphis game, which occurred between Robert Covington‘s departure and Jimmy Butler’s arrival. He shot 1/11 in that game, but the circumstances were odd.

According to Cleaning The Glass, Shamet averages 124.1 points per 100 shot attempts, good for 95th percentile among comboguards. He doesn’t make a ton of mistakes either, ranking in the 100th percentile when it comes to turnover percentage.

The Sixers need, and always will need, a rotation littered with quality shooters. Shamet needs to improve his defense at some point, but right now, he’s a 21-year-old guard who’s still learning the NBA ropes in a brand new role.

His ability to pick up on the offensive minutiae — something Redick undoubtedly helped with — has been nothing short of impressive. He’s already making well-timed cuts, gunning around screens and thriving in dribble hand-offs.

A former college point guard and late first-round pick, Shamet looks like the heir apparent to J.J. Redick’s floor-spacing throne. For a Sixers team built around unique (and floor-compressing) stars, it’s hard to overstate how valuable that is.