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Landry Shamet isn’t afraid to shoot, and the Sixers will keep on letting him | David Murphy

Landry Shamet has been one of the most productive rookies in the NBA this season. He's also been exactly what the Sixers have needed.

Landry Shamet hasn't hesitated to shoot. It might be saving the Sixers season.
Landry Shamet hasn't hesitated to shoot. It might be saving the Sixers season.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

He was at a low point when his head coach pulled him aside. This was in Miami, mid-November, one month into a rookie season that none of them had thought would unfold this way. Landry Shamet had spent the previous night drawing more iron than a nurse in a hemochromatosis clinic, missing 10 of the 11 shots he'd attempted from three-point range. The 76ers had dropped a 112-106 stinker to the Grizzlies, and, yeah, he could do the math.

"I was pissed," Shamet said. "It was terrible. I couldn't remember the last time I'd done that."

But the following day, when the Sixers gathered as a team after a late-night flight to south Florida, Brett Brown pulled the lanky first-year guard aside for a brief one-on-one chat.

"You know what the best thing was about last night?" the Sixers head coach said, according to Shamet. "You missed 10 threes and you kept shooting."

It's a mentality that has served Shamet well throughout his playing career, and this season, it is one that has played a steadying role in the upheaval the Sixers have experienced throughout the first quarter of their schedule. With three of their top six opening-night scoring options either playing for a different team or doing whatever Markelle Fultz is doing, Shamet has found himself occupying a far more significant role in the rotation than the Sixers envisioned when they drafted him at No. 26 in June. Through 23 games, two of them starts, the former Wichita State star is averaging 21.2 minutes per night while shooting .393 from three-point range.

While it might be overdramatic to label Shamet a savior, it is also difficult to envision where the Sixers would be without the rookie's ability to rip off his warm-ups and knock down shots whenever JJ Redick exits the court. The addition of Jimmy Butler obviously has added a new scoring dimension, but it came at the expense of two of their three most prolific long-range shooters, an aspect of the game that remains a critical complement to the skill sets of their three rim-attacking stars.

Shamet's role in filling that void has been one of the most important developments of the 15-8 start, which has the Sixers sitting in third place in a resurgent Eastern Conference playoff field.

"He's come in and really claimed a stake in his importance and his role in this team," Brown said. "And, by and large, he's delivered and certainly, from my vision line, exceeded expectations."

>> READ MORE: Three takeaways from the Sixers' laugher against the Knicks

Shamet's teammates are aware, and they aren't afraid to let him know. In the Sixers' win over the Knicks on Wednesday night, there was a moment early in his first shift when he caught a pass above the three-point line and did not look to shoot. The reluctance did not escape the notice of Ben Simmons, who urged the rookie to be more assertive next time.

"I know why I'm here, I know my role," Shamet said. You've just got to keep buying into that and doing the things you are doing, at least being a threat, so teams have to defend you on that way."

Shamet's embrace of that mentality is born out by the numbers. Only 24 players in the NBA are shooting three-pointers more frequently, with an average of one attempt every 10.3 possessions. That's a nearly identical rate to the one that former Sixers bench shooter Marco Belinelli has posted this season for the Spurs. It's also tops in a rookie class that includes prolific shooters like Trae Young and Luka Doncic.

"The way he's responded to off nights I think is sort of the way that vets respond to off nights," said Redick. "He's got a mental toughness and a confidence about him that will be a huge asset for him in his career and a huge asset for us this season."

Case in point was that night in Memphis, when Shamet shot 2 of 13 from the field and 1 of 11 from three-point range. Growing up, he'd always beaten himself up after rough nights, sometimes to a point where the resulting mental bruises would carry over into subsequent games. But in the nine games since the loss to the Grizzlies, he has connected on 19-of-38 attempts from long range, an efficiency that remains evident in all parts of his game (he has 25 assists and just 11 turnovers this season).

"I still am really hard on myself," he said, "but it was almost to a detriment back when I was younger."

Now, it is nothing of the sort. In fact, it has been exactly what the Sixers need.

>> READ MORE: Would the Sixers be better served trading Markelle Fultz to Phoenix?