No one expected Landry Shamet, the 26th pick in this year's NBA draft, to be playing big minutes for the 76ers this season.
Reasonable expectations would have been garbage-time minutes, a couple of chances here and there with injuries, and a lot of time spent practicing and playing in the G League. That's what coach Brett Brown expected when the Wichita State product was drafted.
"Truthfully, you've got to have some luck with a lot of things," Shamet said after the Sixers 121-120 home win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night. The team "having a couple injuries early allowed me to get that opportunity, and you have to take advantage of it."
With Zhaire Smith sidelined for the foreseeable future, an early season trade that left the Sixers undermanned for a couple of games, and the Markelle Fultz saga dragging on, Shamet has made the most of extended minutes, averaging 20.9 per game through the first 20 games of the season.
On Wednesday, he finished with a career-high 15 points off the bench to go with three rebounds, one assist, and one steal in his eighth double-digit scoring effort with the Sixers.
In addition to improved defense and being a reliable shooter from outside, Shamet has quickly gained the trust of his teammates. JJ Redick took Shamet under his wing in training camp, and the two swap ideas, discuss footwork, and talk about everything under the sun.
Redick's mentoring makes it easy to understand how Shamet has picked up a knack for sprinting around screens, drawing fouls on quick curls, and making the most of his time behind the three-point line.
Ben Simmons has noticed that he and Shamet share quiet but contemplative demeanors, and it's made him pay attention when the rookie has something to say.
"I feel like every time he does say something, it's important — something he wants to learn — or he has advice for somebody, or vice versa," Simmons said. "He's getting a lot better. I feel like he's similar to me, in terms of talking. You might not hear me too much, but when I do talk, it's always relevant."
It wasn't just Shamet's point total that stood out against New Orleans, Throughout the game, he demonstrated why Brown has trusted him with an extended role.
In the second half, he used a pointer from Simmons.
"I drew a foul when I curled in the second half, and [Simmons] had told me to do that earlier and I didn't," Shamet said. "So, I made that adjustment, curled, and got the foul call."
Later, Shamet looked like a seasoned veteran. With the ball in his hands at the three-point line and Anthony Davis closing in on him, Shamet stayed cool, pump-faked and side-stepped. Davis, trying to make up for falling for the pump fake, overcompensated, and the guard absorbed the contact, drawing a three-point shooting foul from the seven-year veteran.
"I'm a rookie, and I'm going to get everybody's best shot," Shamet said, "and they're going to try to get the mismatches on me. I know that."
Shamet knocked down all three of his free throws.
It was a moment beyond his years and far beyond the expectations. He'll say it himself, that he had no expectations this year. He was going to work hard, do exactly as he was told, and hope for the best.