From the collective pressure of his team’s widespread success this year and its fans, a diamond has formed over the past month for the Phoenix Suns, one with the number 14 carved into its side and with a quick-trigger jump shot.
Just this past offseason, Landry Shamet came to the desert in an exchange for Phoenix’s 2021 first-round draft pick and fan favorite Jevon Carter. General manager James Jones and the Suns front office pivoted to address what was a fatal flaw in the NBA Finals—lacking movement and shooting aside from Chris Paul and Devin Booker.
This move came in the spur of a moment, hours before the NBA Draft. But it illustrated Phoenix’s clear intentions to patch up their most glaring holes and the team’s growing outreach capabilities, as Monty Williams and Lead Assistant Kevin Young both had pre-existing relationships with Shamet stemming from their days with the Philadelphia 76ers. At one point a few years back, Williams even called Shamet the type of person he’d want his daughters to marry.
Prior to his reunion with Williams this past summer though, Shamet bounced around the league despite playing well at each stop. He may have played on four different teams across his past four seasons, but his relationship ties and skills will likely net him a true home here in the Valley.
Coming into tonight’s game, Shamet averaged just 8.1 points on 6.7 shots per game, while shooting 38.8 percent from the field and 37.6 percent from deep—all being career low marks. However, after taking some time to fully immerse himself into Monty’s system and learning to mesh his talents with those of his teammates, Shamet’s niche has (finally) become clear.
Through his first 45 games, Shamet averaged 7.4 points on 6.4 attempts per game. He also put up .370/.353/.852 shooting splits. But after the All-Star break, Shamet averaged 10.1 points on 7.6 attempts per game with .430/.430/.833 shooting splits.
His opportunities for more volume (and a longer leash) have come via varying absences of Phoenix’s three lead guards (Paul, Booker, Payne), but Shamet still proved himself extremely opportunistic and persistent in staying the course.
In this aforementioned stretch, his shooting numbers rank in the 88th percentile from deep overall, and the 86th percentile from above the break, where shot 25/57 (44 FG%).
When excluding “garbage time,” Shamet’s effective field goal shooting at 60.4 percent ranks in the 82nd percentile for a “wings,” according to Cleaning the Glass. That represents as +11.0 percent increase from the first half of the season.
This sharpshooter turned a corner, largely thanks to an uptick in touches to bolster his confidence, and even in larger part due to his increased involvement in the team’s operations.
The Suns frequently station Shamet on the weak side of primary actions, allowing him to play to his strengths as a catch-and-shoot threat who also attacks closing defenders. This works so well, as opposing teams usually need to load up with extra defenders while trying to stop the Phoenix’s three headed monster of Devin Booker, Chris Paul, and Deandre Ayton.
That all then tugs at the strings of an opposing team’s defensive help principles which puts them in a pinch with Shamet also on the floor. As someone who does an excellent job relocation after a drive and kick, sinking, or lifting to create off-script scoring opportunities, while also still hitting from his typical spots, Shamet thrives on the chaos of scrambling defenses.
“I mean, you know, ten people call you a donkey, buy a saddle,” said Williams postgame last week. “You got everybody telling him to shoot it man. He’s finally in a comfortable place where he’s like if I got it, I’m letting it go. And then he’s putting it down and getting to his midrange.”
Prior to tonight’s game, Shamet’s been shooting 48.6 percent on catch and shoot looks post All-Star break, which gives him +12.8 percent bump up in efficiency even on a higher frequency of attempts. His 3.7 points per game on 40.0 percent shooting via spot-ups ranks in the 83rd percentile as well.
As for Shamet’s movement shooting, he looks equally as hot moving around screens. After one is set, he averages 1.38 points per possession while shooting at a 55.3 percent clip. The frequency isn’t there, especially in comparison to other sharpshooters, but these numbers still portray his effectiveness when he does get a chance to let it fly.
Shamet’s pace when moving makes this abundantly clear. Never sitting still on the court, keeping up with him as he darts around at full speed, catches the ball, and then takes one step into his quick release is no easy task.
His pace in accordance with two of the Suns’ primary offensive actions also allows Phoenix to springboard additional ball handlers into play. Those two actions being their “Chicago” sets, where a pin-down screen off-ball leads to a dribble handoff, and then the Suns use their dribble handoff-to-ball screen actions.
In these scenarios, Shamet flies off, using his pace and tempo as a weapon in primary actions, oftentimes leading to a solid look at the rim or a chance to display his underrated playmaking skills. This offensive fluidity which Shamet brings to the table even prompted Williams to dial up a misdirection set for him to steal a win in overtime against the Sacramento Kings last Sunday.
This has all culminated in Shamet burying 37 triples in his first 16 games out of the All-Star break, clearly finding his stride at the most opportune time of the season, with a month left until the playoffs start. For context, it took him 21 games to reach that total to start the season.
Before Thursday’s game in Denver, he was on a torrid pace and it’s timely runs/efforts like these that make the Suns near-unbeatable.
His minutes may come sporadically as the games grow more meaningful in mid-April, especially considering how deep this Phoenix rotation is. However, expect Shamet to stay ready as a time on task guy whenever inserted into the game, as he has of late especially, and execute when the opportunities present themselves for him.