So what if it’s only preseason? All aboard the hype train for Phoenix Suns’ new acquisition Landry Shamet!
Watching the 4th year guard play on Monday night — yes, I watched it, although I won’t say how — generated excitement for what lies ahead for both the player and the team this upcoming season. Shamet received the nod as the starting shooting guard with Devin Booker taking the preseason affair off. And while we shouldn’t expect to see Landry fill the starting role with regularity, knowing that his offense skillset will translate to the Phoenix Suns has me giddy inside.
Since the emergence of Devin Booker in his sophomore season, which was 5 years ago in the 2016-17 season, the Suns have had a massive hole in the roster behind him. I’m talking about the size of the Kola Superdeep Borehole. That season saw a 10-years-past-his-prime Leoandro Barbosa serve as the primary backup for Booker with Brandon Knight, rookie Derrick Jones, Jr., and Ronnie Price filling the gap.
The list of sub-par backup two guards has continued season after season. Troy Daniels. Daniel House. Shaq Harrison. Jamal Crawford. Elie Okobo. Tyler Johnson. Ty Jerome. Cameron Payne. Jevon Carter. Langston Galloway. Hell, even Jimmer Fredette played 53% of his 65 minutes as a Phoenix Suns in the role of backup shooting guard.
We saw plenty of point guards trying to fill the gap while Booker was catching a breather. I’m not faulting their effort, but the truth is in the results. No one consistently and effectively filled the role.
The Suns have always needed sustained scoring while their best scoring option caught his breath and prepared to perform in the important minutes in the game. Enter Landry Shamet.
The marriage between the Phoenix Suns and Landry Shamet is a beautiful one. Shamet is a true shooting guard. While Phoenix has had their issues filling the space behind Booker, Shamet has had his own challenges relative to usage.
Last season with the Brooklyn Nets, he found himself playing shooting guard just 43% of the time. 10% of his minutes were allocated to the point guard position and 42% were at small forward. The dude is 6’4”...
It’s a trend that has occurred his entire career. The Los Angeles Clippers used him 77% of the time at small forward in 2018-19. The Philadelphia 76ers played him just 38% of the time at shooting guard.
Teams weren’t using him at small forward for the fun of it, they were doing it out of necessity. There are reasons for using Landry out of position, injuries and small-ball coaching philosophies at the top of that list.
It appears that, for Shamet, he finally has found a team that will use him in a way that will allow him to maximize his effectiveness. He excels scoring coming off of screens, using his explosiveness and quickness to beat defenders to a spot. That’s hard to do when you are playing against opposing small forwards who use physicality to their advantage.
Which brings me to Monday night.
We had an opportunity to see Landry use his skills to create shots as well as generate offense for his teammates. The most notable attribute he displayed was that quick first-step, beating defenders with agility and speed. I don’t care if it’s the preseason. These are signs of what is to come.
His final statline in the game-that-doesn’t-count was 13 points (which tied with Jalen Smith to lead all Suns’ scorers) on 5-of-11 shooting, including 2-of-6 from deep. Add 3 assists, 2 rebounds, 2 steals, and just 1 turnover. The highlight of the night came when he setup fellow new Sun JaVale McGee for a tough lay in.
Seeing Shamet wearing number 14 — last worn by Chieck Diallo — delighted my soul. I truly believe that he will be a fantastic asset for the Phoenix Suns. Will he spend 100% of his time at shooting guard? Much akin to the rest of his career, he won’t. His experience playing the small-ball three will allow flexibility for Monty Williams as he navigates the 82-game regular season that lies ahead.
With experienced players like Cameron Payne and Elfrid Payton coming off of the bench as well, I’m quite sure we’ll see some three-guard lineups in our future.
The addition of Shamet, a career 39.7% three-point shooter, creates yet another way this Suns team can defeat their opponents. His smooth shot was on display in Sac Town for all to see. Well, outside of the Phoenix market, that is.
Sustained scoring when Booker is on the bench? Check. Monday night was just a preview of things to come for Mr. Shamet and the Phoenix Suns.