After seven long games, Phoenix Suns guard Landry Shamet made his return to the Phoenix lineup on Saturday night against the Utah Jazz.
He doesn’t know when the concussion occurred, because the only symptom Shamet had after his performance against the Portland Trail Blazers on November 5 was a tight neck.
He played in two more games, noting, “As symptoms came up, it was over time,” Shamet said. “It was really, really strange. I’ve never experienced anything like that. A lot of it was, ‘(It was) a couple days ago. Why am I feeling it now?’”
“It got my attention, definitely got my respect,” he added. “One of the days it was like, ‘Whoa, this is real.’”
He entered concussion protocol and rolled with punches, doing what he could to get right. No computer screens. Daily check-ins with the medical staff. Avoiding the arena, the team, and watching games. Concussions can be a scary thing, and for those of you who have experienced them, you know that being at the mercy of your brain function is terrifying.
“You can get a lot of surgeries after you’re done playing on your knees, ankles, joints, bones, whatever — but you got one brain and one heart,” he said.
On November 25, it appeared Shamet turned the corner. He felt well enough to play.
"I feel really, really good. Progressing back. I'm excited to get back going here tomorrow, hopefully."— Duane Rankin (@DuaneRankin) November 25, 2022
Landry Shamet (concussion protocols) as he hopes to play tomorrow against Utah.
Will miss his 7th straight game tonight against #Pistons. #Suns pic.twitter.com/NU9xHulUCl
Shamet returned and played fifteen minutes against the Jazz scoring 2 points on 1-of-2 shooting, recording a block, a steal, a turnover, and two fouls. Kudos to Landry. He fought back to get here. It wasn’t easy.
And now the questions begin.
What will Shamet’s return do to Monty Williams’ rotations? Who loses their minutes? How effective will the second team unit be? Does this benefit Phoenix long term? Let’s answer some of those.
The primary beneficiary of Shamet’s absence was Duance Washington, Jr., who averaged 14.9 minutes over the seven games Landry was out. He poured in 8.6 points, shot 34.5% from beyond the arc, and added 1.4 assists.
Suns got something with Duane Washington Jr, not many guys can make plays like this on this team besides Book. pic.twitter.com/SSc7QKjqJu— RB (@RyB_311) November 15, 2022
When bench players perform as such, especially unexpectedly, the fanbase gets excited. They get attached. And they believe that, based on that player’s performance, they should continue to see minutes.
That isn’t the case.
Monty Williams will continue to play Shamet. And he must.
First off, he needs to allow him repetitions to get back into game shape. Landry was having a solid start to the season prior to his concussion. He averaged 7 points, 40% from the field, 36.4% from deep, and 1.2 assists.
What you don’t see in the statistics is his level of intensity on defense.
Sure, you can point to his defensive rating of 99.0, but it doesn’t truly quantify his hustle, mobility, and ability to pester the opposition while on the defensive side of the ball. While his shooting hasn’t been best-in-class, his defensive dedication garnered 16.3 minutes with the confines of Monty‘s rotations.
The Phoenix Suns are paying Landry Shamet $9.5M to play basketball this year. I’m sure we all love the two-way player that is Duane Washington, Jr., but at the end of the day James Jones is paying to see him play.
What is beneficial about Shamet‘s contract is it is one that is highly tradeable. It is a “connector” contract, if he will. If the Suns are looking to make any type of move this season – and seeing that Jae Crowder is not with the team would suggest that they are – adding a contract like Landry Shamet‘s to the fray will only increase the return of a transaction.
Who wants a player who’s sitting on the bench? Not only can the Suns benefit from what Shamet brings to the table, it also has the ability to increase his value.
Think back to last season. Jalen Smith spent the majority of his time on the pine. When he did get opportunities, he performed, thus increasing his value. When it came time for James Jones to reacquire Torrey Craig for Jalen Smith, Indiana was all in on it. They had seen him perform in a manner that has garnered him a starting position on the roster.
The same could potentially be said about Landry Shamet.
If the Suns let him play, it does nothing but benefit the team. Let’s say that he doesn’t perform well. Let’s say that his trade value actually drops because he comes out and can’t hit a three, can’t defend, and can’t perform. Guess what? They have Duane Washington, Jr. on the bench if need be.
So anyone who thinks DWJ should get minutes over Landry Shamet needs to stop it.
We need to understand that it is going to take Landry some time to get acquainted with the physical toll of a regular season basketball game. He needs some time to get his legs underneath him. His shot may falter over the next couple of weeks. It’s part of the process.
It’s worth the wait. Not to sound all Philly, but trust the process.
Shamet adds depth to a guard rotation that needs it, especially with Chris Paul sidelined with a heel injury. He can play make – something he did extensively at Wichita State – and when his legs are back, he is a deep ball threat.
The depth of this roster is what will allow Phoenix to sustain their standing in the Western Conference. A top four seed is desired, allowing you home court advantage through two rounds. Don’t fret Suns fans. We’ll see Duane Washington, Jr. again. Monty always rotates guys in and out over stretches of games in an effort to keep the entire 15-man roster engaged.
And if we don’t see DWJ, it’s because Landry Shamet is playing his ass off, increasing his trade value, and helping this team be successful. At the end of the day, that’s what we all want.