The absence of Phoenix Suns’ All-Star guard Devin Booker in the starting lineup for a four-game stretch due to health and safety protocols may have benefitted the team in more ways than we initially thought possible. The team went 3-1 during that stretch, downing the Portland Trail Blazers, New York Knicks, and Orlando Magic. Their only loss was a tight game against the defending NBA Champion Milwaukee Bucks. In short, the team played extremely well despite being without Booker.
One player who saw plenty of opportunity during this timeframe was 4th-year guard Landry Shamet. There has been a tumultuous relationship thus far this season with Shamet, a player who I personally had high hopes for prior to the season.
The marriage between Shamet and the Suns mirrored the courtship of couples on the Netflix show Love is Blind. Don’t lie. You’ve seen it. If you have a significant other at home, you know what this is. You might not admit it, but you sat down and got lost in some episodes.
Like in Love is Blind, Landry sat in one pod across from the Suns in another pod, both staring at a wall between them, but talking about their wants and needs. The Suns wanted a three-point specialist, someone who could drop bombs from deep, and do so with great efficiency. Landry wanted security and money. Before Landry had ever played one minute of basketball with Phoenix, the team signed him to a 4-year, $42.5M extension.
The doors opened and they ran to embrace each other. It was a relationship made in heaven. They were perfect for each other. Or so we thought.
From that point on, however, Landry Shamet hasn’t held up his end of the deal. Through his first 48 games this season, Shamet was shooting a career low 34.9% from beyond the arc. That is 2.6% worse than his previous low. His overall FG% of 36.7% was easily the worst of his career as well. 7.3 points-per-game? You guessed it. Worst.
It is safe to say that returns on the Landry Shamet deal have been less than optimal. James Jones acquired Shamet with the hope that he would fulfill a specific role: that of a two guard who could provide consistent scoring off of the bench in the minutes in which Devin Booker wasn’t in the game. Although Landry has had sparks of competency – he had 19 points in game 7 against the Houston Rockets – the overall sentiment on Suns Twitter is that the Landry Shamet experiment had failed.
When news broke that Devin Booker would be out with health and safety protocols (again) it was Landry Shamet who would take his place in the starting lineup.
When you are down both Chris Paul and Devin Booker, the asset that you signed prior to the start of the season had to step up. Landry would get his shot in a starting role for a week, and it was this opportunity that he needed to prove not only to loyal Suns fans, but to himself, that he was worth the money James Jones had bestowed upon him.
The phrase, “consistently inconsistent” is one used to describe Landry throughout the season. In the span of four games, he provided a sense of consistency that we all have been waiting for.
During the four games in which he started in Booker’s absence, Landry Shamet has nearly doubled his points-per-game output as he averaged 14.0 points. He shot 50% from beyond the arc and 42.5% from the field, which aligns with the Landry the Suns’ heard in the Love is Blind pod.
Overall as a starter this season Landry has performed much better than as a bench player:
- Starter: 11.7 points, 45.0 3PT%, 39.3 FG%
- Reserve: 6.8 points, 33.7 3PT%, 36.5 FG%
This is something to keep an eye on as Devin Booker returns.
When The Timeline Podcast had ESPN personality, former NBA player, and Suns truther JJ Redick on as a guest two weeks ago, Redick noted that Landry Shamet has, for the majority of his pre-professional career, been a ball-handling playmaker. Simply look at his statistics at Wichita State.
He performed in a point guard role, and although he was their primary scorer, it is he who had the ball in his hands the majority the time. While we generally think of Shamet as a Redick-type of player, perhaps that’s not truly who he is. Perhaps the role of three-point specialist is something he is still growing into in his fourth year in the NBA.
That being said, he was brought to this team to fill the three-point specialist role. His shot has been shaky throughout the season, but with more playing time, he has displayed more confidence in his shot. This was capped off by his performance against the Orlando Magic on Tuesday night. It was Landry Shamet who was throwing daggers for the first time this season.
With Devin Booker‘s return and Landry‘s relegation to the bench we can only hope that the minutes he was provided as a starter will boost his confidence and translate to his minutes as a reserve. Perhaps this four game stint has turned the tide for Landry Shamet this season, for if it has, the Suns become an even tougher out in the NBA.
Their roster is already deep and have been winning despite having Landry’s inconsistent services off the bench. You have Cam Johnson. But imagine a world in which Landry Shamet is also dropping three-pointers as often as Netflix drops Love is Blind spinoffs. You become damn near unbeatable.
Time will tell if Landry has turned the corner and finally has seen the light. That’s a surefire way to know that love isn’t blind.