The Los Angeles Clippers were the talk of the NBA this summer. It’s still shocking that this team that was once the laughing stock of the league successfully seduced Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to their side of the city.
The transformation of the Clippers’ brand has been a point of emphasis since Steve Ballmer became owner, and the late-night acquisition of two of the game’s elite superstars (one of whom might be the best player in the league) was further evidence that the work has paid off. Big talent means big expectations. After the best offseason in team history, the Clippers are one of the few teams for whom you could say this is a “title or bust” season.
Considering the wattage of the big names on the roster, it might sound crazy to say that a second-year role player who averaged nine points a game last year could be pivotal to the team’s hopes of a title. But Landry Shamet could be that important to their ambitions.
Landry Shamet’s sudden ascent
Landry Shamet was as anonymous as an NBA rookie could be when he was drafted 26th overall by the Philadelphia 76ers, but he quickly found the role that will sustain him in the league.
He added a shooting touch and an off-ball threat to a Sixers team that desperately needed someone like him to augment the skill sets of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Shamet quickly solidified a spot in the rotation, playing about 20 minutes a game mostly off of the bench.
Landry Shamet quickly learned that the NBA is a business
As we all know, professional basketball is a business at the end of the day, and circumstances can change on the drop of a hat. He was one of several players suddenly traded to Los Angeles in exchange for Tobias Harris in a trade that no one saw coming.
Harris is a much more accomplished player than Landry Shamet, but some analysts questioned whether it was worth losing a contributing youngster on a low-cost deal in exchange for someone who was on an expiring contract at the time.
For Shamet, being traded to a team that, at the time, appeared as though they might be tanking to keep its draft pick in last year’s draft. It would’ve been understandable if he let his head drop after being discarded by the team that had initially shown faith in him. But that’s not what happened.
Shamet didn’t miss a beat on the floor. In fact, many of his averages – his minutes, three-point percentage, rebounds, and assists went up. He started most of the games after joining the team and played meaningful minutes the Clippers’ short-lived playoff run.
Now as the team gets ready for a title charge, his place in the rotation is up for grabs again. The Clippers have a lot of depth even though they threw much of their salary cap room at Leonard and George. Maurice Harkless, Rodney McGruder, and Jerome Robinson are also perimeter players who will be looking to compete for minutes on the floor. But none of them can shoot like Shamet.
A special and valuable skillset
Shooting ability is as important as it has ever been in the NBA. Landry Shamet has already shown elite potential at that skill, knocking down threes at a 42% clip in his rookie year. And with this being his second year in the league — the time where many players make their first big leap into becoming the player they will be in the league — who knows what other skills he has added this summer.
The Western Conference will be an absolute buzzsaw. The level of established talent throughout the conference is unreal. Teams with championship aspirations will not get out of the first round. At least one really good team won’t even make the playoffs.
If the Clippers are going to accomplish their goal and win the franchise’s first ring ever, they will need players like Shamet to perform all year, especially in May and June. So far, Landry Shamet hasn’t shown any reason to doubt that he can do just that.