Landry Shamet knows how fortunate he was to be selected No. 26 overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in this year’s NBA draft. His game fits perfectly with the 76ers and he gets to play significant minutes on a 21-12 team that’s currently in the Eastern Conference’s third seed. On top of that, Shamet has a lot of young teammates, which isn’t typically the case for a rookie on a contending team.
The 21-year-old is averaging 8.3 points and 1.9 made three-pointers in 20.8 minutes per game while shooting 44.4 percent from the field and 41.6 percent from beyond the arc.
HoopsHype caught up with Shamet to discuss his transition to the NBA, his first impression of Philadelphia and much more in this exclusive Q&A.
Not many rookies get to begin their NBA career by playing 20-plus minutes on a contending team. What has that been like and how much can you learn from an experience like this?
Landry Shamet: I have to pinch myself and remind myself how lucky I am to be in the situation that I’m in. Not only am I a rookie playing on a contending team, I’m being trusted to play meaningful minutes. I’m also fortunate to have teammates who are begging me to shoot the ball and getting on me if I don’t shoot. I’m blessed and lucky to have ended up in this situation in Philly. Finding the right fit is huge during the NBA draft process and I couldn’t have found a more perfect fit than Philly so far. I’m learning a lot. You’re held to a certain standard when you’re on a team that’s trying to be one of the best in the East. I’m just trying to play my best basketball and trying to help the team reach all of our long-term goals.
There are some players who have been in the NBA for a long time and they’ve never been to the playoffs. Barring something crazy happening, it seems like you’re going to experience the postseason as a rookie and get a lot of playoff experience early in your career.
LS: Yeah, that’s where everybody wants to be. Being a competitor, you want to play in the postseason and go as deep in the playoffs as you can. With the team we have, if we continue to grow and improve upon a couple of things that we have the ability to improve, I think there’s no reason why we can’t advance [in the postseason] and go as far as we want to go. That will be very exciting and a cool rookie year experience that, hopefully, I’ll be able to have.
You mentioned that your teammates have been telling you to shoot the ball more. You have been shooting more over the course of the season and your three-point percentage has improved too. It was 35.5 percent in October and it’s been between 45 percent and 48 percent in November and December. Is that just a matter of getting more comfortable and listening to your teammates?
LS: I’m not sure; I didn’t realize that. My approach never changes. My job, my whole approach, has just been to buy into my role as quickly as possible, and [my role] is to knock down open looks, be a threat to space the floor and be solid defensively. I’m just trying to make my open looks.
If I come off the floor and my teammates think I was open or I had a window, that’s when they will tell me to shoot. If I don’t shoot it, they’ll get on me and say, “Hey, you were open. You need to shoot the ball.” It’s not like they’re telling me to shoot and I’m like, “Okay, I need to go shoot 10 threes.” It’s more about taking the looks that come to me and being aggressive in those situations. It’s nothing too crazy, but [it’s nice] that they empower me to shoot and that I have the freedom to let it fly as a young player. I hear it every day, not only from them but also from the coaching staff. It just makes life a little bit easier.
Sometimes, rookies will come into the league and they’ll struggle with the NBA three-point line, but that obviously hasn’t been an issue for you. What was that adjustment like for you, or have you always practiced from NBA three-point range?
LS: I think before the draft, I was a little [concerned]… I wouldn’t say I was “worried” about it because shooting is something I’ve been doing my entire life. But I thought it would be [tougher]. It is an adjustment obviously, but then I went back to watch film from college and I realized that a lot of the threes I took throughout the season were three-to-four feet from behind the college three-point line anyway. Because of that, it wasn’t that big of an adjustment. Now, I guess it’s just kind of natural for me.
A lot of young shooters talk about watching JJ Redick since his form is great, he can shoot from anywhere and he’s terrific at moving without the ball and shooting off screens. Is JJ someone you studied before entering the NBA and how helpful has he been now that you’re teammates?
LS: I used to watch him and admire how he shot the ball, and I’ve always viewed him as one of the best shooters in the league. That’s still how I view him now. That’s just another plus of this situation, of being in Philly, because I get to work with him every day and learn from him. He’s taught me a ton of stuff every day, whether I’m just watching him or I’m guarding him or I’m working out with him. No matter what we’re doing, there’s always something I can take away and learn.
It seems like you’ve had a pretty smooth transition to the NBA, but is there anything that surprised you or anything that was really difficult as you adjust to the professional level?
LS: My biggest adjustment was definitely on the defensive end. I’ve been learning on that end, night in and night out. There are no nights off where you get to guard someone who isn’t capable [of scoring], unlike in college sometimes. That’s been the biggest adjustment for me. Offensively, I just approach things the same way: I’ll take whatever comes to me and I try not to force anything. Defense has definitely been the biggest adjustment so far.
I know the travel can be really tough when you aren’t used to it. Is there anything off the court that’s been difficult about the transition?
LS: Travel hasn’t been too bad for me. I feel like I’ve handled that pretty well. I think the biggest off-court adjustment has just been not having my family around. I was spoiled in college because I was so close to home, so I used to see my family pretty often. Now, I sometimes go months without seeing my mom, my grandparents and my aunts and uncles. That’s been the toughest part of the adjustment. And there’s so much downtime, so much free time, so you kind of feel alone sometimes. I just don’t have family around as much as I’m used to. But that’s part of it, and I think that’s getting better and easier for me as well.
The fans in Philadelphia are so passionate and they’re so happy right now after years of rebuilding. What’s been your first impression of Philadelphia and the fans?
LS: The city is really cool. It’s a blue-collar city and it’s full of really good, caring people. The fan interaction off the court has been great. When I’m out in public, people will say, “What’s up?” They’ll yell at me to keep shooting and all that. It’s just been really cool. Everybody has been so supportive and super passionate. They all have opinions on what we need to be doing. It’s cool that the whole city is super engaged and locked in on this season. Philly has a lot of flavor and character and personality that I’m starting to get a feel for.
You got an introduction to the business side of the NBA when the blockbuster trade for Jimmy Butler went down. What was it like experiencing that deal, and what’s it been like playing with Jimmy so far?
LS: Yeah, that was my first trade and it was kind of crazy how it all went down. Everything moves so quickly. And after the trade was made, you see how everything just goes on, business as usual, without a couple guys. I think it was good for me to see something like that and to understand how that all works.
As for playing with Jimmy, he’s been great. He’s a great teammate. He coaches me up a ton and I’m all ears. He has a lot of advice to offer and he’s someone I’m definitely going to listen to. He loves to joke around and mess around. He’s obviously been a huge addition on the court, but even in our locker room with the character of our team, he’s been a good addition off the court too.
You gave up your jersey number, No. 23, to Jimmy when he arrived. How attached were you to your number and how did that conversation go down?
LS: (Laughs) It’s just a number. I wasn’t too worried about it. It wasn’t that big of a deal. I figured it would happen. It’s all good.
Another positive of being with the Sixers is that there are a lot of players who are around the same age as you. There are nine other players who are 24 years old or younger. Sometimes, a rookie will be by far the youngest player in the locker room and everyone else is a veteran with a wife and kids – especially when you’re a rookie on a contending team. However, you have a bunch of guys who are at the same point of their life as you. How nice is that?
LS: That’s huge too. Having a lot of guys you can relate to is huge. It makes the NBA transition easier when you have guys you can talk to who are considered veterans but they’re only a year or two older than you. You can get good advice from those guys. It’s a really cool dynamic. I was expecting to come into the NBA and be in a locker room full of a bunch of older guys. But we have a younger vibe, a younger feel in our locker room.
You mentioned loving your fit with Philadelphia and how you couldn’t have landed in a better situation. What was going through your head on the night of the 2018 NBA Draft and what was that moment like when your name was called?
LS: Going into draft night, you may think you have an idea of what’s going on, but nobody in the building knows what’s going to happen. There’s so much that can happen leading up to your pick. It was crazy; it was like a rollercoaster. It was one of the best days of my life. That day, I think I ate the least amount of food of any day in my life. I just couldn’t eat anything, I couldn’t stomach anything. I was feeling really high-strung, really anxious, really excited. I think I felt every single emotion that’s humanly possible that day. Hearing my name called was incredible, I can’t even put into words how I felt. It was the culmination of all my progress and everything I had done leading up to that point. [My dream] was fulfilled and it was just… To experience that and have all my family and friends there, it was really cool.
I’ve heard many great stories about Monty Williams and the connections he forms with his players. He’s currently an assistant coach in Philadelphia. What’s it like to play for him and learn from him?
LS: Working with him every day has been great. Today after practice, he was sitting around and talking with us, telling stories about his experiences in the NBA for 20-30 minutes after practice was over. That’s the cool part. We can just sit and talk. It doesn’t always have to be him talking at me or coaching me, we can just talk. He shares stories and talks about his experiences in a completely laid-back manner. There are also times where he’s going to get on me and he is going to coach me hard. He’s been great. I’m incredibly blessed to work with him, not only because he has an incredible basketball mind, but because of the caliber of human being that he is. I genuinely enjoy going into work every day and listening to him and hearing what he has for me.
Brett Brown also builds strong relationships with his players. What’s it like to play for him?
LS: He’s been great. He’s another guy who I can just sit with and we’ll eat lunch and talk about stuff. We’ve talked about everything from basketball to his time living in Australia and all of his experiences out there. He’s a very wise man too. He’s very good at connecting with people. He’s hard on me and he expects a lot from me, but he does a good job of pulling me aside and talking to me as well. We have really good conversations about why he’s telling me something. I could on and on about him, but he’s been great. That’s one thing I always say about the Sixers organization: I feel like everybody I work with, everybody on the staff, is just a high-character person. It starts from the top down. Brett sets the tone, and he’s one of the best guys I’ve been around.
Have you had a welcome-to-the-NBA moment?
LS: I’ve had a few. There are little things that happen throughout the course of games. Against New Orleans, I got caught on a switch with Anthony Davis and I just ended up fouling him. You have these scenarios here and there where something happens and you do something that you maybe shouldn’t have done and you immediately learn from it, but you feel stupid for even doing it. But that’s just part it, I guess. You just have to learn from it.