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So yeah, I don’t love the trade. Tobias Harris makes for a fun embarrassment of riches among our starting five but he doesn’t totally address what’s wrong with the team, the effect on our depth is ultimately value neutral, and I don’t get why we had to include three premier assets when two seems like it almost certainly would’ve done the trick. It feels like Elton lost the staredown here, and it’s the first time since Colangelo was ousted that we made a trade that I would be more excited to be other side of. If merely getting rid of Mike Muscala was the primary objective, then I kinda get it, but there were probably simpler ways of getting that part done.
Really though, I’m upset because of the one name I saw on my Twitter trending topics shortly after getting wind of the trade that pierced me right to my Process core: Landry.
Outside of the big guy, there’s no one on the team that I’ve enjoyed watching more this season than Landry Shamet. Over the however many years since the Process started -- I think we’re up to 14 now? -- you’d think that skill level aside, we’d have seen at least one of roughly every type of player there is to cycle through. But I can’t remember us having a Landry before: A combo guard with decent size who can shoot off the catch and off the dribble? Like a gigantic Isaiah Canaan? One that can actually kinda handle the ball, too? It can’t be done, I say!
But Landry broke the mold, and over his three-plus months in Philadelphia, he became first ever shooter who can also dribble and pull up in modern NBA history. I loved watching his swooping dribble. I loved his angled release. I loved his line-drive arc and the way the ball would just barely creep over the rim before it went in. I loved how it actually went in 40 percent of the time.
Everybody who watches basketball knows that there are three kinds of shooters: Dudes where you think it’s always going in (J.J. Redick), dudes where you think it’s never going in (Wilson Chandler), and dudes where you know it’s only going in if they have exactly enough time to do the full motion of their routine without being even slightly bothered and it isn’t that big a moment in the game (pretty much everyone else on the Sixers but especially Mike Muscala). Shamet was the first kind, and he was the first kind instantly. Once I saw the ball fly from his hands to the bottom of the net for the first time, I knew intuitively he would never miss again. His eight-three game felt fluky, but it also felt right, and frankly more than a little bit overdue.
And he was more. Not a lot more, but more. He could pass a little. He was an improving defender. (I swear! The Liberty Ballers dudes confirm!) His improved play, combined with Bolden’s emergence, I believed to be the second-biggest sneak cause for the Sixers’ recent resurgence, behind of course the Eagles finally losing and allowing for good things to happen to a different Philly sports team again. He had no personality, but he offered Sixers Twitter endless possibilities for quality Waluigi memes. (I never actually thought he looked anything like Spike, but I did enjoy how the comparison seemed to wear on him over the course of Shamet’s Sixers tenure.) I still think we should’ve continued to pronounce it “Sha-may.”
And he was a draft steal. Who was the last draft steal on the Sixers? Jrue Holiday? Lou Williams? Mo Cheeks? The recent history of the Sixers picking outside of the lottery is one of guys we rapidly talk ourselves into before giving up on them nearly as quickly (Furkan Korkmaz, Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot), guys who get good for another team (Maurice Harkless, Nikola Vucevic), and guys who our dunce GMs lust after and trade up for despite no evidence of them being future pros (Andzejs Pasecniks and Arnett Moultrie). There’s not a pick among them that got good, stayed good, and stayed a Sixer. That was gonna be Landry.
That’s what really hurts -- aside from the fact that we now only have two non-Simmons guards on this team and one of them finds shooting from over 12 feet away to be an act of immodesty. We’re not gonna get to see Landry grow into Newer, Younger, Cheaper J.J. He was already on his way: As infuriating as it was to see him get called for the offensive foul last night on his three-point kickout, I didn’t think the call was super-wrong and I wasn’t even mad at it, because 85% of the time that’s a defensive foul and a four-point play. He learned that from J.J.! I wanted to see another year of him as Redick’s understudy, shadowing his every move and eventually succeeding him as the Sixers’ two-guard. I’ll never believe it couldn’t have happened.
Now Landry’s gone, and it might be a long time till we get another one. We only just learned a player like him was physically possible, and we traded him after half a season, like he was K.J. McDaniels asking for a not-personally-insulting contract. When’s the next time we’re gonna get a late first-rounder who turns into a legit rotation guy almost right away? At this rate, when’s the next time we’re gonna get a late first-rounder, period? Elton’s got the taste for high-priced veteran blood now, so I could see him trading our top selection on draft night in June -- along with Zhaire Smith and the draft rights to Vasilije Micic -- for, who knows, Harrison Barnes somehow.
Which is not to say I’m not excited for Tobias Harris. I always liked Tobias, and I’ve greatly enjoyed watching him morph into efficient, low-usage Melo over the past season-plus. Him and Boban together seems like a trip. Mike Scott has the automatic advantage of doing Mike Muscala things while not actually being Mike Muscala. A buyout guard is likely coming. Paste the Nuggets on Friday and maybe I’ll be less weepy about losing a guy averaging an 8-1-1.
But I dunno man. Even if Landry flounders in L.A., of if he proves physically unable of weighing over 200 pounds, it’ll always hold onto the bitter belief that we had just the guy to eventually grow into our three-and-D wing spot and we dealt him out of a greed for frontcourt luxury goods. Start preparing the video tribute now for his return visit next year. I might have to look away as it rolls, though. It’s sad when they go so young.