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What happens to Landry Shamet in the new second unit?

Landry Shamet provided a unique element to the Clippers’ offense earlier in the season, but new additions have marginalized his production.

Los Angeles Clippers v Boston Celtics Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

Perhaps no individual Clipper has had his role fluctuate as much this season as Landry Shamet, at least among the rotation players.

Shamet began the year as a starter, subbing in for Paul George as he recovered from offseason shoulder surgery. Before George returned, Shamet suffered his own ankle injury. Once Shamet was healthy, he was in and out of the starting lineup depending on who was available, his minutes ranging from 14 to over 40.

During the preseason, there was an idea that Shamet could be the fifth starter alongside Patrick Beverley, George, Kawhi Leonard, and Ivica Zubac. Ultimately, the Clippers felt more comfortable with Moe Harkless in that role, though Shamet was a more regular fixture in fourth quarters than Harkless. Once Marcus Morris Sr. arrived at the trade deadline, Shamet’s place in the second unit was assured.

Even within the second unit, Shamet has had varying responsibilities. The team touted Shamet’s point guard skills over the summer, given that he played a lot of one at Wichita State, and promised to utilize the sharpshooter both on and off the ball. Nevertheless, Shamet’s usage has remained very low (he’s finished only 12.3% of possessions with a shot, turnover, or assist), and with the addition of Reggie Jackson, Shamet’s turn as lead guard has come and gone.

Jackson has been a boon to the second unit, specifically Lou Williams’ offense, but Shamet hasn’t seen a corresponding spike in his offensive efficiency. It’s likely that this is of little consequence to Shamet, considering the Clippers are 6-0 since Jackson joined the bench mob and have been absolutely mauling opponents in the process. The new five-man second unit of Jackson, Williams, Shamet, JaMychal Green, and Montrezl Harrell is outscoring the opposition by 38.7 points per 100 possessions; the fact that Shamet is only shooting 37.9% from the field in that time and 36% from 3-point range isn’t really a cause for concern.

For much of the year, Doc Rivers has said that a good indicator of how the ball is moving on offense is how many shots Shamet is getting. If the Clippers are running their sets and moving the ball from side to side, Shamet’s motion off the ball will naturally lead to a lot of looks, generally open ones. But Shamet isn’t starting, his shot volume is down, and the Clippers’ offense is still firing on all cylinders.

That begs the question: what is the best way to optimize Landry Shamet on this current Clippers roster?

At the beginning of the year, LA needed Shamet’s shooting. With George out, Leonard was the only other above-average shooter in the starting five, and he can’t create his own spacing while he’s isolating. It made sense to tie Shamet and Leonard’s minutes together, and two had a net rating of plus-14.6 together, per, before the trade deadline.

Now the Clippers have multiple shooters who have to be respected by defenses, including Jackson and Morris, whose 30% mark on 3-pointers as a Clipper hasn’t prevented opponents from closing out to him beyond the arc. Both of those players offer a little more defensive versatility than Shamet as well. George’s return to the lineup also makes Shamet less necessary.

That means Shamet has essentially settled in as a second-unit sniper, a role he seems largely overqualified for, considering how important he was for the team’s offense at the end of last season and the start of this one. But until his passing picks up (his assist percentage his 8.3%) or he becomes a better defender (minus-0.37 defensive RPM), the Clippers have other options to replicate Shamet’s shooting production.

Shamet’s movement within the halfcourt and his gravity as a shooter are still high-level skills that make him a valuable offensive player in any situation. There will assuredly be opportunities to further maximize Shamet within this new roster construction.

For now, Shamet has been an odd man out. Just another duty he’s had to fill this season.

What role do you think Landry Shamet should have in the Clippers rotation? We’d love to hear.