#byHOPZ: Landry Shamet is on the rise ‼️

I’m regrettably late to link up my latest story for SLAM, but today so happens to be great timing.

Landry Shamet, 21-year-old Sixers sharpshooting rookie, drained 8 treys (on just 14 attempts) in Philly’s 132-115 win over the Wizards on Tuesday. To give this some perspective, in just over 23 minutes of court time, Shamet doubled his previous career-high of 4 three-pointers. He also connected on 5-5 free-throws for a career-high 29 points. The man was en fuego last night.

He’s been one of the League’s most efficient shooters this season, filling a huge need in Philly’s rotation. When Shamet’s hot, the Sixers have been close to unbeatable. In games where he’s hit 3 or more three-pointers this season, Philly is 9-1. Long-term, there’s no question in my mind that the No. 26 overall pick will be considered a top-15 player in the 2018 Draft if he continues on this trajectory.

For a reporter, Shamet is the perfect interview. Last November, he spoke to me in detail about growing up in Kansas City, MO, with a single, working mother. How they lost their apartment after filing for bankruptcy during the recession. How he had to become self-sufficient at a young age.

In high school, he was overlooked as a prospect, but continued to focus on making the right plays, not necessarily the highlight plays. He still carries that attitude of being disrespected and overlooked to this day.

Here’s an except of the story, which ran on SLAMonline.com on December 18:

By age 8, Landry Shamet had learned how to take care of himself. The only child of a single mother, Shamet would often be home alone while his mother, Melanie, worked long, odd hours. By the second grade, he carried his own key around his neck to school, locking his apartment’s door behind him.

Despite Melanie’s best efforts, she couldn’t always make ends meet. They filed for bankruptcy during the recession of 2008 and were forced to move in with his grandparents.

As she worked to get them back on their feet, Melanie would often come home after back-breaking shifts, sometimes late in to the night.

“I understand what she sacrificed for me and how hard she worked first-hand,” he says. “Her literally breaking her back making beds, coming home, not being able to stand up because she’s been bending over making beds all day.”

Melanie’s sacrifice provided motivation as Landry’s hoop dreams began to manifest on the court. Shamet promised her that he would make it to the League one day so they could live a comfortable life.


#byHOPZ: Jonathan Isaac is on the rise‼️

Back in mid-August, I had the opportunity to speak with Magic second-year forward Jonathan Isaac over the phone.

Isaac was forced to sit out 55 games during his rookie season due to various injuries. Orlando ended up in the great tank race to the bottom, finishing the year with a forgettable 25-57 record.

Admittedly, I hadn’t seen Isaac play much his rookie season, but I knew with his size, agility, defensive instincts, offensive potential and youth, Isaac could eventually develop into an elite two-way player.

After speaking to Isaac and Magic player development coordinator Kevin Tiller for the story, it was clear that Isaac has the mentality and work ethic that will eventually help him fulfill his immense potential.

Here’s an except of the story, which ran on SLAMonline.com today:

Wearing his blue plaid draft-day jacket, palms sweating and visibly nervous, Jonathan Isaac walks to the podium to give his first sermon.

“This season is the best season of my life, but I’m not playing right now,” the 20-year-old Magic rookie tells the audience on a Sunday morning in mid-January.

Isaac injured his right ankle just three weeks into the season and hasn’t been fully healthy since. To say his rookie year hasn’t gone according to plan would be an understatement.

“There’s insecurities, and there’s doubt in my mind,” he continues. “Like, what are people thinking about me? Are people calling me a bust behind my back? Are my teammates, like, When is Jonathan going to play?”

“And I’m in the best season of my life because I’m growing [spiritually],” he says as the church erupts in applause.

The jitters quickly melt away, and Isaac delivers a message—quite naturally and authentically—about receiving God’s blessings in 2018.

The sermon, streamed on YouTube, would later headline the NBA news cycle. Viewers commented, saying they were confused—what was this? And why?

Not playing and now misunderstood, on this mid-January morning, Jonathan Isaac is the most content he’s been in his life.


Deebo or That Boy Jrue? 🤔

The question was posed on r/nba today (presumably because Sports Illustrated ranked DeMar DeRozan and Jrue Holiday the 30th and 29th-best players, respectively, in the League), and I thought it was an interesting comparison.

DeMar has three more All-Star appearances and two more All-NBA selections. He was just traded for a top-five player in the League (when healthy) Kawhi Leonard.

And yet… I think most people would rather have Holiday as their 2-guard (myself included). Holiday is a better defender (by a mile), better shooter, and gets his offense without nearly as many plays or touches.

Should be interesting to note how these players compare as other outlets (*cough cough*) release their rankings over the next month.

Quick 2 Cents on Raptors Trading for Kawhi Leonard

The Raptors and Spurs are expected to make a trade call today regarding a deal centered around swapping Kawhi Leonard and DeMar DeRozan.

It’s a bold move for Toronto, one that could turn catastrophic if Leonard leaves Toronto after just one season. But with the Raptors’ potential as a team essentially capped out, it was a move Toronto had to make.

We’ve seen this situation before.

An All-NBA player with one year left on his deal (Paul George) tells his team that he wants to play for the Lakers.

The player is traded to a team not of his choosing (OKC), and a season-long recruitment period begins.

The Thunder ended up getting George to re-sign despite OKC not being on his radar a year earlier. Toronto is hoping for the same result with Kawhi.

Toronto is not a top free-agent destination for many reasons—being north of the border prime among them. The chances of signing an elite talent like Leonard would seem all but impossible in free agency.

Rather than going the rebuild route, Raptors GM Masai Ujiri is going all in. The price to get Leonard was high. But it was a necessary gamble.

Quick 2 Cents on Bulls Matching Zach LaVine’s $78M Offer Sheet

Let me get this out the way right now: I’m a Bulls fan. I grew up in the Chicago area and got hooked on the NBA during Chicago’s second threepeat.

So I’m naturally rooting for this deal to work out in the Bulls’ favor. That said, I honestly think John Paxson and Gar Forman made the right decision to match Zach LaVine’s four-year, $78 million offer sheet from the Kings.

LaVine played just 24 games last season as he finished rehabbing an ACL tear from February of 2017. The Bulls then shut him down for the final 14 games of the season, as they tanked their way to the No. 7 overall pick in the 2018 Draft.

LaVine didn’t have much of a chance to hit his stride during his abbreviated 2017-2018 season, but he demonstrated his ability to become an elite scorer in the league.

A month shy of his 23rd birthday, he dropped 35 points in a clutch performance vs his former team. Only a handful of guards near LaVine’s age (Donovan Mitchell, Devin Booker, D’Angelo Russell) displayed a comparable offensive capacity last season.

Salary-wise, LaVine’s new deal most closely resembles Gary Harris’ four-year, $84 million extension with Denver. On average, LaVine will be making $1.5 million less than Harris per season and is the superior scorer.

The knock against LaVine has been his defensive deficiencies (which are especially apparent when comparing to a player like Harris). That said, he has the physical tools to improve on that end of the court. And his tireless work ethic will help him get there.

LaVine has potential to become a multiple-time All-Star and an elite scorer. He wants the responsibility of taking big shots. And most importantly, he’s a leader in the Bulls’ locker room.

The opportunity to sign a player like LaVine—who exhibits all the traits and abilities you want in a young player—doesn’t come around often.

It’s a gamble, especially given LaVine’s ACL injury, but certainly one worth taking.

Quick 2 Cents on Boogie Joining the Warriors

Before we declare the Warriors the 2019 NBA champions and call the regular season and playoffs a mere formality, let’s take a step back.

Of course, with DeMarcus Cousins—even a less-than-100-percent Cousins—the Warriors have upgraded in a major way. On paper, they have five All-NBA caliber players—a group more talented than the League has ever seen.

And while the Warriors’ incumbent stars are uniquely selfless players, it remains to be seen how well Boogie will integrate with the Golden State roster.

For the past five seasons, Cousins has had one of the highest usage rates in the NBA—above 31 percent for the past five seasons.

The ball generally stops when it gets to Boogie. Will he be able to change his game and play Warriors-style basketball?

What happens if he’s not putting up stats that would necessitate a max-level deal next summer?

If this was 2K, the Warriors would be unstoppable. But in reality, Boogie is the type of player and personality that could actually hinder Golden State more than help.

Quick 2 Cents on LeBron Joining the Lakers

Say what you want about LeBron James, but he didn’t choose the easy route for the next career chapter.

One of the knocks against Bron is that he’s played in the “Leastern Conference” for his entire career—essentially having an “Easy Pass” to the Finals every year, as CJ McCollum says.

Winning the West is an accomplishment in and of itself, and will only get more challenging with Paul George remaining in OKC, and Denver, New Orleans and Minnesota improving.

Continuing his streak of NBA Finals appearances is unlikely next season, as the Lakers (even if they sign a healthy Kawhi Leonard) will be underdogs to come out of the West.

But as LeBron says, you got to like his chances in a seven-game series.

Winning a championship out of the Western Conference would be another argument in favor of LeBron for being the GOAT.

The East, after all, was as talent-stacked as the West currently is during Michael Jordan’s heyday with the Bulls.

Another advantage for LeBron: Having Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant in his corner can only improve the way he thinks the game (if that’s even possible).

Ultimately the NBA wins: You couldn’t ask for a juicier Finals matchup than Lakers vs Celtics—LeBron vs Kyrie. Sheesh!