On Thursday, Dennis Schröder's dream came true.
Following a season in which the German point guard started for the worst team in the Eastern Conference, Schröder let it be known that he wanted to spend his prime competing for a title . It wasn't going to happen on an Atlanta Hawks team that is in the midst of a rebuild, but, having been a part of the trade that brought Carmelo Anthony's time with the Oklahoma City Thunder to an end, he now has an opportunity to be a part of a contender in the Western Conference.
Oklahoma City has agreed to trade Carmelo Anthony and a protected 2022 first-round pick to Atlanta for point guard Dennis Schroder and Mike Muscala, league sources tell ESPN. Anthony will be waived, and he will join team of his choice. Rockets are frontrunner.- Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 19, 2018
From a skill perspective, it's easy to see why the Thunder are drawn to Schröder. While he's only 6-foot-1, he makes up for being slightly undersized with his blazing speed and a massive 6-foot-7 wingspan. Few players are as quick as he is with the ball in his hands, both from a standstill and in the open court, which will give a team that is already one of the more athletic in the league a dynamic piece off the bench.
Schröder puts that speed to far more use in pick-and-rolls and isolation than he does in transition. He averaged 9.2 points per game as the ball handler in pick-and-rolls last season - the four-highest rate in the league behind Damian Lillard, Kemba Walker and James Harden - and 3.5 points per game in isolation - the 11th-highest rate in the league behind the likes of LeBron James, Chris Paul and Kyrie Irving. He scored those points at a decent rate, ranking in the 68.8 percentile in pick-and-roll efficiency and the 90.1 percentile in isolation efficiency.
Schröder isn't much of a threat to score from 3-point range, but he's a strong finisher around the basket and a capable shooter from midrange. A third of his field goal attempts were 2-point pull-ups last season, and he converted 48.9 percent of those opportunities. His ability to create his own shot in pick-and-rolls and in isolation should help the Thunder keep their head above water whenever Westbrook isn't on the court .
The issue with Schröder is that his weaknesses on offense require him to have the ball in his hands to be effective. The fact that he had the same usage rate as Irving and Lillard last season won't be much of a problem when he's leading the second unit in Oklahoma City, but he'll have to prove that he can play alongside Westbrook and Paul George for the three years and $46.5 million remaining on his contract to be worth it for the Thunder.
Based on what we know about Schröder to this point of his career, he will struggle to share the court with the Thunder's All-Stars. He's had two encouraging seasons as a long-range shooter, the first coming in 2015-16, when he made 38.3 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts, and the second coming in 2016-17, when he made 39.6 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts. In his three other seasons with the Hawks, however, he made 30.3 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts.
Schröder took 125 3-point attempts in those situations last season, only to knock down 35 of them ( 28.0 percent ). The majority of those were wide open , too. If he can't develop into a more reliable threat from the perimeter, Schröder's inability to space the floor will make it easier for teams to slow Westbrook and George down by clogging the paint.
Another area of concern for Schröder is defense. Despite his long arms and quick feet, the 24-year-old consistently checks out as one of the worst defenders at his position.
Dennis Schroder currently ranks 95th out of 96 PGs on defense according to ESPN's Real Plus/Minus.- Ben Falk (@bencfalk) January 18, 2018
That's not new. In 4 of his 5 seasons he's been one of the worst defensive PGs in the league according to RPM.
Perhaps a new situation will motivate Schröder to be a more engaged defender. If it doesn't, the Thunder can at least hide him on that end of the floor in ways the Hawks couldn't by surrounding him with versatile defenders at every position, from Andre Roberson and George in the backcourt to Jerami Grant and Steven Adams in the frontcourt. His shortcomings on defense won't prevent him from being a solid backup in Oklahoma City, but it would limit his ceiling tremendously if he doesn't improve.
The combination makes Schröder a high-usage point guard with a tremendous amount of talent, albeit with glaring weaknesses as a shooter and a defender, making him a fascinating gamble for a Thunder team looking to compete with the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets next season.
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