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Hawks player preview: Dennis Schroder


The Hawks are set to begin training camp on Tuesday in Athens. This is the final player preview leading up to camp. See below for links to all of the previous entries.

Dennis Schroder

Position: PG

Height/Weight: 6-1, 172

Age: 24 (9/15/93)

2017-18 salary: $15.5 million

CARMELO projected value: $8.5 million

How acquired: 2013 draft (No. 17 overall)

OFFENSE

In his first season as a starter, Schroder pulled off the tough trick of increasing his offensive efficiency while playing nearly 900 more minutes than he did in 2015-16 with a nearly identical usage rate (28.8 in 2015-16 vs. 27.8 last season).

Source: Basketball Reference

Schroder’s greatest offensive strength is his ability to get to the basket. His 971 drives last season were the most in the NBA and he shot 50.4 percent (270 of 536) on those plays, according to NBA.com stats. Schroder had a low 7.5 turnover percentage on those drives but also a low 7.4 assist percentage, compared to his excellent overall 35.5 assist percentage (13th in the league) and 7.2 assists per 36 minutes (19th in the league).

It’s not that Schroder won’t give up the ball—his 28.5 pass percentage on drives was 19th-most among players with at least 500 drives. But Schroder’s decision-making can be erratic once he gets by his man, leading to missed opportunities for his teammates. Wrote Rob Mahoney of SI.com: “What’s off is his sense of timing. Schroder is a reasonably effective playmaker who tends to irk his teammates by when he chooses to pass and when he does not.”

Schroder has a relatively slight frame but he’s an efficient scorer when he gets to the basket, ranking just a notch below the NBA’s best point guards. His 53.4 percent field-goal percentage on attempts less than five feet from the basket was 10th among point guards with at least 400 attempts.

However, Schroder doesn’t draw many fouls considering how often he ventures to the basket (8.5 foul percentage on drives, near the bottom for frequent drivers). That’s a major reason why his efficiency as the ball handler on pick-and-roll possessions used (0.84 points per possession) ranks in just the 62nd percentile despite his frequent drives and efficient finishing.

Schroder improved his outside shooting last season, when he made 45.6 percent of long 2s (a career high) and 34 percent of 3s. His three-point attempt rate dropped, however, and he took a much higher percentage of shots in the tough 3-10 foot range.

DEFENSE

Schroder is a below-average rebounder for his position. He doesn’t collect as many steals as his quickness and long wingspan suggest he might. And he’s a so-so defender against pick-and-rolls (though excellent in isolation last season).

A big reason why both FiveThirtyEight.com downgrades Schroder’s defense is his poor showing in on-court, off-court metrics. ESPN’s Defensive Real Plus-Minus, which makes up two-thirds of FiveThirtyEight’s formula, ranked Schroder 76th among  points guards in 2016-17 after he was 21st in 2015-16 and 57th in 2014-15. Schroder also has had a negative Box Defensive Plus/Minus in all four of his NBA seasons.

OUTLOOK

I thought the Hawks made the right decision to trade Jeff Teague last summer and make Schroder the lead point guard. Teague was a quality pro, and he had a good season with Pacers in 2016-17, but he’s never going to be the All-NBA guard necessary to contend for a championship. The Hawks knew what they had in Teague, who was 28-years old at the time of the trade.

Schroder, 22 at the time of the Teague trade, had shown the potential to develop into a superstar. The Hawks invested in Schroder with a four-year, $70 million contract and saw him become a competent starter in Year 1. The jury’s still out on whether he can reach another level. He’s obviously got the talent for something more, and his strong offensive performance in last season's playoffs was encouraging.

Schroder could improve offensively by improving his decision-making with the ball, taking more three-pointers and drawing more fouls. Defensively, there’s even more room for improvement, especially in regards to guarding pick-and-rolls and collecting steals.

Schroder now is the longest-tenured Hawks player on the roster with 285 games played for the franchise. Every outside evaluation I’ve seen rates him as the only Hawks player among the league’s top 100. Schroder is the only Hawks player rated as high as “average starter” by FiveThirtyEight.com’s CARMELO player comparison.

Schroder will get every opportunity to blossom into a star. His ability to do so figures to be one of the most important stories for the Hawks this season.

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About the Author

Michael Cunningham has covered the Hawks and other beats for the AJC since 2010. He is the author of the AJC’s Mike Check blog.