After news first broke that Steady Freddy had accepted a contract in Houston, it didn’t take long for the announcement to come out that the Raptors had signed a contract with Dennis Schröder. There was a mix of emotion from Raps fans, but initially it felt like a lot of people were disappointed with the signing. Since his summer with the German National Team at the FIBA World Cup, a lot of that negativity has quieted, but it shouldn’t just be his MVP FIBA performance bringing the faith in him. Dennis Schröder has been playing good basketball for a while, and in some senses, I think he may be exactly what we need.
Congrats to Dennis Schroder for winning the FIBA World Cup MVP— NBALakersReport (@NBALakersReport) September 10, 2023
Let’s start with the simple stuff, in case you’re still really unsure of who he even is. Schröder is 30 years old, 6’1”, and 172 lbs. He’s spent the last 10 seasons in the league as a point guard with Atlanta, OKC, Boston, Houston, and LA. Last year, Schröder averaged 12.6 points and 4.5 assists per game with the Lakers on 41.5% shooting from the field. Of course, a simple google search will tell you all of that, so let’s get into the good stuff.
Schröder is very ball dominant. He usually is a big part of running the offence of any team he is on. Last year, even on a star-studded Lakers team he had 4215 touches in only 66 games. For comparison purposes, that’s just a little less than Giannis Antetokounmpo or Jamal Murray and a little more than Ja Morant and Tyrese Maxey — pretty significant when you consider who those guys are.
He’s also very dynamic, changing pace and direction rapidly which helps him lose his defender and get open shots, even at the rim. His World Cup play became a very public stage for Raps fans to see what his game is all about. His tenacious defence was a problem for whoever he was guarding. He moves his body well, has active hands, and has a knack for pestering the offensive player until they give the ball up in one way or another. On offence, he tends to spend a lot of time with the ball, waiting to set up or find the play that he desires. He usually utilizes a healthy mix of dribble drives, 3 point shooting, or setting up a pick-and-roll with a big. He ran an excellent pick and roll game with Daniel Theis, had some solid 3-point shooting and tough drives that led Germany to an undefeated gold medal and earned him MVP honours in the tournament.
It’s unclear what to expect once he starts playing with the Raptors, as there’s been a bit of a mix of opinions about what his role will be. We may have to wait until a few regular season games have passed for clarity on that as well. Darko has seemed to suggest both Scottie and Schröder will have significant time in control of the rock, so what that will look like in-game is still up for debate. With that in mind though, there’s a lot to be said for Schröder and what he’s capable of, and depending on role, team chemistry, and how the season plays out, Schröder’s performance could really go one of three ways:
Way 1: He still needs some improvement…
In this scenario, we don’t get the best version of Schröder. Obviously he’s still incredibly talented, but a few of his worse habits make an appearance throughout the season.
On offence, at times Schröder can force possessions. It’s not that he’s not reading the defence, but he decides to drive and gets stuck, either missing entirely or getting blocked at the rim. He has also forced some shots in a game where he’s cold which can really hurt his team if the game is close. He had one such game during the World Cup where he was 0/8 from beyond the arc, had 4 turnovers, and was 15.4% from the field as a whole.
Definitely not what they needed, but luckily he bounced back from that performance in a strong fashion. Plus, everyone has bad games. Joel Embiid had 0 points in his first game back in Toronto after “The Shot” and still managed to win an MVP. We have to be patient, let Schröder acclimate to his role with the Raps and see what he can do.
On defence, his aggression can sometimes lead him out of position during defensive rotations. His size can already create a disadvantage at times, so miscommunication or the help shifting slowly to cover him can generate easy offence for the opposing team.
This is of course, a worst case scenario, and I suspect that while we may see a bit of it while he gets used to the team, I doubt it will be what we will have to get used to.
Way 2: He meets our expectations
In this scenario we get the version of Dennis Schröder that contributed to the Lakers’ season and playoff run.
To be honest, I’m less concerned with the conversation of who starts the game for the Raptors this season, and more concerned with who finishes it. If you watched the Lakers play last season, there were a lot of story lines to get lost in that may have overshadowed what Schröder did for the team. Schröder has a knack for showing up in big moments.
Last year, Schröder scored 67 points for the Lakers in clutch time. If that doesn’t seem like a lot to you, consider that this is more than ANY Raptor last season. In the clutch, he shot 52.6% from the field, had 11 assists to only 2 turnovers, and shot a perfect 24/24 from the free throw line. In fact, he was the only player in the entire NBA that was perfect from the stripe with at least 23 attempts. He has the passing ability and IQ to run a great pick-and-roll offence that we saw so much of during the World Cup, only this time with Jakob Poeltl. On defence, his presence is an aggravation for whoever he’s guarding, and he helps contribute to what makes the Raptors so frustrating to play against.
This scenario is very plausible, and expecting 12/2/4 on 45% shooting feels entirely realistic. I would also expect him to help contribute as a veteran presence in the locker room.
Way 3: He exceeds the expectations we have for him
At his absolute best, he is able to repeat a lot of the most successful moments we saw during the World Cup. Behind-the-back, no-look, and perfectly-on-target bounce passes fill the highlight reel of the season for him in Toronto. He is able to stop up 2-on-1 breakaways on the defensive end and hit big 3s off of screens to help create floor spacing. The transition to a team that has more faith in him leads to a jump in his offence and facilitation, and he is able to get back to form more similar to his time in OKC. His trademark turn-fake-drive becomes a staple for most Raptors fans as a favourite play. In this scenario, his numbers would be closer to 15/3/6 and he is able to bring his shooting up to 50% from the floor.
While there’s still some questions looming, not only with the roles individual players will have, what the offence will look like, or what versions of guys will show up, at least we only have to wait a little bit longer to get some answers. After all, it’s only a few short days until we see the Raptors suit up again, this time with Schröder.