At the beginning of the season, there were a lot of questions about how Dennis Schröder was going to be utilized by the Toronto Raptors, largely because of the major changes within the organization. Was he going to be with the starting unit? Was he going to be the primary ball handler? The preseason indicated answers to some of those questions, but now that we’ve got the first three-ish weeks of action out of the way, we definitely have more clarity. While it’s premature to make any sweeping judgements, it’s a good opportunity to check in on how Schröder is doing with the Raps. In short? Extremely well.
FIBA Dennis Schroder seems to be here to stay and that's very fun— Raptors HQ (@RaptorsHQ) November 2, 2023
Coming off a summer winning the FIBA World Cup for team Germany and being named the tournament MVP, it was impossible not to have high expectations. When I wrote his player preview for the season, 15/3/6 with highlight plays and a 50 FG% was deemed as the way he would exceed expectations (not just meet them). In fairness to Schröder, the FG% might have been a bit unfair, after all, only 57 guys in the whole league are shooting better than that margin this year. That said, his production in all other categories is even better than we could’ve hoped for.
So far, Schröder is averaging 15.7/2.8/9.3, with significant improvement almost completely across the board. He is shooting better, to the tune of 44.1% from the field and 50% from 3pt range (until he shot 12.5% from that range in San Antonio). A lot of what he’s doing can be seen in the box score, but there’s a little bit more to consider on his impact with the team.
As some suspected, Schröder does a fair amount of the ball handling for the Raps. He’s third on the team for possessions (398), putting him in company of Luka Dončić and Tyrese Maxey, which should tell you he’s spending a fair amount of time with the rock. His dynamic style of play has been pretty entertaining to watch, as he has been pretty effective at using his shiftiness to create space and generate looks for himself and his teammates. His ability to read a defender and then lull them to sleep before driving by them has already been on full display this year:
In addition to utilizing his speed and dynamic movement, he’s been favouring plays with a big or spot-up shooting rather notably. His PNR with Poeltl makes sense, after all, he used it rather effectively with Daniel Theis during the World Cup, but unfortunately there’s been some growing pains with Jak. It’s not for lack of trying, as they’ve already tried 40 PNRs in the first 6 games of the season. The issue is finishing, since 22.5% of the time running that play has resulted in a turnover. Not ideal, but definitely way too early to be extremely concerned.
The connection seems to still be developing, but likely will just require some time and practice, getting used to finding each other on the play. When it does work it works really well and is super fun to watch. Schröder seems to find Jak on a bounce pass or over the top as he’s driving, leading to a rim-rocking finish. Hopefully as the season progresses it will improve from a statistical standpoint.
On a different note, his spot-up shooting has been UNREAL. In fact, he’s currently 3rd in the league for points generated through that shot this season. He’s shooting 65.2% and generating 6 pts per game that way, which is over a third of his 15 ppg. As a third option (behind Pascal and Scottie), scoring 15+ a game is pretty solid, but a more important part of his offence would undeniably be his distribution of the ball.
Averaging 9.3 assists per game makes Schröder fifth in the league, just behind Dončić. If we had learned to expect that from him, perhaps it would be less notable, except this is the highest average of Schröder’s entire career, and is more than double what he averaged last season. The most significant part of this is that he’s maintaining a high assist to turnover ratio (5.09), so he’s not just throwing the ball away, he’s finding his marks and generating points for the team. A lot of the passes he’s made have been almost unbelievable:
Part of why this is so encouraging is that it’s proving a lot of growth for Schröder, as one of his biggest issues in the past has been forcing shots for himself when a pass would’ve been the better play. The way the Raptors are running their offence this year doesn’t require isolation or forced shots though, but encourages ball movement which Schroder is proving to be instrumental at. Don’t get me wrong, the system still needs work, but it really seems to fit Schröder’s style of play. He’s making the right call a lot more frequently to create plays like this:
The Raptors are still playing a lot in transition which has also seemed to suit him, not necessarily as the scorer, but more so as a passer. He’s got such a high IQ that he always seems to be able to find whoever is running the floor for the right shot. The Raptors’ transition game has always been a big part of their offence, at least over the last couple years so it’s nice to see him fall in to step with them so quickly and so productively, often in a fun-to-watch and flashy way:
Schröder’s pesky defence should also be encouraging. It’s already been a big part of his game for a while and was on full display during the World Cup. Luckily for Raps fans, nothing has changed. From a statistical perspective, Schröder is respectable, holding players he’s guarding to 23/49 from 2pt range and 8/26 from beyond the arc. He averages just under 1 steal a game which isn’t overly impressive, but the issue is, there’s a lot about Schröder and his defence that the box score won’t tell you. Schröder doesn’t hesitate to chase down his man and stay on them with what feels, at times, like limitless energy. If they pick up the ball he gets right into their face. He doesn’t shy away from matchups. He’ll also spend time pressing, just to add more pressure and generate looks like this:
Schröder has a knack of seeming to know where he needs to be, clogging passing lanes and pressuring guys into giving up the ball rather than deal with his tenacity. It’s fun to watch, but probably only for Raptors fans. It would be unsurprising for those who don’t cheer for the Raptors to find him to be a pest.
Of course, it is early to be making too many conclusions, but so far it has certainly been fun. As the season continues, look out for the PNR with Poeltl to continue to develop positively, as well as his free-throw shooting to get back to the mid-80s where it usually is for him once the sample size becomes a little bit larger. If he can handle that while continuing his positive shooting streak and offensive creation for the team, the ceiling may be higher for the Raptors than we expect.
For more in depth Dennis Schroder stats, click here