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The Dennis Schröder rollercoaster (staff roundtable)

The CelticsBlog staff shares their thoughts on Dennis Schröder

Boston Celtics v Utah Jazz Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

We’re only a quarter of a year into the Dennis Schröder experience, and boy has it been a ride so far. There are times when he’s carrying the team on offense and one of the few guys that can go out and get a bucket. On the other hand, there are times when he’s making questionable decisions and playing head scratching defense.

At $5.9M for the year, he was too good of a bargain to pass up. But does he give the Celtics more than what he takes away? I put the question to the staff to weigh in on. Here are the questions and how they were answered.

1. In your opinion, is Schroder good?
2. What’s his best role on this team?
3. Should the Celtics look to trade him at the deadline?

Daniel Poarch

1 - Schröder is good. He may be frustrating, even maddening at times, sure, but the overall package is good. He’s one of the best rim pressure guards in basketball and his driving ability has added a dimension that the Celtics’ offense has otherwise lacked. The defense comes and goes and the decision-making might shorten my lifespan at times, but we’ve seen him keep the offense afloat for stretches when it has otherwise gone haywire. It may not always look like you want it to, but overall he’s been a net positive in Boston.

2 - I prefer Schröder in the role of sixth man when the team is fully healthy — and perhaps even when they aren’t, if Josh Richardson can maintain his current level of play. Schröder’s volume scoring gets a little more room to shine playing on second unit lineups with one of the Jays on the bench. That said, I also don’t view him as a closer on this team right now unless he really has it going. The decision-making is just a little too adventurous, as we’ve seen down the stretch in recent games.

3 - There’s obviously still quite a bit of basketball to be played before such decisions need to be made, but the way things stand right now, I lean towards keeping Schröder. The Celtics are right in the thick of things in the East and only three teams (Brooklyn, Chicago, Milwaukee) feel definitively better than they are. Schröder should stick around as long as the possibility of winning a playoff series or two still feels feasible. If the Celtics slide, though, flipping him to a contender is a no-brainer.

Jack Simone

1. Dennis Schroder is a good basketball player. However, in order for him to be as good as he can be, the Celtics need to adapt to the style he needs to play. Whenever he has the ball the pace slows down and it’s as if he’s only worried about one thing - doing him. This isn’t a knock on him as a teammate, but when Schroder touches the ball it just seems as though it will either result in a bucket, an assist, or a turnover. There are no other options. That being said, those first two options are pretty good. So yes, Schroder is good.

2. This is where things get tricky because, in order for Schroder to be the best version of himself, his role on the team needs to be bigger than it should be. Schroder may be averaging nearly 18 points a night, but a big part of that is because Jaylen Brown has missed so much time. Of the 10 games where Schroder has scored 20+ points this season, only two of them have come when Brown has been in the lineup. On top of that, Schroder has shot 40 percent or lower 10 times this season, and each of those games has been when Brown has been in the lineup. Ideally, Schroder’s role is that of a tertiary ball-handler (or even fourth behind Marcus Smart) and spot-up shooter, but when put in that role, he doesn’t play too well.

3. Not only should the Celtics trade Schroder, but they should trade him ASAP. This is not a knock on his production, but simply due to the fact that his value is extremely high right now, and a lot of banged-up teams could be looking for guard depth (i.e. the Denver Nuggets or Charlotte Hornets). There’s no chance that Boston has the money to re-sign him next offseason, so trading him now and getting some value in return is the best possible move.

Bill Sy

He’s good (if not great) at what he’s good (if not great) at. He’s one of the quickest guards in the league with the ball in his hand and that’s translated really well with the Celtics in terms of pressuring the rim. As much as Udoka has stressed the importance of ball movement and making the right play, NBA basketball is predicated on offensive players drawing two or more defenders. If that’s generated by timely screens and whipping the ball around the perimeter, good. But if that comes in the form of Schroder (gasp) dribbling the ball for more than five times and getting to the rim, that’s good, too. To put Schroder’s season so far into context, here are the per-36 numbers for two players:

PLAYER A: 26.3 points, 44.5/32.9/67.6 splits, 8.8 assists, 4.8 TO’s

PLAYER B: 19.3 points, 44.6/35.8/90.2 splits, 5.3 assists, 2.9 TO’s

That’s Luka Doncic and Schroder lined up side-by-side. We can harp on the handful of turnovers and hero shots at the end of games, but for the most part, Schroder has been more than productive in green. He’s also improving since his slow start in October. Since those back-to-back homes games where he gave up fourteen turnovers to the Raptors and Bucks, he’s limited his TO’s to 2.5 per game, shot a blistering 39% from 3, and averaged 18 points on 45% shooting when the Celtics desperately needed that offensive production without Jaylen Brown in the lineup.

2. Co-sixth man with Josh Richardson. JRich has served more as the plug-and-play utility player that can also defend on the wing, but Schroder has taken on more of a microwave scorer role. They’re both key veterans off the bench. However, Schroder has closed out a ton of games for Udoka. He’s second only to Tatum in clutch minutes and to compare:

Tatum: 72 minutes, 15-of-39 from the field, 4 assists, 7 turnovers

Schroder: 68 minutes, 13-of-25 from the field, 7 assists, 2 turnovers

As many have said, his warts are ugly, but there’s just been so much good to overshadow them.

3. I’ve wrestled with this. On one hand, any contender could use a player of Schroder’s caliber, particularly at the MLE price and what that means they’ll have to send back to Boston in return - think a late first or a promising young big with a year left on his deal. It’s very unlikely he’d re-sign with the Celtics next summer, so Stevens should get whatever he can at the deadline. On the other hand, Schroder has contributed to turning this team around and winning games. Regardless of how you think the East shakes out in the end, the Celtics are in the mix and as long as they are, you try to raise Banner 18 at all costs.

Bobby Manning

1. I’m not even caught up in whether or not Schröder is good. He is, but that’s not the important question in affirming his contribution and role in Boston. The Celtics had no cap space, little trade flexibility and lost 33 points per game of scoring in the back court between Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier with nothing coming back there. Unlike last season, when a gaping hole on the wing stared the fan base down in the form of a trade exception until Danny Ainge added Fournier late in the season, Schröder fell into Boston’s lap. The overjoyed reaction of Al Horford, in particular, to landing the guard was telling. Schröder shoots better at the rim than Demar DeRozan, Steph Curry, Trae Young and James Harden, all shooting roughly the same volume inside five feet. And not better by a few percentage points. Schröder shoots over 10 percentage points better than Harden inside right now at 63%. That’s approaching LeBron James-level efficiency. That’s pretty good, and considering Payton Pritchard’s regression and Marcus Smart’s early-season struggles he recently escaped from, it appears crucial that Boston brought in a scoring guard for an offense that’s continued to struggle with Schröder playing well. I’m terrified what this team would’ve looked like without him. We can nit-pick him up and down. Without realistic alternatives and considering he’s on a mid-level deal, it’s hard to not just throw our hands up and not have a roundtable. That’s not why we’re here though...

2. I’ve pondered this myself. Schröder’s obvious chemistry with Smart intrigues me above anything else he brings to the Celtics. They close games together, so why not start too? Their net rating is +4.4 as two-man duo and even though he’ll play a bunch in any role, I’d rather see more Schröder and Smart together over less. Schröder’s also shooting 49.1% from the field as a starter, compared to 34.9% off the bench.nI understand Ime Udoka’s desire to create lineup balance throughout the flow of games and setting a defensive tone early and out of halftime with double big. Double big is +21.5. But what does it say that Marcus Smart emphasized slow starts at practice on Monday? Offense-defense balance matters as much as starters-bench, along with managing Al Horford’s burgeoning minutes. Whether it’s Grant Williams’ shooting or Schröder’s initiating, I think there’s potential to utilize Schröder more to boost the Celtics’ offense. Maybe it’s a Schröder-Horford bench combo.

3. I’m as torn as @billsy. I love how Schröder fits next to Jayson Tatum as a scorer, next to Smart as a nasty defender and want to continue to see him vlogging in Massachusetts. If Boston could under the CBA, I’d argue to sign him to the $84-million now, at least. Instead, he’ll be capped around $7-million in salary given the Celtics’ lack of Bird Rights. Is there any chance they could keep him at that salary? It seems unlikely to me, but a look at the league’s cap sheets I’m sure Keith will weigh in on more deeply reveals little flexibility for teams to make outsized offers. Unfortunately, all it will take is one team willing to hard cap itself by offering close to $10-million annually to top what Boston will likely extend. Will that be the Knicks? The Mavericks? There are teams out there that could use him and a bad team may surprise (as they have before) with the money they’ll throw at a scoring veteran guard. I’m dubious the Celtics can keep him, but with that said, what’s coming back to Boston in a trade (given the team receiving him won’t get Bird Rights either)? A late first-round pick? A future heavily protected pick? I’m not intrigued. A borderline lottery pick or an unprotected future first with promise? I’m listening. Especially if the Celtics can get a young prospect back by virtue of matching Schröder’s small salary. The Celtics need to take a long look at selling high. Keeping Schröder, praying they can re-sign him and seeing out this potential playoff run seems more valuable than a mediocre trade return though.

Simon Pollock

Yeah, Dennis Schröder can score. Yes, he’s fast. Yes, he has established chemistry with Al Horford. And, so far this season, he’s been stubborn about playing up to pace with the rest of the starters, he’s made some selfish and high-profile bad decisions in crunch time, and he’s still rolling the ball up the floor needlessly. It’s like he’s marching to the beat of his own drum when the rest of the team has agreed on a different tempo. (Sidenote: Why would you ever do this outside of being down late in a game? You’re just giving the defense a chance to rest, communicate, and set.) It does seem like he might be adjusting now, slowly, and his some of his choices have left me trying to tear my beard out.

I agree with Daniel and Bill—Schröder’s a great sixth man. He should be scoring in heaps against opponents’ second and third lineups and providing some playmaking. And I’d like to see him continue to embrace a faster offensive. I could see him factoring into closing lineups in particular situations, but the Celtics have looked their best when the ball moves on one end and the defense switches confidently on the other. Schröder’s decision-making and lack of switchability make me want someone else out there in those big-game moments alongside Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, and Al Horford.

There wasn’t much of a market for Schröder this summer—has anything he’s done so far changed the minds of any other GMs? I’m not convinced he has. I’m certainly not convinced he’s worth the $80 million over four years that the Lakers reportedly offered him. If Schröder’s comfortable owning that sixth man role and willing to continue to play team-oriented offense, I say keep him for the season and see what the C’s can do with a reliable-enough scorer co-leading the second unit.

Drew Doxy

1. Yes, Dennis Schröder is a good basketball player who has had an often positive impact on this team, particularly with what he’s good at (using his speed to get into the teeth of the defense). He also is often the root of some of the issues that plague the Celtics, like playing too slow or letting the ball stick in crunch time. This leads to my answer to the second question.

2. Spark-plug off the bench. When Jaylen Brown is out of the lineup, Schröder has become the de-facto second option on offense, which I don’t always agree with. To be fair, he’s lived up to that role on several occasions, including multiple 30-point games. But when Brown is back and he still plays like the second option, that’s when issues pop up. It’s incredibly refreshing having an actual NBA scorer come off the bench, and that dynamic is not something that we should take lightly considering some of the rosters Boston has fielded in recent years. When Schröder plays within his role and understands the pecking order – particularly in crunch time – while also not walking the dog at the most random of times, he’s an asset to the team. This leads me to the third question

3. No, the Celtics shouldn’t look to trade him at the deadline. There are very few upgrades available for $5M compared to the best version of what Schröder could give this team in the postseason. The great thing is that if he melts down like he did in the playoffs last year, he’s not even a top-5 integral piece of this fully healthy roster. And if he doesn’t melt down, then he becomes a tremendous offensive weapon to throw at teams that can’t contain him. I can understand the “don’t lose him for nothing” crowd because there’s a next-to-zero percent chance he’s a Celtic next season, but we don’t always need to think about things from an opportunity/loss perspective. We gained him for almost nothing at literally no risk of anything, so losing him isn’t really a loss. If we invested in him beyond $5M and lost him, then yeah that’s sunken cost. Unless there’s a clear upgrade available (unlikely at that price point) and Pritchard develops mightily over the next two months, he should ride out the season in Boston and then ride off into the sunset next offseason. At $5M this year, that is perfectly OK.

Mike Dynon

Yes, Schröder is a fine player, one who’s been compared to Rajon Rondo in his mannerisms, playing style, and – germane to this roundtable discussion – his ability to annoy people. Remember how our beloved Isaiah Thomas slapped Schröder in the head during a playoff series versus Atlanta? Celtics fans celebrated it. But now that Schröder is a Celtic, we see all the good and bad on a regular basis, and he’s definitely polarizing. We wouldn’t be having this roundtable otherwise. Is Schröder as talented as Rondo was during his Celtics years? Absolutely not. Is he giving the Celtics more than they would have gotten if they’d kept Kemba Walker or Evan Fournier? Most definitely. Schröder is averaging almost 18 points and 5 assists per game. We can point to several games that the Celtics wouldn’t have won without his scoring, the best example being vs. the Bucks in November: 38 points on 16/27 shooting. So, yes, he’s pretty good.

Jaylen Brown has missed almost half of this season’s games, and Schröder has been a productive replacement. His stats in most categories, both traditional and advanced, are better when he starts than when he comes off the bench. Even so, on the rare occasions when everyone is healthy, Schröder should be the Sixth Man. Marcus Smart is improving every night in the point guard role, and he should stay there. When both Jays are on the floor, the offense doesn’t much need Schröder’s ball-dominant style. However, his talents would be a big boost to the second unit, and I believe his production in the reserve role would pick up once he settles in there.

Trade him. Realistically, Schröder will not be in Boston next season. He’ll be looking to atone for fumbling the bag, the $84 million offer he turned down from the Lakers last year. He won’t find that, but he will get something more than Boston can afford. Get a player back for him while you can. The caveat here is, if the Celtics are cooking heading into February and Schröder is a key contributor, forget all that and go for the banner. Because you never know.

Jeff Clark (tl;dr)

Hard to argue with any of the above. He’s clearly a talented but flawed player and my opinion is that he should be utilized off the bench to provide an additional scoring threat. He’s not a good enough shooter to spread the floor but he does attack the paint, which is a say of creating space as well. I don’t see him sticking around next season so if the team is floundering at the deadline they can see what they get for him. If we’re in the thick of things, I would say hold onto him and let it ride this year.