It’s hard to get a handle on what to expect from Dennis Schröder, a guard who is consistently guilty of over-dribbling, and oftentimes kills the flow of the offense. Yet his potential to get hot and drive a team towards the finish line holds some value, even if you do get some additional grey hairs along the way.
That’s what we’ve told ourselves, right? Schröder’s playstyle is a means to an end. A one-year $5.8 million deal for a potential 20 point-per-game scorer was too good to turn down. And at times this season, Schröder has proven to be the perfect microwave scorer off the bench, especially when he’s got it poppin’ like a bag of Jolly Time.
But for some, the veteran guard’s inability to play within the team’s system is hard to overlook. And many consider Schröder’s impact to be a net negative, regardless of how many points he racks up. I too, fall into this category.
Yet against the Indiana Pacers, Schröder adapted, and the results were delightful. It was like watching a different player at times. No longer were we watching a guard who averaged 5 seconds per touch, or called his own number despite the defense honing in on him.
Instead, we got a version of the Braunschweig native that played his role and gave the Boston Celtics another scoring threat with his off-ball movement and willingness to relocate.
Of course, you never want to limit a player's primary skillset, and for Schröder, that is his ability to pressure the rim and get downhill. So, if we take note of the above play, we can see a good example of the veteran guard’s slight adaption, and how it paid dividends.
The play starts with a nice two-man game between Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, in which they run a Miami action - a dribble hand-off in the corner, into a screen around the slot. The Pacers defense does a great job of taking away the drive for Brown, forcing him to give up the rock. While this play has been unfolding, Schröder has done a good job of relocating onto the weakside slot and is far enough outside of the three-point line that the defense isn’t concerned about his presence.
But that’s exactly what the Celtics wanted — giving Schröder those couple of extra steps to build up speed can be deadly, as the Pacers found out on this possession. The difference between this play, and so many others we’ve seen with Schröder, is that he made a decision to attack the basket instantly. There was no dilly-dallying on the ball or waiting for a screener to come to his aide, just a quick decision and hard drive to the cup.
“Different nights present different things. But being the third option out there with those guys, a ton of focus and pressure is on them, so he could kind of pick his spots because of that. But as well, he’s been great coming off the bench as well,” Ime Udoka said following Schröder’s impressive performance.
“When he did start, it was because Jayson or Jaylen was out and we were asking him to do more. Whether he comes off the bench or starts, I think he’s been solid overall. Been picking his spots, when certain guys are not on the court.”
Impressively, Schröder’s performance wasn’t all about scoring. Here’s the 28-year-old operating as the ghost screen in the three ball-handler series Udoka likes to run. Watch how quickly Schröder reads the defense and gets the rock out of his hands to Josh Richardson. The play doesn’t come to anything, despite the speedster getting the rock back and attacking off the dribble, but it’s the speed of the decision-making, and his willingness to move the rock that was a breath of fresh air.
Udoka has regularly spoken of his desire for the Celtics to play quicker, to move without the ball, and work for the best shot. A team’s greatest opportunity to play that way is by making fast-paced decisions and acting on them accordingly, and that’s what’s been hurting Schröder in recent weeks. Of course, there will always be an element of isolation play in the NBA, and when it’s used correctly, it can be devastatingly effective, but you have to set those possessions up.
The same can be said about calling your own number in transition, which we can see the veteran guard do here.
It’s no secret that Schröder loves the elbow pull-up jumper, be it in transition or coming off a high screen in a half-court set. The difference is knowing when to pull the trigger, or when to draw the defense and kick the rock to an open shooter. And that’s something that’s born some frustrations for Celtics fans in recent months, but wasn’t on show in Boston’s most recent win.
If the Celtics can get this version of Schröder on a nightly basis, they may find it more prudent to retain the veteran throughout the rest of the season. Or, they may see these games as the perfect way to squeeze every last ounce of value out of a scoring guard, that doesn’t quite fit the puzzle Udoka is trying to piece together and deal him before the deadline.