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Down and out on Dennis Schroder

The Boston Celtics and Dennis Schroder are on a collision course approaching the trade deadline. What happened?

Boston Celtics v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

The Boston Celtics have started to turn a corner, winning 10 of their last 14 games. With Jayson Tatum rediscovering his shot and Marcus Smart’s return, the team is looking to make some noise in the second leg of the season. Celtics Head Coach Ime Udoka is beginning to trim his rotations down and fine tune his lineups, and one of the players who is on the outside-looking-in seems to be Dennis Schroder.

Since arriving in Boston, Dennis Schroder has been arguably the most polarizing player on the Celtics. Signed at the $5.9 Million Mid-Level Exception for just this season, the German native joined the Celtics in the offseason and will most likely be unretainable for Boston due to their current cap responsibilities. Because of his status as a rental, Schroder has become a popular trade target across the league with the deadline almost a week away.

When first arriving in Boston, Schroder’s main impact came as a scoring option to help off the bench and serve as a sparkplug for the second unit. With the team struggling offensively, Schroder’s scoring ability soon pushed the conversation towards a bigger role for the veteran guard, and he found himself as an integral part of Boston’s rotation. Some of his scoring bursts had helped the Celtics win games, especially his season-high 38 points against the Milwaukee Bucks back in November.

As the season went on and the Celtics struggled to find consistency, some issues about Schroder’s fit on the team became clear. Schroder and Smart didn’t fit together due to Schroder’s need as a primary ballhandler and Smart’s shooting, and Schroder’s tendency to get tunnel vision soon grew to undeniable levels. More whispers of Schroder being on the block began to spread, and Ime Udoka notably started to stray away from him. The Schroder-Celtics honeymoon phase was over in a flash, and now it seems like the veteran has all but checked out on the team in the last month.

Through Boston’s first 48 games, Schroder was only inactive for seven games due to COVID and injury; in those 41 games played, he played under 20 minutes once. In each of his last five games, Schroder has played less than 18 minutes. Per NBA Stats, Schroder has shot a combined 7-25 from the field and 1-9 from deep, only notched 9 assists along with 7 turnovers, and has a team-worst plus-minus of -25 in these games.

In a stretch of games where Boston has won 10 of 14 and playing some of their most complete basketball of the season, Dennis Schroder ranks dead last in defensive rating (108.1), 3rd worst in net rating (0.0), and dead last in pace (93.83). The Celtics have been +10.6 when Schroder is off the court.

For a player that was able to contribute early on in the season, it’s kind of wild how much he’s cooled off as of late. Boston is starting to find its groove, and unfortunately for Schroder, it’s coming at the expense of his playing time.

A big part of this drop-off can be attributed to Schroder’s fit alongside Marcus Smart. Boston’s lead guard is playing some of the best basketball of his career serving as a primary ballhandler alongside Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Due to Smart’s limitations as a shooter and his much-needed playmaking ability, he’s taken a big chunk of minutes at point guard and Coach Udoka has been forced to make some changes to his lineup combinations. Schroder operates as a score-first guard who needs the ball in his hand to be effective, so pairing him with Marcus Smart came with disastrous results; shooting struggled, and when Schroder would focus on getting his own looks instead of keeping the offense clicking, the team suffered.

On the season, Smart and Schroder have shared the floor for a total of 672 minutes. However, in the last 14 games, they’ve only shared the floor a total of 16 minutes; during that same stretch of games, Boston has ranked 10th in offensive rating (112.9), first in defensive rating (101.8), and first in net rating (11.1). Regardless of how far the Celtics go this season, the team needs to start filling out their roster with players that fit around their core and the style of basketball they’re trying to play; Schroder currently fills neither of those prerequisites. Despite that, Schroder still has value to a team that needs his skillset, and Boston needs to get the most they can for the veteran before his contract expires.

So, the next question is: what can Boston get for Schroder in a trade? Realistically, if you were to deal Schroder by himself to another team, the most the Celtics would get in return is a heavily-protected first round pick. The more realistic return price would be a second-rounder or two, mainly because Schroder has an expiring contract and Boston would struggle to retain him in free agency. Ideally, you could include Schroder as part of a slightly bigger deal to bring in a solid player, but that kind of trade might not be in the cards.

As for destinations, there are a few that would make sense due to need and fit. Both the Bulls and Cavaliers have injuries to their guard rotation, so a veteran like Schroder would help bolster their rotations and keep their bench offense afloat until players return. Cleveland in particular makes a lot of sense, as they were granted a $9 Million Disabled Player Exception for Ricky Rubio’s season-ending injury. Maybe the Clippers enter the mix as they likely will be without Paul George and Kawhi Leonard the entire season. The main takeaway as we approach the deadline is this: Dennis Schroder’s days in Boston seem to be numbered, and they’re likely in the single digits.