The Boston Celtics defense has been tremendous since the turn of the year, but their offense still falters from time to time. On Sunday night, against a pesky Orlando Magic team, the Celtics struggled to see the bottom of the net, especially during the opening exchanges.
Enter Dennis Schroder.
The often-discussed point guard is doing his best Marcus Smart impression this year, creating fractious discussions about his fit on the team and if his scoring impact is worth the perceived hit the offensive flow takes when he's on the floor. Of course, the regularity with which the veteran guard's name has been thrown around in trade discussions hasn't helped persuade fans about his value to the team one way or another.
Still, when watching Schrdoer's performance last night, there was no denying he was a catalyst for offensive change and helped spur his team onto their fifth-straight victory. Games like this one are why Boston was so excited to sign the microwave guard in the first place.
We live in a world where micro-content has become the go-to source of entertainment, music is instantly streamed to you, and food is ready moments after you order. It makes sense, then, that having a player who can get buckets seconds after entering a game fits the current "rapid hit" mentality of the world's population, regardless of the overall ramifications. Yet, if you, like me, were looking for those ramifications against the Magic, you would have been left disappointed because the Braunschweig hardly put a foot wrong on the offensive end of the floor.
Things didn't start well for Schroder, though; like every other member of the Celtics roster, he started the game cold and missed his first two shots. However, both attempts were good looks in open space, and it would have been foolish to defer the rock in either situation.
As you would expect, both of those opening attempts came courtesy of a screening action and involved a slight change of pace from the 28-year-old guard; the rock just didn't fall.
The above play is Schroder's first shot attempt after coming off the bench. You can see the possession unfolds quickly in transition, with Al Horford setting a drag screen for Schroder and the veteran guard firing away the moment he enters space on the wing. While the nine-year veteran isn't the best three-point shooter, averaging 33.8% on his career, you have to trust your scorers to hit their open looks, come what may.
Yet, with the Celtics shooting just 39.1% from the field and an "I almost checked twice" 7.7% from the three-point line in the first quarter, it was clear the team needed somebody to step up as a primary offensive weapon if they were going to get anything from this game.
So, this will be an impactful Schroder night huh?— Adam Taylor (@AdamTaylorNBA) February 6, 2022
Schroder was more than happy to answer the call, as he came back into the game to drop 9 points in the second quarter for Boston, showing an array of scoring moves in the process.
Did somebody say spin cycle? Sometimes, a moment like the one above can galvanize a team and entice a new level out of your teammates, which is why Schroder exploding to the hoop off a nifty spin move was so important to a sputtering offense. Yet, we have to take a moment to appreciate the mechanics and skill this possession displayed for the iso-centric guard.
As Jayson Tatum comes off the Horford pin-down, he flows into an on-ball screen for Schroder. Boston's sixth man leads his defender into the contact, selling his movements with his shoulder and head positioning before getting low and changing directions at breakneck speed. After Schrdoer's crossover has taken place, note how low his rear leg gets to the floor, most notably his shin. Some analysts will note the leg positioning as a "low shin angle," which, in fairness, is aptly named.
However, there is a scientific reason certain players position their bodies in this manner, and it's due to the propulsion it provides on a first step, usually after a change of pace or direction. Sports scientists note the body positioning as a biomechanical principle called elastic recoil, which allows speedy guards like Schroder to load up on a crossover before exploding towards the rim.
You know when Schroder is having a good game because his three's start to fall, and the shooting motion looks smooth. With his shooting looking so in rhythm, you can understand why he went 4-for-8 from deep against the Magic. When Schroder, or any other guard for that matter, is hitting their three's at such a high clip, the opposing defense has to adjust their coverages, which in turn opens driving lanes for slashers off the wing.
As such, it makes sense that Jaylen Brown went to the post a few times after half-time as a way to counteract Orlando's reaction to Schroder's deep-ball threat.
As an aside, we should also touch on Schroder's usefulness when attacking downhill off of "get" actions, as that's been a staple of his offensive game all season and looked reliable again on Sunday night.
A get action is a form of dribble hand-off but is initiated by the hand-off receiver (Schroder) giving the ball to the hand-off initiator (Robert Williams) and then going to get it back. We've consistently seen Schroder attack the wings on these types of actions throughout the season. He always seems to generate large amounts of separation due to his ability to upcycle through his gears over short distances.
Yes, in a game where the Celtics sorely needed an offensive spark, Schroder stepped up to the plate, just as he's done multiple times this season. And while we could easily explore his overall negatives, he played too well for the energy to be spent doing that in this article.
Instead, we can look back at the veteran's performance with a smile on our face and know that, at the very least, games like this are what's building his trade value heading into the February 10 trade deadline. And of course, should Brad Stevens opt to keep the speedster around for the rest of the season, we can rest easy knowing the second unit is in safe hands and that Boston has a difference-making guard on the bench.