Story KL Chouinard
In his first season as a starting NBA point guard, Dennis Schröder finished 12th in the league with 499 assists.
Schröder, however, did a lot more for the Hawks this season than just make passes. He led the team in points (1414). He also led the entire NBA in drives to the basket (971), which ended up being hugely important for the pace-and-space offense employed by head coach Mike Budenholzer. And Schröder topped all Hawks in minutes played (2485), despite the obvious toll imposed upon him and his 172-pound frame by defending on the ball and being forced to scramble around (and occasionally into) the numerous pick-and-rolls that NBA teams run.
Probe further into his successful season and one finds that Schröder finished in a tie for 4th in the NBA with 121 secondary assists (a.k.a. hockey assists). Secondary assists are the passes that lead directly to an assist within 2 seconds and 1 dribble. The only three players ranked above Schröder were Stephen Curry, James Harden and Isaiah Thomas.
That’s not to say that the 23-year-old can’t improve as a passer. There are still instances where he could thread a tidy pass to a roll man, or better time an alley-oop, or move a pass a few inches to find a shooter’s sweet spot. But as he and the Hawks look to his development in future seasons, Schröder clearly showed himself worthy of being a lead guard in a high-powered NBA offense.
Perhaps the best sign for Hawks fans is that Schröder absolutely thrived in big moments. Time and time again, he saved his best performances for the strongest opponents and biggest stages. For instance, Schröder averaged 17.9 points and 6.3 assists per game in the regular season. In the playoffs, those numbers jumped to 24.7 points and 7.7 assists.
Schröder cited two things on which he wanted to improve this summer.
“I want to get stronger, for sure,” he said. “I want to work on my jumper still, just try to get better everyday.”
Schröder’s jump shot was already solid this season. He made 100 threes for the first time in his career and converted threes at a respectable 34.0 percent rate. He showed an improved, repeatable form, as well as the ability to punish defenses when they played under pick-and-rolls and gave him space to shoot (in an attempt to keep him away from the rim).
In addition to his desired skill development, Schröder’s summer also figures to include some international play.
“I’m going to be in Germany a lot playing in the European championship probably,” he said. “As the leader for that team, I just want to get better every day and try to be an idol for all the German people and my German teammates who are looking up to me. I’ll try to do a great job there and then come back and start a new season here.”
Unlike two seasons ago, when he teamed up with Dirk Nowitzki for the World Championships, this summer Schröder will bear the burden of leadership as he takes over the reins of his country’s national team without the German legend. The experience should prove a good test of his ability to command the respect of his peers by example.
Schroder’s hit the mark with his self-analysis of his 2016-17 season.
“I think it was a good season,” he said. “It was my first year. I’m 23. We made the playoffs. I think it was pretty good. Next season, we’ve just got to keep it consistent – no ups and downs like we had this year – and we’ll be fine.”