It has only been a month since the Los Angeles Lakers captured the 2020 NBA championship, and the franchise has already started to revamp its roster in defense of its title.
Former Oklahoma City Thunder guard Dennis Schroder will be donning a purple and gold jersey for the 2020-21 season after the Lakers and Thunder agreed to a deal that was consummated on draft night last Wednesday.
The price to nab Schroder was costly: Danny Green and the No. 28 pick of this year’s draft. Green was a key player as a 3-and-D wing for the Lakers. Even when his shot was off, his defense was still reliable.
But Green was inconsistent last season whereas Schroder was a model of consistency for the Thunder.
With the departure of point guard Rajon Rondo, who declined his player option to test the free agent waters, Schroder is exactly what the Lakers need to shore up their guard rotation.
Here are five things that Schroder brings to the table for the Lakers:
1. An Isolation Threat
The Lakers had two primary players who could create scoring opportunities for themselves last season: LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
With Schroder on board, L.A. will have a legitimate third option. His speed and ability to blow by his defender will come in handy when the offense becomes stagnant and the defense is locked in on the Lakers’ two All-Stars.
When Schroder is on the floor for the Lakers, he will immediately command attention from the defense, which he will gladly pick apart especially when he has a mismatch.
2. Capable Defense
During the playoffs last season, the Lakers relied heavily on Alex Caruso’s defense off the bench to stifle their opponents’ attack. With Schroder, who may or may not be a starter for the Purple and Gold, the Lakers have a capable defender who will not back down against anyone.
As Anthony Slater of The Athletic pointed out, the Thunder’s defensive rating was better with Schroder on the floor compared to when he was on the bench.
“The Thunder actually had a much better defensive rating with him on the floor (103.0) than off of it (111.8) last season,” Slater wrote. “It was the same situation in OKC’s seven-game first-round series against the [Houston] Rockets: 103.8 with Schröder on it, team-worst 114.9 with him off of it. That might be the greatest argument why Schröder will work in the postseason for a defense-first Lakers team. He just worked in a playoff series against a conference rival.”
Green’s ability to defend the league’s more athletic wings will surely be missed, but that’s a problem that the Lakers will have to address with a future free agent signing or trade. Schroder merely needs to take care of defending the players that he can, and all signs point to him not being as much of a liability as some may think.
In fact, as the stats have proven, Schroder will have a positive effect on the Lakers’ defense.
He may only be listed as 6-foot-1, but Schroder plays with heart. He can guard bigger players and easily play either of the two guard positions.
As a creator, Schroder is quite familiar with the role of lead guard, having played that role with the Atlanta Hawks a few years ago, and as a reserve for the Thunder last season when Chris Paul was getting a breather.
Speaking of his time in Atlanta, Schroder averaged 6.3 dimes in 146 games in his final two years with the Hawks. His passing is an underrated aspect of his game and one that Lakers head coach Frank Vogel will take advantage of, especially when James takes a seat on the bench.
He may not be able to replicate Rondo’s playmaking and creativity, but Schroder will be a bigger threat without the ball than Rondo has ever been. Since James will be handling the ball more often when both of them are on the floor, Schroder’s ability to play shooting guard will be invaluable for the Lakers.
4. 3-Point Shooting
Schroder, the runner-up to Montrezl Harrell for 2019-20 Sixth Man of the Year honors, shot a career-high 38.5 percent from trifecta territory last season. That is a higher percentage than Green had for the Lakers (36.7 percent) all year.
Moreover, Schroder drained 125 3-pointers last season. That’s more than any player on the Lakers not named LeBron James.
Schroder will have plenty of opportunities to play off of the spacing that playing with James and Davis provides. According to ESPN’s Kirk Goldsberry, Schroder knocked down 41 percent of his 273 catch-and-shoot threes last season.
With Dennis Schröder, the Lakers could get another solid playmaker who has become an effective catch-and-shoot threat as well.
He made 41% of 273 catch-and-shoot 3s in 2019-20. pic.twitter.com/rlUKc7xWou
— Kirk Goldsberry (@kirkgoldsberry) November 15, 2020
Some might say that the stars merely aligned perfectly for Schroder’s threes to fall consistently last season. However, with James and Davis commanding plenty of attention on offense, Schroder will have plenty of room to jack up open shots from downtown.
5. Scoring Opportunities for All
Schroder averaged 18.9 points and 4.0 assists a game last season.
When comparing him to Rondo, the player that Schroder is ultimately replacing, the 27-year old is a major upgrade scoring-wise. Even when Rondo played extremely well on offense during the last postseason, he didn’t exactly create that much spacing for the Lakers because opponents didn’t fear his shot.
That’s how he was able to get so many open threes. With Schroder around, defenses won’t be packing the paint so easily knowing that there’s a shooter with the ball in his hands, thus, creating openings to the basket for the Lakers’ cutters.
Schroder is also an excellent pick-and-roll player. Expect him and Davis to connect often on alley-oops almost from the get-go next season. Schroder’s scoring ability will give his teammates the daylight they need to knock down the open shot.
He may not be able to replicate Rondo’s playmaking and creativity, but Schroder does many good things on offense for himself and others to make up for this.