Los Angeles Lakers guard Dennis Schroeder made headlines on Monday afternoon when he described how he envisions his role on his new team.
Schroeder was acquired earlier this offseason in a trade that cost the Lakers veteran wing Danny Green and their first-round pick in the 2020 NBA draft. After starting just two games for the Oklahoma City Thunder last season, the guard was a finalist for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award.
But the 27-year-old told reporters, on an introductory video press conference, that he wants to be in the first unit with Los Angeles:
“I did this off the bench stuff already in two years with OKC. I think I try to move forward, and I think with [Anthony Davis] and LeBron, I can be helpful as a starter in the PG position.”
According to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, the Lakers “have not settled upon” their starting lineup. Even though Schroeder will be considered for the role, it seems no decision has been made.
New story: Dennis Schröder made it known he wants to be the starting point guard for L.A., but sources tell ESPN the Lakers haven’t settled on a starting lineup yet https://t.co/T5jjt0akYH
— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) November 30, 2020
The coaching staff and front office will have to consider his desires to they do not up with a disgruntled player on their roster. For personnel reasons, Los Angeles may need him to run point off the bench considering no one else on their roster besides LeBron James has the skill set as a primary ball-handler.
But recent history also suggests that the guard can make his biggest impact on the second unit. Schroeder managed 18.9 points per game this past season, which helped the Thunder record the fifth-most bench scoring (39.5 ppg) among teams in the Western Conference last season.
Oklahoma City outscored opponents by 5.5 points per 100 possessions when Schroeder was on the floor last season. He kept the Thunder stay competitive when Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari and Steven Adams got their rest.
That may not have been what Schroeder expected considering that during his final year with the Atlanta Hawks in 2017-18, he averaged a career-best 19.4 points per game. During that campaign, however, his usage rate (33.4%) was the sixth-highest in the NBA. The only players who had a higher usage rate that season were James Harden, Russell Westbrook, LeBron, John Wall and Joel Embiid.
Dennis Schroder had the same usage rate as Kevin Durant last season.
Higher than Gordon Hayward, KAT, Jimmy Butler, Mike Conley, etc.
— Brad Rowland (@BTRowland) August 2, 2017
But when he landed on the same team as Westbrook, he was destined for a role change so that Oklahoma City could most optimize his services.
Per RotoGrinders: Schroeder recorded just 14.9 points per 36 minutes and a low usage rate (17.7 percent) during the 1,161 minutes that he and Westbrook were on the floor at the same time. But in minutes Westbrook was not on the floor, according to RotoGrinders, his usage rate increased to 28.8 percent and his scoring increased to 22.4 points per 36.
It may be even harder to stand out with James and Anthony Davis both on the floor. James had one of the six highest usage rates in the NBA in 2019-20, via Cleaning the Glass, while Davis had a usage rate that ranked 96th percentile among all big men.
Considering both of those players need the ball, Schroeder may get a bit lost in the shuffle as a scorer if he is playing alongside those two bona fide stars.
Dennis Schroder makes his case to start: "I did this off the bench stuff already the last two years in OKC … I think with LeBron and AD I can be helpful as a starter in the PG position."
— Bill Oram (@billoram) November 30, 2020
He is making the case that he can help feed James and Davis, allowing them to play a bit more off the ball. But that may take away what his best skills are as a basketball player as a sparkplug scorer off the bench.
The most optimized version of Schroeder is one where he can have the ball in his hands and operate the pick-and-roll as either a scorer or distributor. When including his passes, according to Synergy, the guard recorded 12.2 pick-and-roll sets per game. Unsurprisingly, that was one of the most prolific marks in the NBA last year.
Even furthering this argument, Los Angeles also signed NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Montrezl Harrell this offseason. The high-energy frontcourt piece averaged 18.6 points per game last season despite, like Schroeder, starting just two games for the Clippers.
"The Schroder and Harrell pick and roll is going to be effective… They're going to be able to rest Anthony Davis for longer stretches. It makes things a little easier." @MoDakhil_NBA on LAL signing Montrezl Harrell.
LNHH until 11(ish). https://t.co/v23K0HzCi8
— Kamenetzky Brothers (@KamBrothers) November 21, 2020
The play type where Harrell was most effective was as the roll man in PnR actions. The big man averaged 2.6 points per game on these opportunities, via Synergy, which was one of the ten best marks in the NBA last season.
Much like they did on their previous teams, Schroeder and Harrell will be able to keep the Lakers competitive when LeBron and AD are not on the floor.
After the long stretch into the NBA finals and the quick turnaround into the subsequent regular season, James and Davis may both require more rest than they have in previous campaigns. There may even be full games where James and/or Davis do not play at all.
Schroeder and Harrell can slide into the first unit when that happens. But even though Schroeder envisions himself as a full-time starter, his best role will be similar to the one he played last season.