Fantasy Basketball: Has Dennis Schroder Really Been a Bust?

The young point guard is finally starting in Atlanta, but his current standing in fantasy basketball ranks is modest at best. What exactly has gone wrong?

This past summer, the Atlanta Hawks finally unloaded point guard Jeff Teague, netting a first-round draft pick in their three-team deal with the Utah Jazz and Indiana Pacers.

Fantasy basketball owners were chomping at the bit -- young German import Dennis Schroder would at last be the full-time point guard starter in Atlanta, and robust production was sure to follow.

But we’ve passed the halfway mark of Schroder’s first season as starter, and the much-hyped guard sits just barely inside the top 100 in fantasy value ranks (per Yahoo!).

Could it be that, despite a major increase in playing time, Schroder is turning out to be a fantasy bust?

Where’s the Usage?

Fantasy owners who are impatient with Schroder’s production probably drafted him expecting a massive uptick in usage. Disappointingly, his overall shares of the Hawks offense are actually slightly down from last season, despite his new starting role:

Season USG% %FGA %3PA %AST %REB
2015-16 28.8 28.1 24.9 41.1 15.1
2016-17 26.9 26.8 22.7 40 10.5

Oddly enough, this slight dip in usage has not necessarily translated to a dip in counting stat production. Schroder’s to-date per-36 numbers look almost identical with those from last year:

2015-16 Per 36 17.3 4 1.7 4.5 7.8 1.6 0.2 4.1 19.5
2016-17 Per 36 17.1 3.8 1.5 3.5 7.3 0.9 0.2 3.5 20.6

So, at least in terms of counting stats, Schroder is producing in 30 minutes per game pretty much exactly what we could reasonably have expected given what he produced in 20 minutes per game as a reserve last season.

And, in fact, his shooting efficiency been even better.

Shooting Growth

It might surprise Schroder’s more restless owners to know that the young guard is actually having the best shooting year of his young career.

Season FGA FG% 3PA 3P% TS%
2014-15 8.6 .427 1.9 .351 .516
2015-16 9.8 .421 3 .322 .510
2016-17 14.5 .469 3.4 .361 .549

How Schroder can manage a near 50 percent increase in field goal attempts along with a near 5-percentage-point increase in shooting percentage seems like a minor miracle.

Quite to the contrary, he seems to be adjusting back to the shot patterns that made him a standout reserve during his first two seasons.

Schroder has taken a foot off his average shot distance from last season, down to 11.6 from last year’s 12.6. There’s no major style overhaul here, as Schroder averaged about 11.5 feet in his first two NBA seasons.

His shot distance splits also look similar to those from his early tenure with Atlanta, or at least more similar to his earlier seasons than to last year.

Season % 3-10 foot %10-16 foot %16-plus foot %3P
2013-14 .218 .080 .170 .223
2014-15 .155 .065 .177 .223
2015-16 .078 .063 .182 .306
2016-17 .136 .100 .149 .237

It seems that he's found a happy medium between the extreme short range approach of his rookie year and the let-it-fly approach that made his upside seem so tantalizing last year. This season, Schroder is upping his short range twos and being more selective with his tough twos and threes.

The approach is working -- Schroder is posting career high make rates from all distances, short and long.

A Game of Inches

So what exactly is the problem here?

The reason why Schroder’s value seems to suffer in the Yahoo! ranks (and thus why he may be perceived as a “bust” in his season-to-date production) has something to do with the way rankings systems like Yahoo!’s weigh output in scarcer counting categories (threes, steals, blocks) as more impactful than production in more plentiful categories (points and rebounds).

Of course, this makes intuitive sense, especially in weekly head-to-head formats, where a single steal or made three-pointer can swing a category in a given week.

But there is also a sense in which the ballooned value of these scarce categories creates a deceptive “game of inches” with respect to active player rankings. After all, the further down the rankings we go, the more compressed the value difference between players becomes -- and the more these scarce categories create an exaggerated sense of how much more valuable certain players are than others.

Let's consider Schroder's to-date per game production along side four other point guard eligible players (Louis Williams, Jrue Holiday, Goran Dragic, and Victor Oladipo) who, per Yahoo!, are producing in the range of top 60 to 80 value, around where Schroder was drafted in most standard leagues.

Jrue Holiday 65 12.6 .433 2.9 .711 3.5 7.2 2.6 14.5 3.5
Louis Williams 67 12.8 .434 5.8 .873 2.2 3.1 2 18.2 3.3
Victor Oladipo 74 13.8 .456 2.1 .684 4.2 2.6 1.6 16.2 3.5
Goran Dragic 78 15.1 .463 4.9 .787 4 6.3 3.2 19.5 2.7
Dennis Schroder 98 14.5 .469 3.3 .833 2.9 6.3 3 17.6 2.3

To the naked eye, does Schroder clearly seem like he’s by far the least valuable of the bunch? Maybe not -- and certainly not by 20 to 30 ranking spots.

For one thing, Schroder seems like the best overall shooting efficiency value here (though perhaps one could make a case for Dragic). His assists and scoring are each in the top half of the pack. The rebound rate hurts him, but the overall value effect is probably negligible, considering it’s a relatively high-volume statistic.

But of course, the difference makers are those crucial scarce categories. Schroder is woefully behind the pack here -- he technically produces 30 percent less in combined threes, steals, and blocks than the average output of the other four players.

Hold the Fort

How does all of this effect our treatment of Schroder moving forward?

Well, this scarcity issue cuts both ways. Schroder could string together a hot couple of weeks from three, or a few multi-steal games, at which point his overall value would start to correct itself. After all, we have no reason to believe he’ll fall off significantly in the other categories.

It also seems fair to assume that Schroder’s shrewder (ahem) owners likely drafted around or have adjusted to his modest production in the scarce categories, seeking their threes, steals, and blocks elsewhere. In those cases, Schroder’s points, assists, and percentage output remain absolutely indispensable.

So, no, there’s no reason at all to panic here. Even those who expected him to be a usage monster have no real incentive to sell low.

But if Schroder's owners remain impatient with his ranking status, fantasy owners in need of efficient scoring and assists production could have a nice buying opportunity.