The Quiet Development of Dennis Schroder

From intriguing draft prospect to forgotten rookie, Hawks guard Dennis Schroder is quietly coming along in Atlanta.

While the Hawks continue to impress with their Eastern Conference-leading 31-8 record, guys such as Kyle Korver, Jeff Teague, DeMarre Carroll, Paul Millsap, and Al Horford receive all the praise; and for good reason.

Under second-year head coach Mike Budenholzer, the Hawks seem to be doing everything right, from protecting the basketball, to scoring lots of points, to shooting it efficiently, to getting after it on defense.

But even with Korver’s dreamy jumper, Teague’s continued progress as a young point guard, Carroll’s still-underrated emergence, and that fearsome frontcourt, a young German backup guard might be the most intriguing player on Atlanta’s roster right now.

In this case, the word intriguing isn’t necessarily used as a form of appealing or captivating, or even entertaining but, instead, interesting. Stirring. There’s something about Dennis Schroder that generates some curiosity.

Leading up to the 2013 NBA draft, highlight reels and mixtapes of the former Phantoms Braunschweig point guard almost immediately garnered comparisons to Rajon Rondo. With his slim build, long arms, and creative playing style, not only was it an easy resemblance to spot, but the 20-year-old’s potential seemed obvious.

And just as quickly did the hype balloon inflate, a poor rookie season helped suck the air right back out. From sweet passes at the Nike Hoops Summit, to 3.7 points per game and a rotten -27 net rating, Schroder was quickly forgotten.

This season, however, it’s a whole new game.

Although Schroder isn’t Rondo quite yet, these first 39 games of the season have helped to reestablish the potential and promise that probably shouldn’t have been forgotten in the first place. With a full NBA season under his belt, Schroder looks much more confident this year, not only in Budenholzer’s system, but also as an overall basketball player.

In just 49 games last season, Schroder played only 641 total minutes. So far this season, he’s already logged 675 minutes, while more than doubling his PER (13.7), increasing his net rating by 20 points, and improving his field goal percentage from just 38 percent as a rookie to nearly 44 percent as a sophomore.

The following shows the stats of both Rondo and Schroder for their first two NBA seasons, each at the ages of 20 and 21. While the percent increases for each guy help show their respective improvements between Year 1 and Year 2, perhaps the number that stands out the most is minutes per game (MPG). Is Schroder improving more with less?

Rajon Rondo, Rookie23.5.4183.86.497103
Rajon Rondo, Soph.29.9.4925.110.610798
Percent Improvement+27.2%+17.7%+34.2%+65.6%+10.3%+5.1%

Dennis Schroder, Rookie13.1.3831.93.783110
Dennis Schroder, Soph.17.8.4393.28.196103
Percent Improvement+35.8%+14.6%+68.4%+118.9%+15.6%+6.79%

Just as those said about Rondo early in his career, Schroder’s jumper could certainly use improvement. But in the meantime, he can stick to driving layups and his more than 53 percent of attempts taken within eight feet. He has the speed to fire past his defender, the change-of-direction to make the most out of those awesome picks we see from Horford so often, and his touch around the basket is far better this year than last year.

Although confidence isn’t something we see pop up on a box score, that appears to be the key ingredient to Schroder’s progress this season, and moving forward. His court vision is there, his passing ability works perfectly in Budenholzer’s system, and his athleticism on both ends of the floor will help move him along as he continues to gain his footing in the pros.

Schroder’s on his way.