It was certainly not the expected landing sport considering the Celtics cap situation and the market Schröder anticipated for himself after he turned down the four-year, $84M extension with the Los Angeles Lakers, but here he is. The fourth starting-caliber point guard that Boston has acquired in the last six years.
Coming off a season where he finished second in Sixth Man of the Year voting, many viewed last year with Los Angeles as rather mediocre for Schröder. When you have five consecutive seasons where you put up at least 15 points per game, including one when you’re almost a 20-point scorer, you are expected to meet a certain standard. Especially when it’s with a franchise like the Lakers.
A week into free agency, it was unclear what destination Schröder wanted to go to or what franchise was actually interested.
“We obviously were very cognizant of what we had from a resource standpoint in free agency, and Dennis was a guy that, you know, if you would’ve asked me on the first day, first two days, it’d probably be unlikely that we would be able to be in play for him,” Celtics President of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens said. “He is, again, super-edge, super competitor, is a guy that could impact the game at so many levels and plays both ends of the court.”
In his only season with the Lakers, Schröder started in 61 contests and averaged 15.4 points, 5.8 assists, 3.5 boards, and 1.1 steals with shooting splits of 43.7/33.5/84.8%.
The 28-year-old point guard’s eighth season was highlighted by eight 24-plus point outings and a 13.8 Player Efficiency Rating. He had only missed four games until the veteran was out for seven in May. While Schröder did show some struggles throughout the year, his ability to be a floor-general if needed or play gritty on either end has been valuable to every team he’s been on.
“I love Dennis Schröder,” Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said postgame following his ejection after a confrontation with Kyrie Irving versus the Brooklyn Nets on Apr. 10. “I think that’s the first thing you have to state is, his competitive sprit, his fight, his swag. I think that wins for you.”
Schröder’s confidence was undeniably always there. One could argue that he might have been more efficient and capable of displaying his offensive talents with LeBron James off the floor. When that would occur, Schröder put up 17.7, eight assists and three rebounds at a clip of 46.1% from the field and 40.5 from deep. With James, only 14 points, four assists and three boards on 42.2/29.3%, mostly due to the four-time champ being the main ball-handler and initiating the plays.
Interacting With Fans While Exposing Flaws
Schröder blended in with the Celtics culture, creating a poll on his website for fans to determine what jersey number he would wear. Considering the late, great John Havlicek wore No. 17 and the C’s are like the Yankees when it comes to their limited jersey numbers, there were some erratic choices.
He chose the inverse of his original number and decided on 71.
As one would imagine, most of the NBA and sports media world had a lot to say about Schröder signing the $5.9M offer from the rival Boston.
“He gagged this one,” Shannon Sharpe of FS1’s, “Undisputed,” said. “Skip, (Bayless) you hear the term fumbling the bag, he fumbled the suitcase, they lost a whole airplane worth of baggage, matter of fact they lost the airplane. I’ve never seen anything like this, but I’d fire my agent.”
The co-host continued to go in on the guard and his fantasies of signing a deal worth over $100M.
“What he was doing was pocket-watching everybody else to see what they got. You can’t put on tape what you put on last year and thought someone was gonna pay you that. Skip, I feel bad for him, but let me tell you this, you’re not gonna make that up. I don’t care what you do, you’re not gonna make that up. These are one of the stories that betting on yourself, goes wrong.”
Schröder, himself, finally spoke upon the situation and joked about it making fun of himself in an Instagram post.
The Fit and a Major Chip for 71
Between the Celtics’ flurry of star point guard acquisitions through the years and Schröder’s personal mistakes, one could argue that he could have the biggest chip on his shoulder of any player in the NBA.
Whether it may be starting alongside or backing-up Marcus Smart, the idea of Schröder as a rotational presence could be a blessing in disguise for Boston. Like Smart, on defense, Schröder shows his feistiness and can get right up in anyone’s grill. He’s willing to sacrifice his body and dive for loose balls or whatever ignites the team. He’s a nuisance on that end.
“Schröder can play above his height and is a pest when he picks up and when he gets into the ball,” Stevens said. “He’s as disruptive as you can be. Obviously, there’s two sides of the ball. To win a game you gotta play both sides well, to be a great team and a team that’s in the mix, you should probably be in the top-five or six on both sides.”
Schröder makes the Celtics a lot more flexible and versatile on either side with his impacting of the game in numerous ways.
He can serve as another option to handle the ball in Ime Udoka‘s system with him being one of the multiple they’ve added to take pressure off of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. With the many different lineups that Boston can throw out on the court, Schröder can play right next to Smart in the backcourt, giving them arguably one of the most frightening defensive guard-pairings in the league.
Schröder’s slick play whenever he puts the ball on the floor is why he’s so good at dishing to bigs or cutters inside. His ability to be creative in the paint or on the drive will be a huge plus for not only Tatum and Brown, but the other shot-creators in Josh Richardson, Payton Pritchard, or Aaron Nesmith.
His knack of generating plays for bigs to finish inside should be key in the evolution of Robert Williams this season. Not for nothing, his previous chemistry with Al Horford in Atlanta for three years helps as well. That toughness and edge of Schröder’s will be therapeutic to Celtic fans, especially in a sold-out TD Garden after last season’s unfortunate, unknown times and Brad Stevens comments explaining why he brought Schröder in should have everyone excited…
“I think that might be the uniqueness of me moving into this role is my first thought is, ‘how much did I fear them,'” Stevens said.
Feature Image: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images.