Way back in February, at the 2019 NBA trade deadline, Oklahoma City Thunder sixth man Dennis Schroder was connected to the Los Angeles Lakers, with Zach Lowe of ESPN reporting the team “made some calls” about Schroder, among a few other guards.
Ultimately nothing came of that interest at the time, but Brian Windhorst of ESPN told our own Jas Kang that there is a deal potentially available for the Lakers to trade for “a guard on the last year of his contract who was great last year for his team and that team may be looking to move him.”
Now, who does that sound like? My colleague Sabreena Merchant surmised that it very well could be Schroder:
There’s also Dennis Schröder, another lightning-quick point guard who just had far and away the best season of his career in 2019-20 with Oklahoma City. He shot above-average from every part of the floor, including 63 percent at the rim and 39 percent from 3-point range. He assisted on 22.3 percent of his team’s baskets, an impressive figure in isolation and more impressive considering he always played next to another point guard. Perhaps most importantly, the Thunder defense was 6.6 points per 100 possessions better with Schröder on the floor.
The OKC guard finished second in Sixth Man of the Year voting, so “great” is a reasonable descriptor, and he will also be a free agent in the 2021 offseason. Like the Pistons, the Thunder are probably pivoting towards the future, and at age 27, Schröder is not a part of that, making him a potential trade candidate, as Windhorst suggests.
Why is all this relevant? Well, it serves to establish that the Lakers do have had documented interest in Schroder at a few different times now, to the point where it seems pretty clear that general manager Rob Pelinka is a fan of what Schroder brings to the table. Potentially unfortunately for the Lakers, it seems that those aforementioned calls Pelinka made on the guard may have been rejected by Schroder himself.
In an interview with Sport 1 that was translated by Eurohoops.net, Schroder said that the Lakers and Clippers had shown interest in him previously, but that he didn’t want to leave the Thunder. It’s important to take this with a grain of salt as sometimes these translated interviews do leave something lost in (ahem) translation, but given the past reports, it seems fair to assume that the “offers” Schroder is referencing are referring to the Lakers’ (and, apparently, Clippers’) interest at the past trade deadline, given that the NBA is not yet open for transactions:
“Yes, I have received offers. But I never wanted to go to the Lakers, the Clippers or all the names that may have called my agents,” Schroder said to the MagentaSport podcast, per Sport 1.
“In the end, I’m good with the GM (Sam Presti – the OKC General Manager) and that was my decision. I said that I like the organization here better,” Schroder added.
As Sabreena mentioned, Schroder is a free agent next summer, and with the Thunder openly shopping Chris Paul and hiring a first-time NBA head coach, they appear to be fully entering a rebuild. Will that change how much Schroder wants to stay there? It’s unknowable, but it’s plausible that it could.
Schroder is owed $15.5 million in the final year of his contract, meaning the Lakers could get him for, say, Danny Green and a pick, theoretically. And the advantages of acquiring Schroder would be two-fold. For one, he’d give the Lakers some on-ball dynamism they lacked last season prior to the emergence of Playoff Rondo™, and as an expiring contract, he’d still allow the Lakers to keep their cap sheet clean for next summer.
Oklahoma City is also reportedly looking to avoid taking back multi-year deals in trades, so they may just straight up be looking to save money and pick up future assets at this point, making Schroder appear eminently gettable. And while he may have not wanted to go to the Lakers at the deadline, he technically has no power to reject trades if the Thunder want to move on.
We’ll see what the Lakers do, but it seems pretty obvious at this point that they’ve done their fair share of sniffing around Schroder. Whether that results in a trade for him is anyone’s guess, but it’s just the latest sign that whether it’s Schroder or another guard, they’re after another on-ball creator to supplement LeBron James’ load as a creator.