Even before Anthony Davis re-aggravated his Achilles tendinosis and strained his calf, he, his co-star LeBron James and respected locker room leader Jared Dudley were all giving Dennis Schröder the same message: They all wanted the Lakers’ starting point guard to “be aggressive”, especially while Davis was out.
He is listening.
“I just tried to be a little bit more aggressive getting into the paint and finding my teammates, even scoring myself if I have to if I got a good look. I just tried to be aggressive and help my teammates win,” Schröder said last week after scoring 19 points in Davis’ first absence against the Oklahoma City Thunder, right before scoring the same amount in their next win.
When Davis briefly returned to the lineup for two games against the Memphis Grizzlies and Denver Nuggets, Schröder scored 2 and 8 points, respectively, but with Davis gone again against the Timberwolves, he flamed Minnesota for 24 points on 9-15 shooting, one point short of his season-high and the most he’s scored in a Lakers victory.
And while the Lakers surely weren’t expecting Davis to deal with an Achilles injury when they signed Schröder, having depth to deal with absences during an expedited season that followed and almost nonexistent offseason was part of their offseason plan, according to general manager Rob Pelinka.
“That was something that was really intentional as the front office was coming up with our strategy for this team,” Pelinka said during a recent appearance on Spectrum SportsNet prior to Davis’ injury. “Having come out of the bubble experience where guys had to come and go a little bit and teams had quarantine issues, we knew that this year with kind of the soft bubble that we’re in where teams are traveling around that we wanted to have a deep team, and I think on a night when we’re missing a couple good players we’ll still be amazingly competitive.
“Frank Vogel and others at the beginning felt like this is one of the deepest teams in recent history,” Pelinka continued. “That was intentional for sure.”
Pelinka wasn’t specifically talking about him, but Schröder is a big part of that depth. He may not be fitting in perfectly when everyone is in the lineup — the Lakers are never worse by the numbers defensively than when he plays, and never better than when he sits, per NBA.com — but the team feels that last year’s Sixth Man of the Year runner-up has given them an almost mystical and unquantifiable defensive energy with his intensity and effort on that end of the floor. They’re also scoring 8.6 points more per 100 possessions when Schröder plays than they are when he sits, so he’s living up to his reputation as a weapon on that end of the floor.
The Lakers will continue to need all the juice Schröder can give them even more while Davis is out. Luckily for them, it seems he is more than happy to listen to his teammates and take on the challenge.