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Lakers Season in Review: Dennis Schröder

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Dennis Schröder was arguably the most polarizing player on the Lakers this year. Will the team try to re-sign him in free agency, sign-and-trade him elsewhere, or lose him for nothing?

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Phoenix Suns defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 113-100 during game six of the Western Conference First Round NBA Playoff basketball game. Photo by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images

Welcome to our annual Lakers season in review series, where we’ll be taking a look back at every player on the team’s roster this season, evaluating their play, and deciding if they should be a part of the organization’s future. Today, we take a closer look at Dennis Schröder.

How did he play?

If the Lakers stopped playing at the end of the regular season, most would probably agree that Dennis Schröder played pretty well as the third-best player on the roster. Not perfect, but totally fine. However, his playoff performance was where his play — and place on the team moving forward — began to really, seriously and justifiably be questioned. In Games 4 and 5 of the first round, when the Lakers needed him most, Schröder vanished, scoring just 8 points on 13.6% shooting.

This was not the third-star-level play the Lakers were hoping for when they sent Danny Green and their first-round pick to Oklahoma City for the Sixth Man of the Year runner-up last offseason. Immediately, Schröder stated he was going to be the starter, the first signs of a roster-wide shift from the team-first mentality the Lakers had for all of their championship season.

“I did this off-the-bench stuff already in two years with OKC,” Schröder said then. “I think I (will) try to move forward, and I think with AD and LeBron I can be helpful as a starter in the PG position.”

In the regular season, Schröder played well in that role. He averaged 15.4 points per game on 43.7% shooting to go with 5.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds. But watching him play was a rollercoaster of emotions. He had moments where it felt like he’d pump fake at least five wide-open three’s per game due to his slower shot release, and he had an irritating habit of holding the ball for a bit too long.

But for all the bad, there were also moments where it seemed like the opposing point guard couldn’t defend any of Schröder’s drives, where he was just too fast for opposing defenses. His full court defense was also contagious for the entire team on that end of the floor.

Schröder especially rose to the occasion when LeBron James and/or Anthony Davis went out, bumping up his scoring average to 17.3 points per game on 44.5% shooting, while also dishing 7.1 assists per contest. Schröder is in no way able to be the No. 1 or 2 on a good team, but he was certainly able to step up during the moments when the Lakers needed him to carry a bit more weight (at least in the regular season).

In the hopes of retaining Schröder, the Lakers offered two contract extensions during the season. Before the season had started, the Lakers offered him a two-year, $33.4 million extension. Schröder declined. The Lakers later offered him the max they were able to give him prior to the offseason: Four-years, $84 million. Schröder declined again.

Right before the playoffs, Schröder missed seven games due to the league’s health and safety protocols. In a postgame interview after his return, he stated that not only did he not have the vaccine, but that he also didn’t have COVID-19, but also could not get it again. He stated that he had been feeling great and had no issues. However, recently Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported that Schroder did in fact have COVID during that time, and was limited by it.

Then, the playoffs arrived. This was the biggest stage of all for Schröder to prove he was worth the $100+ million deal he was clearly hoping for. In his first 3 games, he seemed to do so, actually playing pretty well and holding his own for the team. The Lakers had a 2-1 lead over the Phoenix Suns, and seemed to be in the driver’s seat to win Game 4.

However, after Anthony Davis got hurt, Schröder was a shell of himself. He scored only 8 points in Game 4, an then none in Game 5. He went 0-9 from the field when the series was tied 2-2. He didn’t come close to resembling the dynamic scorer the Lakers thought they had traded for.

Despite the bad taste the ending left, however, Schröder’s season wasn’t all bad. The Lakers highest plus/minus 3-man lineup that played at least 10 games together was LeBron, Davis, and Schröder, who outscored opponents by 5 points per 100 possessions together. Now I know people may say: “Well of course it is, those are the teams best players,” but it still shows that the trio worked well together. Maybe they could do so again moving forward.

What is his contract situation moving forward?

Dennis is an unrestricted free agent, and can test the market. The Vice President of the German Basketball Federation stated that “Dennis Schröder has communicated this clearly: he wants $100, $120 million (in free agency).” Essentially, this shows that Dennis is looking for an offer between $25 to $30 million a year.

As our own Christian Rivas wrote in the wake of that news last month, only 11 point guards in the NBA make that much per year, and the only one who isn’t an All-Star is Jamal Murray, who would’ve been if it weren’t for a stacked amount of guards in the West.

Should he be back?

There are plenty of reasons why the Lakers should want Schröder back, but also a few rea$on$ why maybe they shouldn’t.

On the plus side of things, in the regular season, the pairing of LeBron, Davis, and Schröder worked. The Lakers were 19-7 when they played together. If Davis didn’t get injured, the Lakers may have moved on to the next round of the playoffs, Schröder’s 0-point game (probably) never happens, and the skepticism about his play doesn’t really appear, at least not to this degree. And while there are point guards better than Schröder available in free agency, getting them with the Lakers’ cap situation won’t be easy. The Lakers can retain Schröder and exceed the cap due to having his Bird rights, but they can’t do that for a new player. So keeping Schröder and trying to give him a cheaper contract than his asking price would be something that the Lakers should still be (and likely are) considering.

But one reason why they should consider not bringing back Schröder is the “crazy money” he’s asking for. Marc J. Spears of the Undefeated has reported that Russell Westbrook is a potential candidate in a sign-and-trade that would include Schröder going to the Wizards. If Washington is willing to offer him that amount of money and not take too many key players from the Lakers along with Schröder, the Lakers should be all for that. Westbrook only has two years left on his contract, so even though the money on his deal is high, it’s still only for a short amount of years. Chris Paul and Kyle Lowry have also been connected to the Lakers. With all these big name point guards, the Lakers may want to take their time figuring out their situation with Schröder, even if it’s by acquiring one of those two stars in a sign-and-trade, which would hard cap them.

The difference between what the Lakers offered and what Schröder wants is pretty big, so it doesn’t entirely seem like it’s a perfect match. There’s probably three scenarios that cold happen:

  1. Either the Lakers and Dennis reach an agreement on a deal that’s higher than what Lakers offered before, but lower than $120 million
  2. The Lakers agree to a sign-and-trade with Schröder so it’s a win/win for both the Lakers and him
  3. Dennis signs a contract with another team, leaving Lakers without a starting point guard and forcing them to trade for one without a sign-and-trade, or to sign one through free agency.

Hopefully that third option doesn’t happen, but if the Lakers want to maximize the remaining years on LeBron’s contract, they may just have to offer more money than they want in order to keep a team together that they once hoped could contend for a title, but came up woefully short. Even if at this point keeping Schröder is clearly not their favorite option, it might ultimately end up being their best one.

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