Welcome to our Lakers Season Preview Series! For the next several weeks, we’ll be writing columns every weekday, breaking down the biggest questions we have about every player the Lakers added this offseason. Today, we take a look at Dennis Schröder.
One of the only consistencies of the Lakers franchise in recent years has been their willingness — bordering eagerness — to bring back former Lakers in free agency. Last summer was the finest example of that with Trevor Ariza, Wayne Ellington, Rajon Rondo and Dwight Howard all coming back.
It would be easy, then, to file Dennis Schröder’s return into that same category. But though the aforementioned names looked far past their basketball expiration dates last season as mid-to-late 30-year-olds, Schröder does not fit that same mold.
At 29 years old, Schröder is right in the middle of his physical prime, already a big difference from Ariza or Howard, who hardly resembled their younger versions. And though Schröder’s complete mishandling of his contract situation left him signing a bargain deal last season, the guard still produced a season in line with his career averages and is coming off a EuroBasket tournament in which he looked every bit as good as he did in 2019-20 when he finished second in Sixth Man of the Year voting.
Given his familiarity with the team and its two stars in LeBron James and Anthony Davis, it’s not hard to envision how this plays out in the next year.
What is his best-case scenario?
Even if there were moments of frustration or inconsistency, Schröder had a successful season with the Lakers in 2020-21. It was clearly successful enough that the Lakers were open to offering a lengthy and lucrative extension.
This time around, he’s not even coming in with the same level of fanfare and expectations that he did in 2019. Even if things have all felt odd since his final game as a Laker against the Suns, he’s still largely been the same player statistically.
Even with his perceived struggles last season in Boston and Houston, he averaged 0.7 points per game fewer than his career average while matching his assists per game and averaging marginally more points in comparison to his career averages. His field-goal and three-point percentages were only tenths of points different and he actually had a higher effective field-goal percentage than he did either in his time in LA or for his career.
If he steps into Los Angeles this time around and replicates his performance from that 2020-21 season with a bit more consistency and 3-point shooting closer to the 38.5% he shot in Oklahoma City in 2019-20, then the Lakers would be ecstatic to get that type of player on a minimum deal.
Would it lead to more 4-year, $84-million extension talks? Probably not since I’m pretty sure it’s illegal in the CBA. But getting that level of play from a point guard is something the Lakers did not have last season, and if Schröder can be a legitimate 3-and-D option in the backcourt alongside Patrick Beverley, then suddenly the team has a pair of players with skillsets they’ve lacked since the Russell Westbrook trade.
What is his worst-case scenario?
As I stated, there’s been a weird vibe around Schröder dating back to even the end of his season with the Lakers. Perhaps it’s the desire of Lakers fans to wipe everything from that season out of their memory, but the vibes around Schröder didn’t come only from Lakers fans.
After the Lakers left him hanging, so did the rest of the league in the summer of 2021 in one of the most bizarre free agencies in recent memory. Even after landing in Boston, he struggled to integrate and the Celtics took off once he was traded. In Houston, Schröder played just 10 games, though that could pretty easily be chalked up to their desire to not win games.
Coming back to the figurative scene of the crime, though, could be tough. Los Angeles is where things went haywire for him. Between that, poor shooting and an inability to put forth consistent performances, Schröder could see things go awry in a not-so-unrealistic scenario.
Playing well in EuroBasket isn’t something to scoff at, but beating up on Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina doesn’t quite translate to matchups against the Clippers and Suns.
Darvin Ham also brings with him a new style. So, while he had success under Frank Vogel, will he be able to have success under a new coach with a new system?
What is his most likely role on the team?
The Lakers need a player like Schröder, who will bring a level of intensity to the court each night. He has his flaws in his game, but effort can cover those up to a degree.
Schröder and Pat Bev will likely serve as the backbone for intensity night in and night out for this team. Schröder’s willingness to buy into his role and do the small things will likely endear him to Ham and it’s easy to see him being one of the first guards off the bench and potentially a starter depending on how the Russ situation plays out.