Dennis Schroder and Jeff Teague Are Both Getting Better


The Atlanta Hawks have a good problem. They almost have too many outstanding point guards.

For the second time in a month, Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer has turned the reins over to Dennis Schroder in the fourth quarter. And it’s not like starter Jeff Teague has been bad enough to sit. Teague nearly won last week’s Eastern Conference Player of the Week award, and when Schroder came into the game, Teague had just led a comeback effort that cut a 22-point second-half deficit down to 7 points.

“It was just a little bit of a feel,” Budenholzer said after the game. “Dennis was playing well. I just stuck with him. We’ve done it with different guys at different times this year. Jeff (Teague) has been unbelievable and he’ll continue to be unbelievable.”

Teague was already a good player, steadily increasing his PER (Player Efficiency Rating) in each of his seasons from 11.0 in his rookie season, to 14.6, 15.6, 16.8, 17.1, and finally, in this season to date, 20.6 (per Basketball

But Schroder is riding the same incline, and his might be perched even more steeply. His PER has skyrocketed from 5.8 last season to a healthy 19.3 this season. Kyle Korver spoke of Dennis’ rapid rise after the Boston win.

“Dennis just keeps on getting better. Mentally, he has grown so much. He is so much more mature and aware of where he’s at — on the court, off the court.”

Driving to the basket

Part of what makes Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroder two-headed beast at the point is that they excel when it comes to driving the ball to the rim. keeps track of player movement using the SportVU system, and the site defines a drive as “Any touch that starts at least 20 feet of the hoop and is dribbled within 10 feet of the hoop and excludes fast breaks. Measures the total number of drives as well as the points, assists and shooting percentages on drives to the basket.”

If we eliminate anyone playing fewer than five minutes per game and sort by “Points Per 48 Minutes on Drives”, what comes up is that two Hawks show up among the top 5 players in the entire NBA.

Before you get to Chris Paul or Monta Ellis or Tony Parker, you come across the names of Schroder and Teague. (Stats taken before games played Tuesday, December 2).

It should be noted here that there are other factors in play. With Al Horford and Pero Antic playing virtually all the Hawks’ minutes at center, Atlanta is playing “5 out” almost all the time. These “Stretch 5s” are doing wonders for the point guard.

The fact that Mike Budenholzer is putting four shooters around his point guards is giving them nice lanes to the hoop.

It is not uncommon for Teague and Schroder to run into defenders trying to protect the rim. But they are confronting those defenders at the last moment, and those defenders aren’t camped there to protect the rim in the best manner possible because they have too many other defensive responsibilities guarding shooters and making rotations.

Another variable is that Teague starts, which typically matches him up against better point guard defenders and better interior rim protectors. But in finishing two fourth quarters this season, Schroder has shown that he too can play against any team’s best.

Mature moves from Schröder earned him some 4Q run

With about four minutes remaining in the Boston/Atlanta game, Celtics coach summoned Rajon Rondo to the scorer’s table to re-enter the game. When Rondo got to the table, Mike Budenholzer motioned for Rondo’s 21-year-old doppelgänger to go the the table to check in as well.

It was the long awaited matchup of a younger player against the older veteran to whom he had long been compared, although Schroder was given the defensive task of chasing Avery Bradley.

On offense, Schroder sparked the Hawks. His first two touches were magnificent plays. First, he drove to the hoop and spotted the world’s hottest shooter open in the left corner (courtesy of Evan Turner).

Then he made an entry pass to Horford and rubbed Rondo off using his post player as a screen.

The subsequent play was a turnover, but Dennis has cut back on his turnover rate. For a second-year player, Schröder rarely forces the action when a defense keys on him, instead opting to reset the play or move the ball over to an open player. Here, he finds Horford with a simple but correct pass.

As opposing defenses get their scouting reports in order and figure out that Schroder is among the league’s best at driving to the rim, he’ll need to be more creative in finding opportunities for teammates. On this play that ended the third quarter, he dropped a pass to Paul Millsap on a delayed roll. It didn’t go in, the the idea was right.

So these are the types plays Schroder made in his unspoken petition to Budenholzer to stay in the game. By attacking the rim, defending, and limiting mistakes, the young German has forced his coach to take notice and make some difficult decisions about playing time.