Atlanta Hawks: The Amazing Evolution of Dennis Schroder

Apr 22, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks guard Dennis Schroder (17) attempts a shot against Washington Wizards forward Jason Smith (14) in the fourth quarter of game three of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena. The Hawks won 116-98. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 22, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks guard Dennis Schroder (17) attempts a shot against Washington Wizards forward Jason Smith (14) in the fourth quarter of game three of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena. The Hawks won 116-98. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports /

Starting point guard Dennis Schroder has given the highly acclaimed John Wall all he can handle in the Atlanta Hawks first round playoff series matchup with the Washington Wizards. He has looked like an emerging star against elite level competition in the pressure packed environment of the NBA Playoffs. So how exactly did we get here?

This is not the beginning of a digital Marvel comic book, nor am I suggesting that Dennis Schroder is somehow the Spiderman of the Atlanta Hawks. But, the player that he has turned into is nothing short of amazing.

Schroder was not what you would call a conventional draft pick from an NCAA Division-1 school. He was already a successful professional basketball player prior to joining the Hawks as their 17th pick of the 2013 draft.

A native of Germany, Schroder was born in Braunschweig and actually played for his hometown Braunschweig Phantoms from 2010-2013 according to Wikipedia. He may be considered the best German player since Dirk Nowitzki.

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It has taken all of this time for me to be enthusiastic about Dennis Schroder as an Atlanta Hawk. Even at the beginning of this season, my attitude towards him being the starter was neutral at best. He just never struck me as a special talent that could be a real difference maker for an NBA team.

While I have been fanatical about basketball since before I could tie my shoes, I’m actually not a very reliable evaluator of NBA prospects.

I was convinced the selection immediately following Schroder in the 2013 draft by the Hawks would be the one that produced a star.

That’s right, I thought Lucas Nogueira of the Toronto Raptors was bound to be a dominant, franchise center by this stage of his career. There is no argument that I could make to prevent a laughable and raucous reaction to such a prediction. In my defense, his pre-draft scout tapes from were far beyond impressive.

I mean, he is throwing down rim rattling alley-oops frequently, running wild in transition, and blocking shots like Mutombo out there. Obviously, I was wrong about him, and wrong about Schroder too.

In his first year as a starter, Dennis Schroder hasn’t wasted any time seizing his opportunity and showing just how great he can be. He has had a tendency for rising to the occasion and stepping up versus top flight talent at his position through his first 4 seasons in the NBA.

READ: Atlanta Hawks: Dennis Schroder Is The Present And The Future

How awesome, average, or poor a player is on a contending team often can be lost in the shuffle of the NBA season. You’re not going to see anybody shift into fifth gear during a regular season game with the Sacramento Kings or Philadelphia 76ers on a Wednesday night. 

It’s when the playoffs arrive that everything you do really matters. Dennis has not regressed or disappointed at all here in the playoffs. In fact, he has been outstanding. In six games, he is averaging 24.7 points and 7.7 assists per game on 45.5 percent shooting.

What he did in Game 5, mind you, hasn’t been done by an Atlanta Hawk during the playoffs in over 53 years. The last Hawks player to have at least 29 points and 11 assists in a playoff game was, none other than “Pistol” Pete Maravich.

A lot of the flaws I have harped on, Dennis has eliminated from his game against John Wall, who many have considered an MVP candidate. The average and inconsistent outside shooting I viewed as his worst pitfall, has been excellent. The troublesome turnover problem? Also rectified.

Over the course of six games, he is shooting 42.5 percent on deep balls and committing only 1.7 turnovers per game. When he made 5-of-6 3-pointers in Game 5, he kept the Hawks in the game, giving them a chance to win. Down by 9 and on the verge of losing control of the game in the third quarter, Schroder pulled up for a 3 you might expect to brick off the rim, but actually found nothing but net.

His heart and competitive drive isn’t something anyone should question at this point. Despite Wall’s incredible offensive production, Schroder also has improved his defense. He has increased his activity by grabbing 1.0 steal per game, up from his 0.7 over the regular season.

It’s also worth noting he’s been responsible for only 8 total turnovers in 34.3 minutes per game throughout the series. When one bad pass can often be the deciding factor between a win or loss, his ability to protect the ball has been commendable.

The play of high priced Hawks Dwight Howard and Kent Bazemore so far in the playoffs has definitely been discouraging. Watching the upside of Dennis Schroder against one of the league’s top point guards, however, is justifiable reason for fans utmost optimism going forward. 

Schroder can slither around defenders following a lethal first step, and unleash an array of finishes to score at the rim. He garnered a crazy amount of comparisons to Rajon Rondo, likely because of that. While he doesn’t impact the game on the boards quite like Rondo, he has improved there too.

Schroder averaged just 1.7 rebounds per game during the season, he has upped that to 2.6 for this series. It’s true he won’t be a triple double threat nearly as frequently as Rondo, but he is far and away a more potent scorer than Rondo would ever have hopes of being.

Perhaps a more accurate comparison in respect to Schroder’s most recent performances is a healthy Derrick Rose, who never was a great rebounder, but earned an MVP award based on an explosive scoring ability and making plays for teammates.

Next: Hawks Fall in Game 6

I’ve never earned an award from my peers for projecting NBA talent, but it’s safe to say Schroder is a franchise building block for the Hawks. You’re going to need a star player before you hope to contend for a championship. The Hawks need much more than that, but regardless of the direction they decide to go in, Schroder is a great 23-year-old leader to build around.