Dennis Schröder wants to start at point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers
In his introductory press conference, Dennis Schröder expressed a strong desire to be the starting point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers. Schröder’s bold declaration stirred quite a bit of hot takes within Laker Nation.
Of course, Schröder wants to start! He should want to start. Nobody gets this far without a healthy dose of self-confidence.
Should he start? Yes. I am fully aware I previously stated Schröder should come off the bench.
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Here’s why I changed my mind: Avery Bradley left in free agency. Danny Green, Bradley’s replacement in the starting lineup, was traded for Schröder. I do not see a better fit in the starting lineup at this time.
But the boldest take was that Schröder said he should be the starting point guard.
Whoa. Did I hear that right? That’s coming at the crown. Not a good move. LeBron James should stay at point guard. He was Magic 2.0 last season, leading the NBA in assists. I am confident LeBron will set Schröder straight when the time is right.
Back to reality. Schröder’s role in the starting lineup would be similar to what his closing role was on the Oklahoma City Thunder. He will again reprise his role as a secondary playmaker, similar to how he played alongside Chris Paul while they were on the Oklahoma City Thunder.
He will get what he wants this season. LeBron will likely play fewer regular-season minutes this season. If this is the case, Schröder will be the starting point guard. He must develop as much in-game chemistry with AD and the other starters as possible. Starting him not only best achieves this aim but also gives the Lakers all their firepower from the jump.
The Lakers often struggled to score points early in the game. They were in the middle of the pack in offense during the NBA bubble. It would also be smart to find ways to reduce LeBron and AD’s workload on offense. But they still have to score enough points to win games.
Moreover, there is another dynamic in play here. Schröder earnestly believes he was promised a starting role. What he heard and what was said may have been different. Not starting him would quickly lead to lingering resentment on his end. That level of resentment would permeate throughout the team. Furthermore, he is a free agent after this season. If the Lakers intend to keep him, they should start him.
Nevertheless, the ball will be in Schröder’s hands much less as a starter than under his past role as a sixth man for the Oklahoma City Thunder. He has to master the art of cutting to the basket and spotting up on the perimeter. He also has to learn the best spots to play off of LeBron and AD when defenses inevitably collapse on them.
Is Schröder willing to play off the ball full time?
His usage rate may best answer that question. The usage rate is a common indicator of a player’s willingness to play off the ball. Usage rate is the percentage of an individual player either shooting the ball, drawing a shooting foul, or turning the ball while that player is in the game. If the offense were perfectly equal, all of the five players would have a 20% usage rate.
Last season, Schröder’s usage rate (26.2%) was highest on the Thunder. Only LeBron James (30.8%) and Anthony Davis (28.4%) had higher usage rates on the Lakers last season. Schröder also shot a hair under 40% last season. That would have led all Lakers who shot more than one three-point attempt per game.
The season prior gives us a better picture of how Schröder plays as the third option. His usage rate was 23.8% while playing alongside Russell Westbrook and Paul George. His three-point shooting (34.1%) was slightly below league average.
Those percentage points are absolutely crucial: his usage rate must be no higher than 25% while his shooting needs to be at last season’s level. It is not easy to maintain the same shooting percentage while decreasing the overall usage rate.
Best case scenario, Schröder is an amazing fit in the starting lineup. Worst case scenario, Schröder is a ball-dominant guard who is a below-average three-point shooter. The highlight montage below shows enough off-ball shooting to give me hope it’ll be closer to best case.
How does this affect in-game rotations?
Lakers coach Frank Vogel must be able to stagger rotations to ensure that either Schröder or LeBron stays on the court at all times. Vogel found success in taking LeBron out midway through the first quarter and inserting Rajon Rondo into the game. Schröder can play the entire first quarter then sit out most of the second quarter when LeBron is reinserted into the game.
Schröder demands for a starting spot has a chain effect. Due to Schröder’s demands, Montrezl Harrell will demand a starting role as well. It would be smart to start Harrell too. Positioning one player ahead of the other would hurt the team. This creates another chain effect.
Admittedly, moving Schröder and Harrell to the starting lineup takes away the scoring firepower coming off the bench. Marc Gasol must now accept a bench role. If he does, Gasol will serve as a stationary point center while Alex Caruso or any other Laker wing serves as the nominal point guard. Given Schroder and LeBron’s minutes will be staggered, this should not be for very long.
Gasol is best served facilitated the half-court offense from the top of the key. Very few teams run an offense centered around a big man at the high post (think the Denver Nuggets running the offense through Nikola Jokic).
The Lakers can drastically change their offense from the starting lineup to the second unit. It is tough to defend a wide array of cutters with Gasol distributing from either the high or low post.
Kyle Kuzma and Caruso have a knack for cutting from the baseline, which coincides well with Gasol’s passing ability. Kuzma would also have an opportunity at redemption because he would be the go-to perimeter scorer by default. The potential for the Gasol/Kuzma connection gives the offense a positive chain effect.
The main reason why Schroder should start:
Schröder should start because of his defense. He can defend opposing point guards better than anyone on the Lakers roster. Schröder will become Dennis the Menace when guarding opposing point guards. Only Mr. Wilson can relate to the sheer terror of going up against a locked-in Schröder with LeBron and AD backing him up.
This is obviously because he wants a monster contract in free agency next year. He feels becoming the starting point guard is the best way to make a lot of money. It is also the best move for the team.
Ultimately, Dennis Schröder should start.