The Atlanta Hawks are genuinely terrible. After getting the royal smackdown from King James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, they’re now 4-17. The roster is a combination of castoffs, injuries, and injured castoffs, coach Mike Budenholzer is out there like “what, you gave me a G-League team, did you want playoffs?”, and the question of whether the players are any good almost seems a wasted question since, well, they’re 4-17.
But the question must be asked, if only because it becomes a referendum on the guys Atlanta tried to keep in their great roster purge and subsequent tank job.
So we’ll focus first on the point guard, Dennis Schroder, who was elevated to the starting lineup last year and has now started over a hundred games for the squad for his career. Specifically, the question is this:
Is Schroder an NBA-quality starter? Or is he just a scrub on a bad team who couldn’t crack the rotation elsewhere?
For this, there’s Basketball Reference, our favorite all-in-one stats repository and argument settler. Note that this does not include the Cleveland game; it’s current through Nov. 29.
The Counting Stats
On the bright side, Schroder’s shooting is consistent; .451/.340/.855 last year, .451/.349/.873 this year.
Trouble is, that’s consistently mediocre. An eFG% under .500 isn’t going to do much in today’s league.
His scoring average has consistently risen per game and per 36 minutes. His assists on a per-36 basis are right around 7.5 or so. He’s a crummy rebounder, but he gets his share.
So far, so good. There are worse point guards. There are better point guards. There are 30 starter slots in the league and if we’re just down to counting stats, he’s no better or worse than the average floor general you see outside of the NBA’s elite. 20 points and seven assists from your point guard? Not bad.
The Advanced Stats
An NBA starter should have a better Net Rating on the court than off. After all, if a guy is better off on the bench, there’s a name for that: A bench player.
And here is where Schroder goes off the rails. He has a minus-9.2 net rating this season; Atlanta is a full 7.9 points better with him off the floor (minus-1.3, or about what you’d expect from a 37-win team) than with him on (minus-9.2 is more into 16-win territory.)
So he’s what you’d expect from a starter on a team that’s on pace to win 16 games. That’s not good.
On the other hand, Schroder is a positive-VORP guy (0.2), has a decent-for-a-crap-team .069 WS/48, has offensive chops good enough to get him into positive Box Plus-Minus territory with the ball, is assisting on over 37 percent of teammates’ baskets, and is otherwise according to the big advanced numbers pretty solid. His True Shooting is well over .500 thanks largely to his money-from-the-line free throw shooting, and even though he’s not drawing contact like he did at his peak, he’s also got smarter starting-lineup players guarding him who are less likely to make dumb mistakes leading to fouls.
So the advanced stats? They’re pretty well saying you put him on a better team, he’ll plug in and belong.
Also, it should be pointed out that he had a 22.6 PER and .226 WS/48 in six games of the playoffs last year. That’s…not nothing. That’s showing up in the postseason.
Schroder is making starter money, as in $15.5 million. Is he worth it?
Well, let’s see. The counting stats check out; he’s giving you 20 points and seven dimes, tenth in the league in the latter category.
The advanced stats check out, and I wonder how much of that net rating disparity is skewed by the Sacramento game where the bench went hog wild.
Considering the circumstances, Schroder can’t help the team he’s on. He’s not a Westbrook-level talent, where he can just crank his Usage Rate up to 40 and carry Atlanta to the playoffs by himself (see also 2006 Kobe and 2007 LeBron.)
So let’s answer the question originally asked. Is Dennis Schroder an NBA-quality starter? Could he go to another team that needs help at the point and contribute in that role?
The answer is an emphatic of course he could. This one’s Confirmed.