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Column: The Dennis Schröder Conundrum

The Atlanta Hawks are barely hanging onto the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. Is it time to give Dennis Schröder extended minutes with the starting unit? It's a discussion worth having.

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Last summer Atlanta Hawks General Manager Danny Ferry used one of his two first-round picks on German guard Dennis Schröder. It was a move that possibly signaled the Jeff Teague era would be coming to a close in Atlanta sooner rather than later. However, Schröder was just 19 years old when he was selected by the club last summer, which likely meant Schröder would not be ready to take over as the Hawks point guard of the future any time soon. That worked because the Hawks re-signed Teague to a team-friendly deal that gave Atlanta the option to move him at a later date when the front office and coaching staff felt like Schröder was ready to take over the team.

Now here we are in the middle of March nearing the end of the 2013-14 NBA season and the Hawks currently occupy the eight seed in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. The New York Knicks look like they could possibly snag the final playoff spot from the Hawks if they fall back into their February ways, but that's still unlikely. Typically when a team goes through a stretch like the Hawks did for the majority of this year they've fallen out of the playoff picture and start focusing on playing young guys who could use the minutes. Schröder is one of those guys.

Due to poor play from Lou Williams, recently Schröder has seen his playing time rise in March. It's not something most expected to see because Schröder has struggled in his limited time on the floor this season. Schröder has a +/- of -14.5 per 100 possessions so far this season, but that doesn't really tell the full story. Schröder hasn't had the opportunity to gel with the starting unit at all this season, and that matters in evaluating whether or not his negative impact on the court is most his play, or just the lineups he's been placed in. The lineup Schröder has been played the most with this season includes Shelvin Mack, Cartier Martin, Mike Scott and Elton Brand for a total of 23 minutes. Schröder has played sporadically this season and it hasn't been easy on the eyes for the most part, but he also hasn't gotten significant time with the starting unit, Al Horford included, to see how far away he is from being able to run this team.

Even with the poor play from Teague and Lou in 2014 Schröder hasn't been called upon until recently to shake things up for a struggling team. Perhaps head coach Mike Budenholzer sees in practice that Schröder isn't ready to handle significant minutes, but we've seen in games from earlier this season that Bud has Schröder on a very short leash. That's fine, to an extent, but at some point if Teague and Lou aren't going to get back on track why not play Schröder with Kyle Korver, DeMarre Carroll, Paul Millsap and company for extended minutes down the stretch to see how he's progressed as the season has gone on. It gets Schröder some in-game experience with players that he figures to be playing with for long-term.

It's an interesting dilemma to have. The team would be in the playoffs if they started today, but if you've been watching this team over the last two months you don't see a team that belongs in the postseason. Sure, that's largely been due to injury, but things have still been bad. Since March 5, Schröder has become a consistent part of Budenholzer's rotation with Lou falling out of it. Schröder hasn't been shooting the ball particularly well, but he's still played well outside of that. Schroeder has flashed that great court vision and the ability to penetrate with relative ease that made him a coveted prospect coming out of Germany.

The Hawks are obviously taking it very slow with Schröder, which is fine because he is only 19 years old. However, for a team barely hanging onto a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, maybe it's time to let Schröder get significant minutes with the starting unit. What's the worst that could happen?