In early December, it is generally too early to panic about anything in the world of the NBA.
Much of the consternation in and around the Atlanta Hawks to this point surrounds the overall performance of the team, as Mike Budenholzer's squad sits at just 13-9. After a 60-win season, that qualifies as something of a slow start, but given that the team began slowly (7-6 through 13 games) during that fantastic 2014-2015 campaign, there is a bit of trust about the overall product.
In the case of Dennis Schröder and his jump shot, that trust does not appear to exist.
Even the most ardent Hawks defender cannot overlook what has been a woeful start from the now 22-year-old point guard. That would not be alarming in and of itself, but many pointed to the 2015-2016 campaign as something of a "breakout" for Schröder, and the uneven start has not inspired those that believe Schröder can develop into something of a star at the point guard position in the future.
Schröder spent his summer competing (and playing big minutes) for the German national team, and that could explain some of what appears to be sluggishness. Most NBA players enjoy a sustained break in the offseason, but even as a 22-year-old would theoretically handle a big workload well, Schröder's explosiveness has only appeared in spurts. Beyond that, Schröder is settling for an increase in long-distance shots, and they simply aren't falling.
The 2014-2015 campaign saw the young point guard attempt 40% of his field goals from 16 feet or more, and while he was not a dead-eye shooter by any stretch, Schröder converted more than 40% from beyond the three-point arc after the All-Star break. That was never a sustainable number given his mechanics and overall shooting aptitude, but as Schröder's jumpers have increased, his percentages have slipped considerably.
Through 22 games, Schröder is taking more than 46% of his shots from 16 feet or more, and his efficiency is suffering. After making 38% of his "long twos" a season ago, that number is hovering at just 32% right now, and with a step back beyond the three-point line, Schröder is struggling mightily at just 29.3%. These numbers should be taken with a grain of salt given a reasonably small sample size, but at the same time, it is undoubtedly disconcerting for a player that seemed to show growth with his jumper last season.
On the bright side for Atlanta, Schröder's non-shooting numbers are just fine. He is posting a career-best turnover percentage (14.7%) with a similar assist rate to a year ago, and on the defensive end, he remains competent for the most part. Still, it would be nearly impossible for Schröder to contribute positively with a 47.9% true shooting, and he simply does not bring enough in defensive value to overcome the disastrous performance in terms of offensive efficiency.
Dennis Schröder does not need to be an elite shooter to become an above-average starting point guard in the NBA, but he does need to be a competent one. The Hawks will face an important decision for the franchise in terms of which point guard, between Schröder and Jeff Teague, to build around in the coming years, and while a 22-game sample should not determine anything, it would be difficult to cape for Schröder as a building block in the same way that many did following the 2015 NBA Playoffs.
As the whispers increase in volume surrounding Schröder's role even as a backup point guard, the Hawks must hope that he can begin to make shots at a reasonable rate. If he doesn't, the vast ceiling that Schröder presents becomes much more pedestrian.