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Dennis Schröder and a sudden point guard conundrum

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Atlanta Hawks point guard Dennis Schröder has struggled mightily in round one. What now?

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

I am a Dennis Schröder fan.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must utter that sentence at the outset. With that out of the way, Dennis Schröder picked an awful time to produce his worst four-game stretch of the season.

By now, you undoubtedly know that the Atlanta Hawks are immersed in a legitimate battle against the Brooklyn Nets, with the series knotted at 2 games each with the setting moving back to Atlanta. In those four games, the Hawks have been out-scored by 20.7 (!) points per 100 possessions during the time when their second-year point guard is deployed on the court.

Read that sentence again.

Further context to Atlanta's struggles indicates that the offense has completely fallen apart with the 21-year-old point guard at the helm. The Hawks have scored only 82.7 points per 100 possessions in his 20.1 minutes per game in the series, and during the two games in Brooklyn, the numbers were even more horrific to the tune of 71.1 points per 100 (good lord) and a -32.1 points per 100 possessions clip overall.

To be fair, anyone who has watched basketball for an extended period of time could decipher that Schröder struggled in the Barclays Center. "Umlaut" shot just 5 of 18 in the two games, with six turnovers against five assists in 37 minutes, and a common theme from pundits to casual observers reflected on his "out of control" nature.

The biggest question, at least for now, is what Mike Budenholzer will do about it.

Dennis Schröder has been a key cog for the 2014-2015 Atlanta Hawks, appearing in a team-high 77 regular season games and playing more minutes (19.7 per game) than any other reserve. He was so impressive this season that Schröder actually received legitimate consideration for sixth man of the year, and his year-long numbers (18.2 points, 7.5 assists per 36 minutes; 15.7 PER) were stellar for a bench option.

However, he has appeared thoroughly overmatched against a more sophisticated playoff-level defense from the Nets, and that is a frightening proposition given the opponents that lie ahead should the Hawks advance. As a window into Budenholzer's insight during Game 4, Jeff Teague played the final 14 minutes and 52 seconds (including overtime), and Schröder's playing time actually decreased to just over 14 minutes even on a night when the game included five additional minutes of opportunity.

Shelvin Mack, as you may expect, would be the option should Budenholzer choose to move away from Schröder. I have personally been critical of the inclusion of Mack as a shooting guard option in small lineups, but as a point guard, Mack would theoretically provide a much steadier approach to the game, simply operating the offense while limiting the carelessness that Schröder has provided to this point in the series.

Still, there are some significant risks to simply benching Dennis Schröder at this stage, and that is not an avenue that I would support. While Jeff Teague is still on the roster and under control moving forward, Schröder is a home-grown talent that some see as the team's "point guard of the future". With that in mind, yanking him in the aftermath of two horrific showings would undoubtedly be a ding to his (considerable) confidence, and Bud theoretically risks "losing" Schröder as an option moving forward with this choice.

Can the Atlanta Hawks win this series without Dennis Schröder? Absolutely.

Can the Atlanta win the NBA title without Dennis Schröder? Almost certainly not.

These are the questions that Mike Budenholzer must consider at this point in the series, and while it would be easy to simply pull the plug on Dennis out of frustration, I would expect that the NBA Coach of the Year would find a more measured approach than the firestorm of Twitter and comment sections would deploy.

Dennis Schröder has, unquestionably, performed poorly in the first round series against the Brooklyn Nets. Let's just be careful with sweeping judgments about his immediate future.