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Atlanta Hawks 2016 player review: Dennis Schröder

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There were peaks. There were valleys.

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

After 206 career games, including 80 during the 2015-2016 season, the jury remains out on Dennis Schröder.

On one hand, that is perfectly acceptable. Schröder is just 22 years old (though he'll be 23 before the start of next season) and he has been a productive player at the NBA level for nearly two full seasons. On the other, the Atlanta Hawks face a potentially franchise-altering decision when it comes to the future of the point guard position and, to put it bluntly, there is some concern that Schröder may not be "the guy" moving forward.

Though his 2015-2016 season was more consistent than his sophomore campaign, Schröder's overall profile was remarkably similar to the previous season. The point guard averaged just over 20 minutes per game on the season, playing more than 100 additional minutes to the previous year, and on the bright side, Schröder averaged career-bests on a per-36 minutes basis with 7.8 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 1.6 steals.

However, Schröder's shooting waned a bit from his "breakout" the previous year, making only 32.2% of his three-point attempts (compared to 35.1%) while taking nearly 100 additional shots from beyond the arc. This is one of the pivotal issues for the young German point guard, as teams routinely go under screens against him, daring Schröder to fire away from long distance instead of allowing his athleticism and explosiveness to flourish off the dribble. At this stage, Schröder simply has not been able to prove defenses wrong in employing this tactic, and that was especially evident at times during the playoffs.

There are, of course, positives to his offensive game. Schröder has been able to maintain a league-average PER (15.5) despite the poor shooting efficiency based his passing ability and a willingness to attack the rim. No one would call Schröder "shy" when describing his confidence level in his own game, and while that is sometimes an issue, it often allows him to create beautifully off the dribble when collapsing the opposing defense around him.

Defensively, Schröder made real strides from his second to third season, and that is one of the reasons for real optimism. Though he entered the league with "German Rajon Rondo" comparisons, Schröder struggled wildly in defending consistently in his first two seasons, and while he is still far from excellent in this regard, his improvement was stark this year. The Hawks were able to defend quite well (95.7 points allowed per 100 possessions) with Schröder at the point guard spot, and he is beginning to use his length and athleticism effectively to stymie opposing point guards. It must be said that he still struggles with attentiveness and some elements of scheme away from the ball, but Schröder is certainly a vastly improved player on that end.

Confidence is a funny thing in that it probably illuminates the path for Dennis Schröder to take the reins at point guard. He appears to believe, almost without fail, that he is the best player on the floor, and that often allows him to take over games for a full quarter or more based on his pure talent. However, that belief also can lead Schröder down erroneous paths, infuriating the fan base by taking bad shot after bad shot without a sliver of worry for the consequences.

Pointing out that Schröder is still (very) young is important in that he still has room to grow. However, the assumption that he will simply turn the corner as an under-control entity moving forward is just that. An assumption.

I have made the comparison with Dennis Schröder to Josh Smith in that he is currently on a path that would allow him to become easily the most polarizing player on the current roster. There is a way that he can avoid that, but my fear would be that Schröder's considerable talents will be outweighed (or at least evened out) by his maddening decision-making and the belief that he can (and should) fire away from long distance.

Let's just say that the future will be very interesting at point guard.