The Atlanta Hawks have gone through a flurry of changes this offseason. Perhaps none of which will have any greater impact on Dennis Schroder than the departure of Jeff Teague. Schroder is in the final year of his rookie scale contract and must now prove that he has what it takes to be a starter in this league. Here are three areas that Dennis Schroder should polish up on to increase his chances of securing a max contract next summer.
Dennis's unreliable jump shot has always been a hindrance to his game that has ultimately kept him from making the leap. Schroder shot 32% from behind the arc last season while also posting a 51 TS%—which is a shade below league average. This past season, Schroder worked on adding a pull up jumper from mid-range to his arsenal but the numbers don't speak very highly of it. From 10-16 ft out he shot a putrid 27%. From 16ft out to the 3 point line, Schroder managed to slightly improve that number to 31%. Defenders don't respect Schroder's jump shot in any way, shape, or form; electing to go under screens and play the passing lanes on pick and rolls. This makes threading the needle all the more difficult for Schroder and his passing windows can close off in a matter of seconds. If Schroder can fine-tune that jumper of his, then his defenders will be forced to start going over screens. This isn't to suggest that Schroder needs to become this 3PT shooting sniper capable of going absolutely bananas from deep a la Stephen Curry; however, life is going to be much easier on the hawks if Schroder can at least develop a respectable jump shot.
2. Finding his teammates
Dennis has always had deceptive speed but last season he became an expert of knowing when to use it. Schroder uses his speed to quickly turn the corner on picks bolting towards the rim for one of his high glass feathery touch layups. Collapsing the defense is something Schroder will have no problem doing—the problem is going to be finding his teammates once he has suckered the defense in on those drives.
Here we see Chris bosh showing a soft hedge out on the perimeter before attempting to fall back towards his man (Mike Scott).
The problem is Bosh is too slow on the recover and finds himself in no man's land. Schroder had the option of dishing a pass towards the rim for a cutting Mike Scott or a wide open pass for the corner 3 from Mike Scott. Unfortunately, Schroder fails to do either choosing to go 1 on 1 against Shabazz Napier.
After Schroder zooms past Napier, he is met at the rim by Chris Anderson who rotates over from the weak side in an attempt to block the shot. Once Anderson becomes air born, Schroder can make a quick wraparound pass to Horford for an easy dunk but instead challenges Anderson at the hole with one of his patented high glass layups. The ball somehow finds its way into the hoop, which means all is forgiven, but Schroder would have been better served finding one of his teammates here using option A, B, or C. Budenholzer is going to depend on Schroder to find his guys consistently—this means no more over dribbling and no more lazy passes at the shins, ankles, or knee caps.
3. Playing off ball
Far too often Schroder has become a victim of just standing around in certain areas when the ball isn't in his hands. Hanging out around the perimeter waiting to spot up for a three wouldn't be so bad if Schroder could knock those shots down at a respectable clip. Because he can't, Schroder has to learn to move into open spots on the floor, make hard cuts towards the rim, and set screens off the ball getting guys open for shot opportunities. Anything is better than roaming about one spot hardly moving after passing the ball off. This just makes it easier for Schroder's defender to sag off of him putting himself in a position to be ready to rotate over for the help defense when needed. Becoming a good off ball player isn't easy, especially for guys who struggle shooting, but in Bud's pass-happy motion offense it is almost a necessity.
The biggest thing to remember here is that Dennis Schroder is still just 22 years old. He is going to make plenty of lackadaisical mistakes over the course of the upcoming season. This is fine and expected from young guys. With that being said, Schroder must show improvement as a starter this year. Focusing on becoming better at shooting, playing off the ball, and finding his teammates isn't some full proof plan for Schroder to make the leap from starter to all-star. However, showing progress in these three areas will go a long way for Dennis and just might extend his stint with the Hawks for many years to come.