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The Dennis Schroder report: Volume three

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Including a look at defensive impact this time around.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Atlanta Hawks Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

We are back this week with our third edition of the Dennis Schroder report. As a reminder the objective is to use a statistical basis for measuring whether or not he is making progress in his second year as a starter toward becoming a league average point guard or better. We have been using effective field goal percentage (eFG%), free throws made per 100 possessions (FTM/100) and assist to turnover ratio (ASST:TO). We publish an updated report every other week.

The intention from the beginning has been to offer a look at defensive impact as well. We have just been waiting for a greater statistical sample. The statistic we will use is on-off individual defensive rating. It’s not a perfect statistic because, well, there is no perfect statistic for measuring individual defensive impact. But a league average point guard (or better) should not perform such that his team’s defensive rating is significantly better when he sits. We will dig into that more once we get to that statistical view.

Offensively things have not changed much in last few weeks. Let’s take a look.

eFG%

Schröder is shooting the ball a little better than he was early in the season and his eFG% reflects acceptable efficiency in that part of his game. He has hit 8 of his 19 three point attempts since we last checked in and that helps to move his mark a little closer to where it was last season. He is still hovering around the 35% mark beyond the three point line on the season and will likely need to see that improve as to demonstrate any meaningful progress in this department.

FTM/100

Schröder’s converted free throw mark is identical to what it was when we last checked in. He continues to shoot a career best percentage at the charity stripe.

Note that we have discussed changing the scale of how we depict this statistic because of the impact the rule changes regarding shooting fouls has had on overall free throw volume. Last season, Russell Westbrook and James Harden both made more than 12 free throws per 100 possessions. They seem to have been, unsurprisingly to some, significantly impacted by the rule changes. Among starting point guards, only Damian Lillard is making more than 10 free throws per 100 possessions.

Schroder continues to hover around 14th among point guards in PER. So it’s easy to imagine that he could start making progress toward the top ten in that category if he could improve his shooting from three point range and getting to the free throw line with more frequency.

It does seem to me that he is seeking and embracing contact near the rim a bit more in his last couple of games. He has 11 free throw attempts over his last two games. He had attempted more than five free throws in just two games this season prior to that.

On this play against the Knicks on Friday, you can see that Schröder realizes that he eventually dribbles past a point of being able to get to the rim. But he still has leverage on the defender, Willy Hernangomez. He uses that leverage to create the contact and get the easy points at the free throw line. It will be interesting to see if he continues to demonstrate this mindset in his next few games.

ASST:TO

Like his free throw mark, Schröder’s assist to turnover ration has changed very little since the last report. He is up slightly from 2.16 two weeks ago (which is why we don’t include a mark for his last report). This was looking a little better until a 1 assist 4 turnover performance in the dreadful team performance against the Raptors on Saturday.

On-Off Defensive Rating

This needs to be presented with some important context. Especially as it relates to the reflection of Schroder’s defensive performance this season as compared to last season. Last year he usually had Paul Millsap and/or Dwight Howard behind him in the defensive half court. This year he does not have that luxury.

Also, the Hawks are playing a completely different defensive scheme this season. Last year they played a lot of drop pick and roll coverage because of the defensive profile of Howard. This season they are playing more of what they call “push” coverage against the pick and roll. They are also incorporating a lot of match up zone principles this season. As they continue to work on the scheme adjustments the Hawks currently rank 24th in defensive rating. And it would be surprising if under the direction of Coach Mike Budenholzer that they don’t starting advancing toward performing like at least a league average defense at some point this season.

Early in this season, Schröder did not look confident and did not seem to be playing with much effort. In my observation, the effort has been on the uptick in the last few games (throwing the game versus the Raptors out across the board). And as a whole the team seems to be progressing defensively in most games quarter by quarter. We will see if they are able to start making progress toward more consistent and more effective play on that end of the court and how that might reflect on Schröder as an individual defender. But on the whole, it has been an ugly performance for him.

Also note that it might be appropriate to adjust this scale as the season progresses. There have been a handful of injuries at the point guard position across the league already. Also, Eric Bledsoe has the best on-off defensive rating (-16.6) of any point guard in the league and he has played on two different teams. Patty Mills has been a key rotation piece on one of the best defensive teams in the league for the last several years and he currently has a woeful on-off defensive rating +10.7.

So the point of including this in this edition is not to say Schroder is a lost cause on the defensive end of the court. But rather to recognize that it is an important aspect of trying to gauge where he ranks against the other starting point guards in the league.

It hasn’t been positive defensively for him thus far. But let’s give Schroder and the Hawks as a whole a little time to see if there might be some improvement in the not too distant future.

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Background on these chosen statistical targets from the original article:

The statistical measures we have chosen to use include effective field goal percentage (eFG%), free throws made per 100 possessions (FTM/100), assist to turnover ratio (AST:TO) and defensive impact for which we will use ESPN.com’s defensive real plus minus.

To establish some targets, we are using the last three NBA seasons in a weighted fashion. For example to identify a target eFG% for a top 20 starting point guard, we made our best effort to identify the 20th most efficient scorer from the field among qualified starters at the position. The statistical sample from the 2016-17 season was weighted 2x, the statistical sample from the 2015-16 season was weighted 1.5x and the 2014-15 sample was weighted 1.0x.

The philosophy behind this is based upon an attempt to account for how much the league has changed offensively over the last three seasons. Three point attempts are up across the board. A number of teams have embraced an approach to take the risks of increasing turnover frequency by playing faster and aiming to overwhelm opposing defenses physically and mentally.