While all signs point to a Dennis Schröder trade in the very near future, both head coach Lloyd Pierce and an unnamed source told the AJC’s Michael Cunningham this week that this may not be the case. Pierce used positive language (including a reference to the veteran guard as “a tremendous role model”) about Schröder’s influence on the team and involvement with the development of Trae Young, whom the Atlanta Hawks selected with the fifth overall pick in last week’s NBA Draft.
General manager Travis Schlenk indicated to assembled reporters after the draft that he saw the two as compatible on the floor, saying, “I think both guys can play together. When you look at the way the league plays, you’ll see two point guards on the floor a lot.” The consistent message from the team has been that they see Schröder on the roster next season and that he’ll have a similar role to the past two years, which could hinder Young’s development but also allows the team to bring him along more slowly, rather than throwing him into the fire from Day One.
On the floor, the pair would have some trouble defensively, but the plan at this point looks like it isn’t to start Young alongside Schröder, but rather to give him spot minutes with Schröder at the end of the first and third quarters and let him take the reins while Schröder is on the bench. Young’s three-point shooting should open things up well for Schröder’s drives to the basket, though the mercurial German point guard won’t repay the favor when it’s Young’s turn to handle the ball.
Things will get dicey on the other end of the court, where Young projects as below average at best and almost certainly won’t be that in his rookie season. Schröder has shown a decided apathy for the defensive end of the floor since taking over the starting job from Jeff Teague before the 2016-17 season, though the effort level did rise in the Hawks’ single playoff series against the Wizards in 2017. That said, Schröder’s had success defensively in dual-point guard lineups in the past: in both 2014-15 and 2015-16, the Hawks were respectably above average when Schröder shared the floor with Teague. There’s no expectation that they’ll get to that level in 2018-19, both because Young is a far worse defender than Teague is and they don’t have the backline of Paul Millsap and Al Horford to support them defensively, but Schröder does have experience defensively playing up a position.
Developing Young slowly in both an off-ball and on-ball role will be good for his long-term success, as will easing him into the league by playing shorter minutes against bench units. There is a lot of concern about Young’s ability to hold up physically over an 82-game season; throwing him into a starting role playing 30 minutes a night from the beginning of the year might be too much for him. Instead, giving him 20-24 minutes a game off the bench, both with and without Schröder, would give him the chance to develop slowly and stay on the floor throughout his rookie year.
As to Schröder’s mentoring of Young on and off the floor, it remains to be seen how he picks up those responsibilities. The team has said all the right things about his willingness to help develop Young’s game, but we’ve never seen Schröder take on that role within the team, so until the two of them get together, there’s no telling how that partnership will work on a personal level.
The team should still look to trade Schröder if they get a favorable deal, but it’s not an absolute imperative that they do so and they’re letting it out through the media that they know that. As free agency plays out, if there’s a team out there that runs out of point guard options, Schröder’s name will pop up again in rumors and teams will reignite talks with Schlenk and his staff to work out a possible deal.
It still feels likely that Schröder will be dealt before the season, but playing out a year (or a portion of a year) with Young coming off the bench wouldn’t be the worst result for the Hawks as they continue to rebuild.