He’s not the driving force behind the Oklahoma City Thunder’s success this season, but Dennis Schroder is contributing to the cause far more than most realize.
But last offseason, out went George and Westbrook and in came Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Chris Paul. The former was viewed as the future cornerstone of OKC while any potential trade scenario of the latter would require considerable minutes to entice interested parties.
Among a crowded backcourt, Schroder was a likely trade candidate. Given Oklahoma City’s eye towards the future, he still is, but his current contributions are far exceeding expectations and a large reason why the Thunder find themselves in the playoff picture.
He hasn’t started a game and his playing time is a shade under 31 minutes a night, but Schroder is still producing a career-best 18.3 points, along with 3.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game as well.
An uptick in 3-point attempts has coincided with a career-high percentage from beyond the arc. Schroder’s also shooting above 50 percent on 2-pointers — 52.6 to be exact — for the first time in his six-year career.
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One would expect these stellar numbers to come in the presence of more talented teammates like Westbrook and George, not immediately after.
As dynamic as that former duo was as individuals, however, they weren’t the best at elevating others. It’s part of the reason OKC failed to advance past the first round in either of their two seasons together.
Comparatively, CP3 has built a Hall of Fame career getting others involved, while SGA has proven pretty adept in Year 2.
It’s hardly coincidental, then, that the two-man lineup of Schroder and Paul is a plus-14.2 in nearly 900 minutes of action while Schroder and Gilgeous-Alexander are a plus-9.1 in over 800.
Together, the trio has shared approximately 291 minutes of court time so far this season, where they are a plus-28.6 with the fourth-highest net rating among three-man lineups in the NBA — first among those with more than 200 minutes.
Despite a likely desire to flip him for assets that better align with their new future, the Thunder may look to hold onto the 26-year-old for several reasons.
Schroder’s contract doesn’t expire until the summer of 2021, which could keep him in town past the deadline before a deal is made this offseason.
At 25-19 and seventh in the West, OKC is 4.5 games ahead of the next closest team. After so much change within the organization, perhaps a playoff berth is something they’ll seek head-on before a seismic strip-down of the roster plunges them down the standings.
SGA is the hot new stud playing his way into the conversation for Most Improved Player. CP3 is the recognizable name on his way to an unexpected All-Star appearance.
Schroder isn’t better than either nor is his value higher, but he is a strong candidate to be named Sixth Man of the Year as the focal point for a bench unit that ranks 10th in scoring, up from 29th a year ago.
He was an afterthought following the blockbuster deals made by OKC over the summer who now makes them better when he’s on the court. It’s not worth much, but it deserves a mention as part of the reason behind the Thunder’s unforeseen success this season.