Atlanta Hawks guard Dennis Schroder (17) goes to the basket as Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam (43) defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Toronto. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)

Recent play suggests Schroder getting better understanding of new role

Dennis Schroder is getting a better understanding that he is a decision-maker.

Not just for the Hawks’ offense, but for the opposition’s defense as well.

The Hawks went through some offensive issues in the roller-coaster ride that was the first 25 games of the season. Schroder is in his first season as the starting point guard and has the added responsibility of learning nuances to the Hawks’ pick-and-roll game with the addition of Dwight Howard. Recent play suggests that Schroder is gaining a better understanding of his new role.

Schroder is continuing the development of his game where he can decide to drive to the basket and either finish or pass to outside shooters or work the half roll or lob game with Howard. Those options present issues for defenses — stay with Schroder or help on Howard. Schroder has also responded when defenses chose to go screens and dared the jump shot.

The Hawks’ are showing signs of reviving their offense although now it’s the defense that has struggled of late.

“We had a tough stretch,” Schroder said recently. “Coach was talking to me, all the coaches, to try to lead the team more. Whatever it takes, try to do it. If it’s scoring, if it’s a rebound, if it’s on the defensive end, I just try to do it to help the team.”

Through Thursday, Schroder had averaged 21.6 points with a .519 field-goal percentage and eight assists over the past eight games. He has scored at least 15 points in each of those outings. He set career-highs in points (twice) and assists during the stretch.

Schroder set a career-high with 31 points against the Suns and five games later improved the number to 33 points against the Bucks. He also set career-highs in 3-pointers (four) and minutes (40) in that game. He set a career-high of 13 assists against the Magic.

“He’s doing a good job of attacking the basket and making the right play,” Howard said. “Coach is getting on him about becoming a great point guard.

“He has to be aggressive at that position and he’s doing a good job of attacking the basket. We’ve talked a lot. The thing I always tell him is to be aggressive, get to the basket and make the bigs make decisions. A lot of times, those bigs don’t want to leave my body or Paul (Millsap’s) body so he has a chance to really finish in the paint.”

Schroder has averaged 16.5 points, 6.3 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 3.2 turnovers (still an issue) during the first 25 games. He is 11th in the NBA in assists. His averaged has increased from 5.4 to 6.3 during the eight-game stretch.

Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer, Schroder and Howard all acknowledge that the Hawks pick-and-roll game has been a work in progress and that it will take time to reach the desired level of consistency.

It is Schroder’s assist total that is most telling to Budenholzer.

“I think, overall, he’s doing a lot of things right,” Budenholzer said. “I feel like the assists are probably as important as anything. His scoring sets up the assists. The assists set up the scoring. He’s just got to be that balance.

“There is a lot expected of him. I think he’s teammates are participating in it. Not just making shots but the activity and getting to the right spots and getting the bigs the ball at the right time. He’s seems pretty focused and locked in on how important his job is. He’s embracing it.”

Schroder has shot 50 percent or better from 3-point range in five of the past six games (through Thursday), including four straight. When defenses have chosen to be overly respectful of Schroder’s speed and ability to get to the basket, he has made them pay from the outside.

“I have to be aggressive on the pick-and-roll and go to the basket,” Schroder said. “Sometimes they are going under (a screen) and sagging off me and not helping from the other guys. I have to make a decision and knock down the shots to loosen it up a little bit and then create for my teammates.”

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.