Dennis Schroder, you’re up.
For the first time in five years, the Hawks will open training camp with a new starting point guard. Schroder takes over the position after the team obliged the trade request of Jeff Teague and sent the five-year starter to the Pacers. The 28-year old spent seven seasons in a Hawks uniform and was an all-star in 2015 after being selected with the 19th overall pick in 2009. Schroder enters his fourth NBA season after the Hawks took the German speedster with the 17th overall pick in 2013.
The new era begins in less than two weeks when the Hawks open camp on Sept. 26.
It was Schroder, and not Teague, that coach Mike Budenholzer turned to down the stretch in Games 1 and 4 of the Hawks’ Eastern Conference semifinal series loss to the Cavaliers last season. The move was made several other times during the regular season.
Hawks management supports the promotion of Schroder, who turns just 23-years old on Thursday. Still, the move will be a scrutinized as the young player has been inconsistent at times and his brash attitude has been an issue for teammates and opponents on occasion.
“Dennis has an incredible talent,” veteran Thabo Sefolosha told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently. “He’s going to be great. He’s going to be the point guard. It’s going to be tough. I think we are all going to help him. I think it’s a tough position to be so young and to have so much on your shoulders. I think it’s going to be on all of us to help him.”
Schroder averaged a career-high 20.3 minutes in 80 games last season. He had career-bests in points (11.0), assists (4.4), rebounds (2.6), steals (0.9) and turnovers (2.3). Schroder’s shooting percentages were down slightly last season to 42.1 percent overall and 32.2 percent from 3-point range. He will get increased minutes as the starter and will be counted on to run the Hawks’ ball-movement offense and incorporate a more traditional center in Dwight Howard into the unit.
“In the game, there won’t be a lot of difference because I give everything,” Schroder told the AJC earlier this summer after the trade of Teague was made. “That’s what I do if I’m playing 20 minutes or 35 minutes. I think the leadership off the court, to build chemistry with the team, try to be around the coaching staff, coach Bud and everybody, and try to build relationships with everybody.”
Schroder also figures to help the Hawks defensively with his ball-pressure and menacing style of play.
The Hawks have another noteworthy situation involving Schroder. He is scheduled to make $2,708,582 this season and is eligible for a rookie contract extension. The Hawks could make Schroder a qualifying offer for next season in 2017-18. It will likely be around $4.5 million if he keeps his starter criteria and will make him a restricted free agent.
The deadline for a rookie extension is Oct. 31. The team would unlikely to do an extension until late in the month. Injury during training camp and the preseason is a consideration. The case of the Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is a cautionary tale. The Hornets signed the 2012 second overall pick to a four-year, $52 million rookie extension last August. He suffered a right shoulder injury in the preseason and missed much of the year. When Kidd-Gilchrist did return in February, he played seven games before re-injuring the same shoulder that required season-ending surgery.
The Hawks will also consider the future salary cap in making a decision on Schroder. If he is not signed to an extension, Schroder would have a salary cap hold of approximately $7 million for 2017-18. With that flexibility, the Hawks could have enough cap space to sign another max player next summer.
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