What to Expect from Dennis Schröder's Rookie Season with Atlanta Hawks

Thomas Duffy@@TJDhoopsFeatured ColumnistOctober 31, 2013

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 30: Dennis Schroeder #17 of the Atlanta Hawks poses for a portrait during NBA Media Day at Philips Arena on September 30, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2013 NBAE. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

With the 17th pick of the 2013 NBA draft, the Atlanta Hawks gave life to a franchise that’s been without a true star for decades.

Dennis Schröder, a 20-year-old guard from Germany, has shown flashes of brilliance overseas and in his short time in the US. He’s taken his game all over the world, playing on 18-U and 20-U German national squads as well as the World Select team at the 2013 Nike Hoop Summit.

Despite his stature—standing at 6’2” and weighing in at 165 pounds—this kid is set to become a dominant player in the guard-heavy NBA over the course of the next few seasons.

In his first season in ATL, the Hawks can expect a lot from the German-born prodigy.


Flashes of Rondo

If Andrew Wiggins is the next LeBron James, Dennis Schröder is the next Rajon Rondo.

The similarities between the European-born guard and the NBA’s 2012-13 assist leader are striking, even in appearance and the mannerisms in which they play.

Jan 5, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo (9) in action against the Atlanta Hawks during the second quarter at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports
Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

In an interview at the Draft Combine, Schröder listed Rondo as his favorite NBA player to watch. He acknowledged that his game is similar to the Boston Celtics superstar, referencing their long arms, defensive ability and prowess in the pick-and-roll.

Jacob Eisenberg of Sheridan Hoops described how the comparison was received by his new teammates, specifically 14-year veteran Elton Brand.

“People were like, ‘This kid’s just like a young (Rajon) Rondo,’” Brand said. “And I was like, ‘Come on, guys. You can’t compare him to Rondo just because they both have long arms.’”

However, after two weeks of practicing with the now-20-year-old Dennis Schröder, Brand has been won over:

“I was wrong,” Brand admitted. “I can definitely see where those comparisons come from now. It’s uncanny.”

Schröder showcased his remarkable, Rondo-esque passing ability at the Nike Hoops Summit, picking apart the US defense with the pick-and-roll and drive-and-kick offenses (see video).

With Lou Williams recovering from a torn ACL and Devin Harris now back with the Dallas Mavericks, Schröder will have the opportunity to see time in the backcourt alongside Jeff Teague.

In Germany last season, Schröder showed the ability to hit the long-ball, converting at a clip of over 40 percent from shots beyond the arc.

While the three-point line in the NBA is farther than it is overseas, Schröder’s smooth mid-range game, where he shot 43 percent, will force defenses to keep him honest in the pick-and-roll and give him room to exploit open passing and driving lanes.


Encouraging signs of progress

It’s important to keep in mind that Schröder is barely removed from his teenage years. At 20, he’s going to make mistakes, especially early on in the season. But he’ll learn.

In the Las Vegas summer league, Schröder led the Hawks in assists, dishing out nearly seven dimes a game. However, his 3.4 turnovers was also a team-high.

In five preseason contests, the young PG had more turnovers than assists and shot about 39 percent from the field. Those numbers don’t exactly scream potential, but there were times when Schröder looked like an All-Star.

In Atlanta’s only preseason victory, the German rookie netted a game-winning floater with just less than three seconds left to give his team the lead. It’s very rare for such a raw player to cap off a rough night offensively—he missed nine of his 15 shot attempts—with a cold-blooded shot to win the game.

But that’s who Schröder is. He possesses a serenity about him that is seldom found in players his age. Zach Harper of CBS Sports compared his demeanor to another European guard after watching him in the summer league.

“You saw similar things instantly in the first extended minutes during the rookie season of Minnesota Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio. His poise was evident thanks to years of playing professional basketball in Europe, so it was hard to get him off kilter when facing a pressure situation here.”

Sep 30, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks point guard Dennis Schroeder (17) speaks to the media during media day at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

This season, Schröder will turn the ball over. He’ll throw it out of bounds, try to take on entire defenses by himself and make simple plays more complicated.

But as long as he keeps breaking ankles, completing wild passes and—most importantly—improving, the Hawks will live with it.


Superstar potential

While he will need time to acclimate to the NBA, Schröder has the potential to blossom into a superstar.


Royal Ivey, who was waived by Atlanta, had high praise for the German rookie after battling during training camp.

“The thing I love the most about him is that he has an edge to his game,” Ivey told Sheridan Hoops. “He’s aggressive and competitive. That’s big. He’s as fierce a competitor as I’ve seen from a kid his age.”

Atlanta ranked 26th in attendance last season, despite making the playoffs as the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. They’ve always been a team with solid players—Jamal Crawford, Joe Johnson, Josh Smith and, most recently, Al Horford.

But there hasn’t been a concrete face of the franchise since Dominique Wilkins.

The Hawks are in desperate need of a star, and Dennis Schröder is the one they’ve been searching for.