The Los Angeles Lakers have one open roster spot left, and they aren’t done wheeling and dealing. Now that the Kevin Durant (and Kyrie Irving) situation is settled, the Lakers will explore other places to send Russell Westbrook. How a Russ deal materializes — if it does — will ultimately determine if the Lakers have one, two, or zero spots to use on a remaining free agent(s) — either right away or via buyout.
On Tuesday, Marc Stein mentioned one plausible option for the Lakers to ponder:
“Re-signing free agent guard Dennis Schröder is a ‘legit consideration’ for the Lakers, league sources say, depending on how the rest of their roster develops,” Stein tweeted.
The Lakers acquired Schröder in 2020 for Danny Green and a first-round pick. The move was logical; L.A. sought a second ball-hander/third playmaker and wanted to get faster and more dynamic. They envisioned Schröder as a game-changing two-way contributor who could gel with Anthony Davis in pick-and-roll sets, occasionally carry the scoring load, and offer feisty D. Basically, 2020 Playoff Rondo, but every night. Schröder was coming off a strong campaign with the Oklahoma City Thunder in which he averaged 18.9 PPG on career-best .385/.513/.839 shooting splits.
Schroder’s stint in Los Angeles was by no means a disaster, but it was underwhelming, polarizing, and turbulent. The German earned plaudits for his hustle, tenacity, and dogged on-ball defense, garnering the nickname “Dennis The Menace.” Over the course of 61 games (all starts), he posted 15.4 points, 5.8 assists, and 1.1 steals. His 2.7 Defensive Win Shares was the second-highest on the NBA’s best defensive team.
FLAT OUT INCREDIBLE!! That’s TUFF DENNIS THE MENACE! 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥 https://t.co/nQUUkTYuXr
— LeBron James (@KingJames) February 5, 2021
But, Schröder never established chemistry with AD, and Davis grew frustrated at Schröder’s inability to feed lobs à la Rondo. Schröder’s three-point shooting was bricktastic (33.5%) all year. Despite his personal quickness, he consistently slowed down the offensive flow with delayed dishing and hesitant orchestration. And yet, LeBron/AD/Schröder lineups outscored opponents by five points per 100 possessions — the best combo on the team. In general, Schröder was fine, but not the near-All-Star the Lakers hoped.
He also became a source of tension around the team in the second half. He frequently squabbled with reporters, refused to get vaccinated (and may have snitched on LeBron’s status), and contracted COVID-19 twice, including in the final weeks of the season as the team was making a playoff push — after he said he wasn’t worried about testing positive again. In the first-round loss to the Phoenix Suns, Schröder no-showed in Games 4 (eight points) and 5 (scoreless) right when they needed him to step up post-AD’s injury.
Famously, those last few developments occurred after Schröder turned down $84 million from the Lakers in March and opted to bet on himself in the months before free agency.
It was a roller-coaster.
Last season, Schröder somewhat faded into obscurity. He signed with the Boston Celtics for $5.9 million then was dealt to the tanking Houston Rockets. In 64 games (just 29 starts) he averaged 13.5 PPG — his lowest output since 2015-16.
Regardless how 2020-21 went, the Lakers and Schröder seem to have mutual interest in a reunion. Los Angeles pursued him at the trade deadline, and Schröder has signaled a desire to “run it back” with LeBron. Good idea?
As the roster currently stands, the Lakers’ most glaring needs are large wings and shooters. Schröder provides neither. The Lakers have a surplus of under 6’4 guards, none of whom are steady snipers.
On the other hand, the Lakers’ point guard rotation could use refining. They should trade Russ. Kendrick Nunn, Talen Horton-Tucker, Austin Reaves, and Lonnie Walker IV possess play-making skills but aren’t true 1s. As we saw with Boston in the Finals, not having at least one pass-first conductor can be crippling. If the Lakers were to add another PG, I’d prefer it to be a more polished floor general who can reliably space the floor (Mike Conley Jr.?).
Ultimately, this comes down to value. Schröder remains an effective bench scorer and defender, and the Lakers surely need more of the latter. Theoretically, you’d think he’d be hyper-motivated to take advantage of a second chance in purple-and-gold. He’ll turn 29 in September, so he aligns with the team’s under-30 movement.
Regardless of how the roster shakes out, taking a shot on Schröder at the minimum— all the Lakers have to offer — is a worthy gamble. If it doesn’t pan out, they can easily, and swiftly, move on.