Schröder, Muscala Ready To Contribute After Strong Summer League

Jack Arent and Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images

Mike Muscala and Dennis Schröder each enter their second NBA season looking to step into larger roles with the Hawks this fall. Summer League provided these two with an opportunity to showcase what they’ve been working on in the offseason, and both impressed.

For Muscala, the offseason has been about expanding his shooting range and getting stronger, which is a bit of a strange dichotomy -- trying to be a more dangerous threat away from the basket on offense while being able to handle size inside -- but is becoming more of a necessity in the NBA to be able to stretch the floor while also being a physical presence inside.

“Personally, I think I’m happy with some things and want to keep improving with others, but that’s what Summer League is for," he said. "I’m just trying to keep a positive outlook on it and keep improving this summer. [I want to improve] my three point shot. All my threes for the most part felt really good this Summer League and they looked good, but it’s the transition because I haven’t really shot that many NBA threes in my life. That, and becoming a better rebounder. There’s a lot of physical guys and physical play, so I just gotta keep adding to [my strength].”

After spending most of last year in Spain before coming over to the Hawks late in the regular season, Muscala is looking forward to having a full training camp in Atlanta.

“It’s going to be a big difference [entering the season after a full training camp]. It’ll be new for me as well, obviously I haven’t experienced a training camp, but it will only help more me to mesh more with the guys and get intertwined with the system and what Coach Bud wants.”

Muscala’s play this Summer League was encouraging in many regards. He showed off an improved face-up game where he is more decisive with the ball and attacks the rim to create a shot for himself or draw defenders to kick out. His ball-handling was impressive, and he maintains a terrific touch with his shot around the basket and in the mid-range. The three-point shot didn’t fall much for him, but his form looked good, and he hopes that with more reps he’ll be more comfortable with shooting from that distance.

Defensively, Muscala’s positioning looked good and he has plenty of length to bother shots at the rim. He has added some weight to his frame to help him against physical players, but he is still fluid and quick moving across the floor.

Schröder’s focus this summer is on becoming a more well-rounded player and getting more comfortable leading and controlling the team. He showed some improvement last season from the beginning of the year to the end, particularly in controlling the pace of the game. This summer, it appears he’s taken even greater strides to be a better offensive player, working hard on his jump shot and finishing at the rim, while also being more conscious about his role as a leader when he is the point guard on the floor.

“For me the Summer League was important to lead the team and keep working on my game, keep working on my shot -- midrange shot, three-point jumper. I think it is a different thing when you do it in a workout, one against zero, without going against a man or defense, so it was good, I think I shot it well in some games and it was great, and I’ll keep working on it.”

Schröder's increased emphasis on being a leader on the floor is not just as an offensive player, but also as the catalyst for the defense.

“I’m the point guard. I have to lead the team with everything. I think my leadership was very good, my coach told me that, and after every dead ball I tried to keep the pressure on the point guard, and I think it was great.”

Coach Darvin Ham said one of the challenges he presented Schröder was to mix up his pressure on defense and learn when to be aggressive and when to play off of his man. Schröder looked much more under control on defense, pressuring full court on dead balls but also respecting the speed of his opponents and sagging off when needed.

The improvements made by Muscala and Schröder will give then both great opportunities to earn more prominent roles off the bench for the Hawks this season. Each looks to have a more polished and dynamic offensive game, and they have both taken steps to be more well-rounded defenders. Depth was an issue for Atlanta at times last season, and if the Hawks can get more consistent, reliable contributions from Muscala and Schröder, it would go a long way towards stabilizing their bench unit.

Story by Robby Kalland