Creating for each other on both ends of the court.— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) October 12, 2019
// today's practice report pic.twitter.com/rCMYeZ7DTm
Do-It-All Dennis Ready to Dish and D-Up
By Nick Gallo | Broadcast Reporter & Digital Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
Arms outstretched, in a half crouch with a big grin on his face, telling the world to come get a look at him, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was feeling himself. Posing on one end of the court inside the Thunder Ion as the team wrapped up practice, the second-year guard was trying to keep the attention of a teammate.
Across the floor was fellow point guard Dennis Schröder, whose right eye was looking the viewfinder of a Canon 1 DX Mk II. The 300 2.8 lens was locked onto Gilgeous-Alexander, who spotted Schröder snag the camera from Thunder team photographer Zach Beeker. That’s when Shai started flexing.
Schröder had finished up his post-practice workout and was getting ready to speak to the local media, but had a minute to tack on another responsibility, much like he’s been doing on the court thus far in the Thunder’s preseason.
On Tuesday against the Dallas Mavericks, Schröder started alongside Gilgeous-Alexander and 14-year veteran Chris Paul – three point guards with varying skill sets, statures and personalities – to head an up-tempo offense that relies on constant motion. In 22 minutes Schröder racked up 13 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists, making 5-of-6 shot attempts.
Two days later, the German lightning bolt again played 22 minutes, this time off the bench. Though he didn’t shoot it quite as well, Schröder dished 5 assists in his first 10 minutes, had a plus-minus of plus-20 and snagged 6 rebounds to go with 6 total assists and a steal for the game.
“He’s fitting in well with those other guards,” Head Coach Billy Donovan said. “He’s important to us. He’s obviously defended pretty well. Coming off the bench against New Zealand he gave us a really good pop. That second unit coming in was really good.”
In the fall of 2019, Donovan has constructed an offense predicated somewhat on pick-and-rolls, where Schröder excels, but also with more off-ball player movement, where guards can merry-go-round a big man at the free throw line. Weaving off of one another in split actions, Schröder and his buddies on the wing can cut backdoor, come up to receive the ball in a “get” action or start a pick and roll with a dribble hand-off from Steven Adams, Nerlens Noel, Danilo Gallinari or Mike Muscala.
“We’re moving the ball very well, just trying to get everyone involved.” Schröder said. “With the new offense, it’s been pretty great. We’ll just have to keep building on it and keep going.”
“In his background in Germany and coming up through the NBA, for him (Schröder) as a point guard, he likes when everybody is involved,” Donovan noted. “He’s a guy that can connect different people. He did it with his passing, advancing it up the floor and then also in pick and roll finding guys.”
Last season in Schröder’s first campaign with the Thunder, he was asked to take on more of an off-ball role yet still managed to average 15.5 points and 4.1 assists per game. He made 38.8 percent of his corner three-pointers last season, dwarfing his overall three-point efficiency of 34.1 percent. This year with two other point guards on the roster, he still certainly won’t be the only one running the offense, but the hope is that the off-ball skills he honed last year can complement his on-ball prowess.
Same goes for the defensive end of the floor. Schröder has always been a pest, but without having to shoulder the entirety of the ballhandling role last season he was able to truly get back to using his length and quickness to frustrate opposing ballhanders as they tried to get to the paint. In fact, Schröder recorded 39 charges taken last year, double his total from the 2017-18 season.
It won’t just be in the halfcourt where Schröder harasses opponents. Look for that golden patch atop Schröder’s head to be bobbing near the basketball for all 94 feet this year. One of the best in the league at pressuring full-court, Schröder will be alongside one of the league’s premiere on-ball defenders from last year in Gilgeous-Alexander and a nine-time All-Defensive Team member in Paul. If the Thunder’s point guards can slow up opponents on the way up the floor, it’ll add a sixth defender to the mix – the shot clock.
“We’ve got to,” Schröder said about pressuring in the backcourt.
“Dennis is really, really good at that. He can get up and really pressure,” Donovan added. “Shai can do some of that… We’d like to do it just to kind of maybe take some time and be a little bit more disruptive.”
Paul stands at 6-feet tall and Schröder at 6-foot-1 and in a league where guards are getting bigger and bigger (see: Gilgeous-Alexander at 6-foot-6), there will be times where keeping all three guards on the floor will be untenable or at least quite difficult. But that won’t be every night and it certainly won’t be for all 48 minutes.
Within the Thunder’s defensive scheme however, Donovan will have options on how to help his shorter guards with tall assignments, whether it’s with double teams or other ways of rotating early help into place. Regardless of tactic, it’s about intentionality.
“It starts on defense,” Schröder said. “Everyone’s got to put more effort into defense, try to get stops and then from there on just kick-aheads and try to get easy points.”
Donovan will put his three best playmakers on the floor together, utilizing Schröder as a straw that can help stir the drink to create as much swirling chaos for the opposing point guard as possible, on both ends of the floor.
Even with two other point guards next to him, Schröder will still have the chance to do it all.
"We’re moving the ball very well, just trying to get everyone involved.”
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