For months heading into last month’s NBA Draft, Oklahoma point guard Trae Young was an Orlando fan favorite to be selected by the Magic with the sixth overall pick. Young and the Magic were a natural fit; Orlando’s roster sorely lacks shooting and scoring punch (not to mention point guard depth), and that’s exactly what Young can provide a team with.
But it was not meant to be. Young was selected fifth, one spot ahead of the Magic, by the Dallas Mavericks (and then of course, traded to the Atlanta Hawks for Luka Doncic and a future first round pick).
Fast forward a couple weeks and all the Young craziness seemed to be forgotten. Fans were thrilled to have Mohamed Bamba on the Magic, and all eyes were now focused on free agency. After restricted free agent Aaron Gordon was re-signed, many zeroed-in on the Magic bringing in a point guard.
Enter Isaiah Thomas into the conversation. Thomas signing a short-term deal with the Magic just made sense - for him, for the team, for all parties involved. Thomas, who is recovering from hip surgery, could have potentially tried to regain his all-star form in Orlando (where he could’ve had a significant role, gotten plenty of shots, etc.). If everything went according to plans, Thomas could have re-entered free agency next summer with less doubt surrounding his health.
Should’ve, would’ve, could’ve. After numerous social media follows/likes/re-tweets (coming from Thomas, as well as other Magic players), Thomas signing with Orlando seemed inevitable. But as the days in July lingered on, and reports started to surface that Orlando’s talks with Thomas weren’t as far along as previously thought, it became clear that either the Magic or Thomas were not interested in a potential fling.
In fact, after signing Isaiah Briscoe (undrafted in ‘17) and trading for Jerian Grant, Orlando President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman told Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel that the Magic “are likely done adding to their roster through free agency (this summer).”
Thomas ultimately chose to sign a veteran’s minimum deal with the Denver Nuggets, as first reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Trae Young, swing-and-a-miss. Strike one. Isaiah Thomas, swing-and-a-miss. Strike two.
Rather than striking out by chasing another point guard this off-season, it seems the Magic brass are content (for now) heading into next season with D.J. Augustin, Grant, and Briscoe as the team’s lead guards.
Still, Weltman left the door open ever so slightly with his comment to the Sentinel; there’s still a chance the Magic make another significant move before summer comes to an end. Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross both have expiring contracts that could be used to facilitate a trade. Even recently acquired big man Timofey Mozgov could theoretically be moved if need be (it’s not like he’s not used to it by now).
Which brings me to Dennis Schroder. Late Thursday night, news broke that the Atlanta Hawks acquired point guard Jeremy Lin in a deal with the Brooklyn Nets (for Isaia Cordinier and a future second round pick). Atlanta absorbed Lin’s expiring contract into their available cap space, a move that was made in an effort to provide the team with a veteran presence on the roster as Young develops during his upcoming rookie season.
The move to bring in Lin (along with drafting Young as the franchise’s cornerstone) seemingly signals the end of Schroder in Atlanta. The Hawks have a new coaching staff, a shiny new toy in Young, and are clearly heading in a different direction (away from their former starting point).
If the Hawks do amp-up their efforts to trade their mercurial point guard, its presumed that the Magic may be one of the first organizations they try to call. Orlando missed out on Young, they failed to bring in Thomas; in fact, they even missed out on a chance to acquire Lin (who played for Steve Clifford in Charlotte, and who many fans thought would be a perfect one season stop-gap lead guard).
Grant only has one year left on his contract. Briscoe has never logged a single minute in the NBA. The Magic are void of any long-term solutions at point guard at the moment, perhaps they would be interested in trading for Schroder?
No, absolutely not. Just...no. Let me tell you why.
1) Terrible contract
In late October of 2016, just days before Atlanta kicked off their ‘16-’17 season, Schroder and the Hawks agreed to a four-year, $70 million contract extension ($62 million guaranteed). At that point, Schroder had mostly come off the bench in his NBA career (16 starts through his first three NBA seasons).
Schroder is only 24, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that his best basketball is still in front of him. But man, that contract is such an albatross. A team that would be acquiring Schroder would be on the hook for three more seasons and $46.5 million dollars.
Schroder’s annual salary of $15.5 million ranks him 14th on the list of highest-paid point guards in the NBA. Now granted, some of the guys behind him on that list are due to get paid whenever they hit free agency (such as Kemba Walker, D’Angelo Russell, Ben Simmons, etc.). But still, it’s a horrible deal to trade for.
The Magic didn’t have a ton of cap flexibility this summer, but that’s all projected to change in the upcoming summers ahead. Vucevic and Ross come off the books in ‘19; Augustin and Mozgov follow in ‘20).
Acquiring Schroder would put a wrench in a lot of that future flexibility. Now, the Magic haven't always been the most successful franchise when it comes to luring top free agents (or spending wisely). Believe me, I get that.
But it’s certainly in the franchise’s best interest, especially now while the Magic are still not ready to compete quite yet, to keep future cap flexibility in order.
2) Lackluster on-court play
Fact: Dennis Schroder has improved his per game scoring average every season he’s been in the NBA. There’s no denying that.
Schroder’s 19.4 points per game last year looks pretty good on the surface, sure. But Al Horford doesn’t play for the Hawks anymore. Neither does Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver, or Jeff Teague. Schroder has had the ball in his hands quite a bit since he became the starter in Atlanta, and has taken plenty of shots to speak of as well (especially last season, 19.9 FGA’s per/36).
Victor Oladipo, Tobias Harris, and Elfrid Payton were all discredited at various times for the numbers they put up while in Orlando. “Empty stats” they said, good numbers on a bad team.
I kind of feel that way about Schroder as well. 19.4 points and 6.2 assists per game is fine, but does Schroder make winning plays? How much of what he does on the court contributes to “winning basketball”?
He’s a career 32% three-point shooter who’s never posted an offensive rating in a season higher than his defensive rating (which of course, is supposed to be lower). Schroder’s team has been better when he’s off the floor in four of his five career seasons, including his last two as a starter (Career +/- per/100: -2.0, Career on/off per/100: -2.8).
Schroder had an Offensive Box Plus/Minus rating of 1.5 last season, the best of his career. But his Defensive Box Plus/Minus metric of -2.2 was his career worst.
In reality, Schroder is a lot like Elfrid Payton. He can’t shoot, he struggles stopping others from scoring. But unlike Payton, who knows he’s not a quality outside shooter (and therefore, doesn’t attempt many three’s), Schroder has no problems firing away. Payton and Schroder have very similar career PER’s, true shooting percentages, assist percentages, and offensive ratings. However, Payton has turned the ball over less in his career than Schroder has, is a better defensive player (if you can believe that), and sports a much higher career VORP estimate (3.9 to 0.6).
The Magic had no interest in committing to Payton long-term. Not many teams around the league were interested either, he was forced to sign this off-season with the Pelicans for one-year/$3.0 million. Yet, Schroder is still owed over $45 million.
3) Possible legal troubles/locker room fit
To be fair, I wanted to make this point further down the list of “why trading for Schroder would be a bad idea” for a reason.
Within the NBA Twitter court of public opinion, Schroder seems to be labeled a “felon”, but that’s just not accurate.
In late September of 2017, Schroder was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor stemming from a fight outside of a bar in suburban Atlanta. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the charges against Schroder and three other defendants involved in the fight have been recommended by the DeKalb County Assistant Solicitor General to be increased to felony charges (because of the maliciousness of the fight, injuries to victim).
The Hawks did not discipline Schroder for the incident last season, instead choosing to wait until the charges against him were legally finalized.
So it’s not a given that Schroder is ultimately charged with a felony, far from it. But if the charges against him are changed, this would mean that Schroder would also be suspended by the NBA league office (minimum of ten games).
Regardless of the incident last year, Schroder doesn’t seem like the kind of player Orlando’s front office is looking to bring in to their current locker room whatsoever.
Schroder made some comments this past May that I feel were a bit overblown. First of all, comments often lose their context when translated (and then transcribed through Twitter), like the comments made by Schroder at a FIBA press conference in Germany. He basically said that he didn’t want to waste the prime years of his career losing, and noted that the Hawks are not a franchise anywhere close to winning.
Perhaps not the most team-friendly remarks, but factual nonetheless. Schroder even cited organizations such as the Indiana Pacers and Milwaukee Bucks as teams heading in “the right direction”, but again - I don’t see any kind of egregiousness in his remarks.
The Hawks were a playoff team Schroder’s first three seasons with the organization. It’s natural that it would (probably) bother him that the Hawks are not at that level anymore.
I’m not ready to label Schroder as a completely bad guy. He’s a young kid that made a terrible choice last year, and one could argue that there’s still some maturity issues with Schroder that he needs to work through.
Regardless, Weltman and General Manger John Hammond have been very clear with the kind of young men they seek during the draft process. They significantly value character, and Schroder just doesn’t seem to fit what Orlando’s management team has been looking for since they arrived in town.
The Hawks very well could be ready to move on from Schroder. Trading for Trae Young on draft night, and then trading for Jeremy Lin this week, are clear indications that Atlanta’s front office doesn’t have Schroder in their plans. Travis Schlenk, Atlanta’s General Manger, inherited Schroder - he didn’t draft the lightning-quick point guard (or sign him to his contract for that matter).
And Schroder may be ready to move on from the only organization he’s ever played for as well. I’m sure he would welcome a fresh start. But how welcoming and open would he be if he were traded to another rebuilding franchise?
One of the arguments a lot of people make, as far as why the Magic should acquire a starting caliber point guard, is because it would make life so much easier for Bamba, Gordon, and Jonathan Isaac.
Well, I’m not sure Schroder would help the “Victorious B.I.G” trio (credit Mike Cali) all that much.
As Weltman often says, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Trading for Schroder would signal a signficant chnage from that mentality. Basically, it’s just a very bad idea.
I’ve been seeing a lot of Dennis Schroder chatter from fans on here. Just curious, is everyone seriously okay with the fact that he’s still owed $46.5 million?— Orlando Pinstriped Post (@OPPMagicBlog) July 13, 2018
The Magic have contracts to get something done, but does a move for Schroder make sense?