Dennis Schroder has been such a phenomenal pickup and acquisition for the Thunder, potentially filling in the last missing piece that Melo couldn’t hold last season for the Big Three with Russell Westbrook and Paul George.
Based on the matchup with Warriors alone, Schroder demonstrated that even with his demotion to the bench unit, he can still hold onto his own. While George and Westbrook were sitting out at the first half of the closing quarter, Schroder led the bench unit to not only contain the Warriors’ comeback, who cut the deficit from 8 points to as low as 4 points, but even extended the lead to an eye-popping 15+ point lead, before Westbrook checked into the game.
But this has not just been Schroder’s only highlights of the season. Schroder proved to be a consistent and reliable scorer and playmaker for the Thunder throughout the season. As Westbrook missed half of the games already for the Thunder due to a lingering left ankle injury from the matchup with the Pelicans and then missing time again due to the birth of his new twins, Schroder and George led the Thunders to an impressive 7-game winning streak without the former 2017 MVP on the roster.
Schroder averaged 16 points, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists off the bench unit. And Chauncey Billups, immediately following his best performance in this season so far, questioned about Schroder’s ability to be producing this well after a sudden change from a starter to a bench player. Unlike Melo, who constantly joked with the transition from being the star player in his former Atlanta Hawks team, who was dead last in the conference last season, to a bench role player behind Westbrook was initially a struggle, he comes to terms with himself and wants to be in the culture of winning. Schroder realizes that if he wants to fit into the culture of competitiveness and be in contention for the championship, he must let go some of his ego aside and be all about the team mentality.
Schroder adds another new dimension to the Thunder roster. He helps lead the bench unit, which was a concerning question for the organization in previous seasons, and helps lift some of the playmaking and playcalling from Westbrook, who was used to doing everything spectacular on his own. In his MVP season, Westbrook averaged a triple-double, and had more than half of his games with a triple-double. However, as he ages, his body cannot maintain this level of athleticism each night. Schroder not only has a history and a reliable track record of leading an organization but is also a younger version of the versatile Westbrook, who can do it all as well. Schroder might just be the missing piece that the Thunder has been looking for, the perennial star that might get this team over the edge and challenge the Warriors.
Featured Image via Flickr/Keith Allison