Milwaukee Bucks: Should there be interest in Dennis Schröder?

MILWAUKEE, WI - MARCH 17: (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - MARCH 17: (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

With news that Dennis Schröder would be open to a trade to the Milwaukee Bucks, should they be interested and what would a deal even look like?

Following some interesting and unusual comments at a press conference in Germany on Monday, Atlanta Hawks guard Dennis Schröder went some way toward creating a trade rumor of his own by expressing an openness to playing for the Milwaukee Bucks.

Schröder is one of the most talented young guards in the league right now. Basic stats alone point to that, as last season he averaged 19.4 points, 6.2 assists and 3.1 rebounds, while playing and starting in 67 games.

Admittedly these statistics are inflated due to the nature of Atlanta’s season but the point remains, given the right circumstances, Schröder can ignite any offense he chooses to.

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Undoubtedly, Schröder’s greatest ability on the basketball court is to score, but his assist numbers of 6.2 per game would have been the highest mark on the Bucks’ team last season. Eric Bledsoe led the way for Milwaukee with only 5.1 assists per game in the 2017-18 season.

What Schröder possesses in terms of being able to power an offense would excite any Bucks fan, when you consider the idea of pairing him with superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Speaking at a press conference with the German National Team on Monday, Schröder certainly opened the door to the possibility of such a pairing.

"“Of course I have my thoughts and my friends with other teams. For example, Indiana wouldn’t be too bad. Milwaukee wouldn’t be too bad. Those are two teams where you can say the organization is going in the right direction”."

This came after comments that he was considering his future with the Atlanta Hawks.

"“I will talk to the general manager and owner of the team and we will talk about the organization what they want to do in the future. My agent will also be there and he will talk to them tomorrow and Wednesday to see how it continues on”."

Though not explicitly demanding a trade, the comments can be extrapolated to suggest his time in Atlanta may be coming to an end. Lastly, Schröder explained:

"“I will be 25 in September and of course you want to win a title some time. In my prime – 25, 26, 27, 28, 29 – I want to compete. I cannot be second to last in the Eastern Conference. That’s why I will have the talks with the Atlanta Hawks."

So, what should we make of all this? To the naked eye, Schröder is a clear talent who is likely up for sale for cents on the dollar.

At 24 years of age, he is about to enter his prime and after averaging close to 20 points per game this past season, could be considered one of the more intriguing offensive weapons in the league.

In isolation, this looks like a home run for the Bucks if they can pull it off. When you look a little deeper however, the waters become a touch murkier on just how Schröder would fit with Milwaukee’s current squad.

First and foremost, Schröder is currently in the midst of his second NBA deal, having been paid (quite handsomely) in 2016. The Hawks gave Schröder a four-year, $70 million deal, with $62 million of that guaranteed. Essentially, he will be paid at least $15.5 million a year until 2021.

Immediately, Schröder would become the second highest paid player on the Bucks’ payroll (sans Jabari Parker’s possible new deal).

Depending on how the Bucks would acquire Schröder, it is likely that next season wouldn’t see too much change as salaries would have to roughly match for a trade to occur. The following season (2019-20), however, would be vastly different as the Bucks currently project to have only $71.5 million on the books.

This is important as that would create enough space for Milwaukee to offer a max contract to someone in free agency to pair with Antetokounmpo. Adding Schröder’s $15.5 million would bring that number up to $87 million, which depending on the salary cap, would unlikely be enough for that max contract slot.

If Milwaukee believe Schröder could be a significant difference maker in Milwaukee, they should pursue deal and pair him next to Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton. Just how he fits next to those two creates further headaches in this potential situation, though.

Acquiring a ball dominant point guard who struggles to stretch the floor is not an ideal fit next to Antetokounmpo, a player who thrives with the ball in his hands and space to move. Essentially, Schröder could be considered a smaller, poor man’s Antetokounmpo in some ways.

On the upside however, having someone as dominant offensively as Schröder could be crucial in powering Milwaukee’s second units in the future. So often, Antetokounmpo and Middleton were asked to play exorbitant minutes last season because the second units could not keep pace with the opposition. Leads were lost and tight games turned to blowouts in a blink of an eye while those two warmed the bench.

Having someone as offensively talented as Schröder would allow Antetokounmpo and Middleton to play slightly reduced minutes and with their medical histories, that can only be seen as a huge bonus.

One could argue that Milwaukee already has a version of Schröder in Eric Bledsoe. While it’s true, Bledsoe was immense for the Bucks in the regular season, he completely lost his way in the postseason as Terry Rozier and Boston lived in his head from start to finish of the team’s first round series.

Bledsoe finished the series averaging only 13.6 points while shooting an abysmal 31.8 percent from deep. A case can certainly be made that Bledsoe’s blunders and sub-standard play were the difference between the two teams in that series.

With Bledsoe’s value in Milwaukee at an all-time low, it might be best to move on to a player like Schröder who has proven in the past to be a force in the playoffs. In 2017, against a very strong Washington Wizards team, Schröder averaged 24.7 points and 7.7 assists, while shooting 42.5 percent from deep. While it’s true it’s a small sample size, Schröder’s body of work in the playoffs certainly dwarves Bledsoe’s and is something worth considering heading forward.

Schröder is also four years younger than Bledsoe, putting his timeline more in line with Antetokounmpo and therefore, the Bucks’ championship window. Again however, Schröder’s contract is a worry for the Bucks heading forward, who already have committed salary elsewhere on the roster.

Another thing to consider is the lackadaisical effort Schröder often gives on defense. Out of all of the guards in the NBA (265), Schröder finished with the 207th best defensive net rating of of 110.2. While net rating is certainly not the be all and end all of measurements, it’s an alarming number. In contrast, Bledsoe was 145th with a rating of 106.7 while Malcolm Brogdon was 161st with 107.5.

Defense was certainly not the Bucks forte last season and yet both of Milwaukee’s guards finished significantly higher than Schröder on this list. Factor in that Schröder was playing under Mike Budenholzer, the man who is now favorite to receive the Bucks’ head coaching role and it doesn’t bode well for his potential defensive impact in Milwaukee.

So where does that leave Milwaukee and Dennis Schröder? Essentially, this questions comes down to who is a better fit for the Bucks, Eric Bledsoe or Dennis Schröder. Both are arguably versions of the same player, with similar shooting limitations and previous off-court issues. Schröder has been involved in locker room issues and incidents on the court on multiple occasions, while Bledsoe infamously rubbed an entire Phoenix franchise the wrong way by asking out via Twitter last season.

The key difference between the two is age and contract length. Bledsoe is four years older, yet only has one year remaining on his deal. Schröder is younger, but has three years left on that deal, which could become a real issue in a few season’s time, if Milwaukee are looking to add talent via free agency.

In the end, there is no clear cut decision to be made here. Schröder could very easily take the next step under the right coaching model and become a true top tier point guard in this league, or he could  just as easily become a problem in the locker room, meaning the $46.5 million still owed to him becomes one of the worst contracts in the league.

Personally, I’d roll the dice on what could be with Schröder. In the event that he’s acquired, it’s likely it would revolve around a deal with Bledsoe. In this scenario, it’s likely the Bucks would let Jabari Parker walk also, to alleviate cap constraints both now and into the future.

What that leaves Milwaukee with, is a gaping hole in the second unit, which would be aptly filled by Schröder. This is where he is most likely to succeed as playing with Antetokounmpo full time would pose floor spacing and ball handling problems. Staggering the minutes accordingly however would mean there is a capable ball-handler on the court at all times, while also shoring up the offense.

Would this move be a home run for the Bucks? No. There are so many scenarios in which this move goes south for both parties. But what became abundantly clear in the most recent playoff series is that Eric Bledsoe is not the man heading forward for Milwaukee. He will become a free agent next offseason and without a move now, he will likely be lost for nothing.

Schröder presents a way in which you can gain an asset (no matter how questionable) back in return for Bledsoe, and one that more fits in line with Antetokounmpo’s current timeline too. It’s a swing for the fences that could set Milwaukee up for years to come.

Next: Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors reportedly competing for Mike Budenholzer’s services

Jon Horst has proven so far in his short tenure that he’s not afraid to pull the trigger on a move that he sees could benefit the team. This would undoubtedly be his biggest move yet.