Sixers Mailbag #16: Thoughts on the Dennis Schroder Trade Rumors
This week we continue our 76ers mailbag series, where we discuss some of the pressing topics around the team.
In the 16th edition of our Sixers mailbag we discuss whether the Sixers should have done the rumored Dennis Schroder trade, whether or not fans should hope the Sixers get the Lakers’ pick this year, and the improved play of late by Nik Stauskas.
Note: any opinions expressed here are my own opinions, and not reports or expectations based off of inside information, unless I explicitly state that a statement is based off of inside information.
“What are your thoughts on the reported trade for Dennis Schroder?”
Note: the trade in discussion, which was reported by Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer, was Nik Stauskas, Ish Smith, an expiring contract, and a 2016 first round pick for Schroder.
A quick note on the legality of the trade. Some people have pointed out that the trade deadline, which was February 18th, was less than two months since the December 24th acquisition of Smith, and questioned whether Smith could be included in a trade. Typically, Smith’s salary would not be eligible to be aggregated in a trade, meaning he could not be combined with other players in an offer by the Sixers. However, since the Sixers are under the salary cap, this restriction does not apply, and Smith could have been legally included in such a trade.
It was also odd that “an expiring contract” was part of the reported offer. The Sixers are so far under the cap that adding an expiring contract to make it match wouldn’t have been required, so if there was an extra person added from the Sixers’ side, I would have expected it to be named, since the Hawks would be acquiring a player they’re interested in, not just a contract. Instead, it’s the Hawks who would have needed to have added more salary to such a deal.
With that out of the way, my initial reaction to the trade was: “meh”.
The actual package offered – Stauskas, Smith, and a first round pick (assuming it’s not the Lakers pick, which I think there’s no way it would have been) — was more than fair from the Sixers’ end. In fact, it would have been a steal.
So what was my holdup? The contract.
The report initially stated that the Sixers were prepared to offer Schroder a max contract. 2016-17 is the final season in Schroder’s rookie contract. The report was later changed to say the Sixes were “expected to sign Schroder to a lucrative deal”.
Exactly what that means has a huge impact on whether I would have approved such a deal.
I think Schroder has some value to a team like the Sixers. He’s a much (much, much, much) better defender than Ish Smith, and his ability to player pressure defense would have been an interesting fit in a defense anchored by Nerlens Noel and/or Joel Embiid. He’s also insanely quick, can get into the point almost at will, and has a real knack for passing when the defense rotates. In that regard, he’s like Ish Smith on steroids: you get a guy who plays similarly to Smith on offense, but who is more viable long-term because of his age and, most importantly, because you took one of Smith’s major weaknesses (defense) and turned it into a real strength.
If I were running the team, I would have made the deal, but I would have done so without making any long-term financial commitments from the jump.
In order to be worth the contract Schroder is likely to command, either next fall as an extension or in the summer of 2017 as a restricted free agent, Schroder’s going to have to prove a number of things. He’s going to have to prove that he has untapped potential that he can now show with a defined role as a full time starter, he’s going to have to show that he can fit with the Sixers’ big men, and he’s going to have to show improvement in his jump shot.
That last bit about his jump shot is perhaps the most uncertain, and the most important. Schroder shot 35.1 percent from three-point range last season and is shooting 33.7 percent so far this year. Neither of those numbers are particularly great, especially for somebody who doesn’t get to the free throw line a ton. He’s going to need to be a real threat as a three-point shooter to compensate.
There is some area for optimism, though. First, Schroder’s shooting 37.5 percent from three-point range since January 1st and 40 percent since February 1st, a drastic improvement over his struggles to start the season. That doesn’t necessarily mean his shot’s improving: we frequently conflate recency with progression, when at times it’s just a hot streak. 12 games in February isn’t inherently more statistically relevant than 12 games in November, if there wasn’t tangible improvement in his form or consistency to suggest there’s something more than good luck (now) or bad luck (then) driving said improvement. In short, we need a far larger sample size to determine that.
Still, it’s a positive sign, especially when combined with the fact that he’s shooting 46.4 percent from midrange (between 16′ and the three-point line). This is a sizable improvement over his previous seasons (31.3 percent in 2013-14 and 38.1 percent in 2014-15). Again, the sample size is relatively low, but the consistency in his improvement over the years is, at the very least, encouraging, and combined with his improved three-point shooting of late suggests, but not proves, that there could be some more potential in his jump shot.
So, I would have done the deal, with the caveat that the Sixers need to get back patience in the deal along with Schroder. Don’t commit to a long-term contract extension yet. Allow Schroder to play a season with the team — to see if he can succeed as a starter, to evaluate his fit with the Sixers’ big men, and to see if he can sustain his improved jump shot — before committing a big contract to him financially.
There’s some belief that giving up “assets” like Stauskas, Smith, and the OKC pick, then letting Schroder walk in free agency, would be a disaster. I don’t buy that. Schroder would be a restricted free agent after his one year with the team is up, and the Sixers would have the right of first refusal. So if Schroder came in here, proved he could be a starter, proved he fit with the Sixers’ big men, proved his jump shot was improving, and proved he was worth the contract he was going to be offered, the Sixers would have every opportunity to retain him.
I make the deal, but let his final season play out before committing to him. If he proves all of those things and he’s worth the money? Great! If he struggles and is about to be overpaid? Great that they didn’t extend early! But locking him into a long-term, bad deal just so they “get something” for Stauskas and the OKC pick would be making a bad situation worse.
I would have been on board with making the trade, assuming it’s not the Lakers pick that was to be included. I would have had no interest in maxing him out prematurely, though.
“Why do you want the Lakers to lose?”
The Lakers beat the Brooklyn Nets 107-101 last night, leaving many Sixers fans happy: the win, which broke an eight game losing streak for Los Angeles, put 3.5 games between the Sixers and the Lakers, and also pulled the Lakers to within 3.5 games of the Phoenix Suns for the third-worst record. That was a seemingly great night for Sixers fans, as the Sixers will get the Lakers’ first round draft pick, as long as it doesn’t fall in the top-3 of the draft after May 17th’s lottery.
Except I don’t want the Lakers to pass the Suns.
The reasoning to hope the Lakers finish with the third-worst record is pretty obvious, as it increases the chances the Lakers will fall out of the top-3, thus increasing the chances the pick conveys this season. Except the change in odds isn’t as drastic as you would think: if the Lakers finish with the second-worst record, the Sixers will have a 44.2 percent chance of getting the pick this year, the third-worst record only ups that to 53.1 percent.
For that 8 percent gain you’re raising the chances the pick comes in at #5 from 12.3 percent all the way up to 26.5 percent, and the chance it comes in at #6 from 0 percent to 4 percent.
We’ll get into this more as the draft approaches, but I’m not in love with this draft outside of the top-2. That “meh” attitude has decreased somewhat in recent weeks, as Jaylen Brown has started to turn it on, as word spreads that Dragan Bender‘s contract situation may not be as dire as originally thought, and even to a lesser extent as Jamal Murray reinvents his game from pick-and-roll point guard to an elite shooter off the ball and off of screens.
Still, the 2017 draft class is almost universally regarded as being a strong, and deep, one, a sentiment that I share. I’m okay if the Lakers pick comes in at #4 this year, but I’m also okay if the pick rolls over to the stronger 2017 class. Yeah, the Lakers might be better, but the 7th or 8th pick in 2017 might provide more value than the 5th pick in 2016, and you still leave open the possibility of the best outcome: a top-5 pick in the loaded 2017 draft.
The only situation I really want to avoid is getting the 5th or 6th pick in the 2016 draft. That “worst case scenario” (in my opinion) jumps from 12.3 percent to 30.5 percent if the Lakers pass the Suns. Because of this, I hope the Suns find themselves in the midst of a winning streak.
“How do you feel about Nik Stauskus’ improvement this year? Do you think he can turn into a reliable wing going forward?”
Just a quick recap on some of the numbers Stauskas is putting up since January 1st:
|Time Period||MPG||Pts/g||Ast/g||FG%||3PT%||TS%||Net Rating|
|Before Jan 1st||22.6||6.9||1.6||34.5%||28.6%||45.8%||-16.5|
|Since Jan 1st||26.1||8.5||2.1||43.3%||42.7%||58.9%||-9.9|
That’s certainly an impressive turnaround, at least in terms of shooting. And it makes it far easier to find a role for him going forward, although some of the sample size and recency bias caution I provided above about Schroder applies here as well.
Do I think he’s going to be a reliable wing going forward, though? I’m not sure. His defense is still miles away from where I think it needs to be in order to pencil him into consistent minutes on a contender, or even a playoff team. This, more than anything, is what will determine whether he’s a legitimate piece going forward.
Will his body develop to the point where he can compete physically at either wing position? Will he get better at fighting through screens? Will his recognition improve? Will his rotations?
I’m relatively bullish on his shooting going forward, and his second half of the season certainly helps in that regard. I’m still not ready to fully buy into him as a piece going forward until I have more confidence in him improving pretty substantially defensively, though.
Derek Bodner covers the 76ers for Philadelphia magazine. Follow @DerekBodnerNBA on Twitter.