OKC Bench Just Got Real

OKC just got better and it’s not because they finally saw the light and got rid of Melo who Billy Donovan should have exiled to the bench at the beginning of last season but didn’t have the guts to do it. The Thunder improved their bench and got rid of Melo at the same time which is a win win. The Thunder got rid of something that was strangling them and in return they checked the box of a need. Dennis Schröder is a starting point guard who as a backup will give Russell Westbrook the necessary minutes to rest, plus he will produce.

Schröder is quick off the dribble, has a good first step and a floater in the lane. He can finish through contact though his jumper can be shaky. He has a good motor and he thinks highly of himself and competes, though his decision making is up and down.

Having it lucky a few years ago, Schröder didn’t know his privilege. He was on that Hawks team that won 60 games and had the best record in the East before LeBron James rocked their world. He was the backup then, coming in for Jeff Teague. He gave the Hawks valuable minutes. They played faster when he was on the floor.

He doesn’t have the Melo experience or game and he hasn’t been tested under pressure situations but he fits the modern NBA to a tee. Playing with Westbrook will be a good tutorial. Schröder thinks he is a star, he has that arrogant moxie but Westbrook will show him what a star really is.

Schröder’s contract is modest and without any opt-outs. $15 million until 2021. If this experiment doesn’t work or he has zero chemistry with the rest of the Thunder or the Thunder just want to flip him for one or two players, they can. There is no down side to the acquisition except that Schröder arrogant chip on the shoulder.

It doesn’t change the Thunder’s outcome as far as championship contention. Until they have less Westbrook usage and more of Steven Adams in the paint plus one more quality scorer they can depend on, they’ll be a second round and out playoff team. But Schröder makes them a better team than they were last year. He’s better than Raymond Felton in every area.

The Thunder had a good off season. They re-signed Paul George and their bench has gotten better. Overdependence of Russ will always be their feast and their famine. It may get them 50 wins but won’t produce in the playoffs. Westbrook needs to do less to get more.

Sam Presti is doing everything he can to maximize Russ and PG’s prime. If it doesn’t work, it won’t be a failure. You miss every shot you don’t take. That brings us back to Schröder. He doesn’t turn down shots.  He was the 61st ranked point guard (Real Plus-Minus) and his defense was awful, 113 rating. Last season, he had an usage rate of 30%. Can he share the ball adequately enough? There isn’t a need for another Westbrook but not as great.

Buried in Atlanta the past few season, we’ll see who Schröder really is as a player. A better team with more at stake ups the pressure. Even if it isn’t a boom or bust season for him, the league will get a glance at Schröder doing things for a playoff team. Is he as good as he thinks he is?

Even if he is not, he won’t make the Thunder worse.