It is dangerous to read too much into an NBA Summer League performance — remember a year ago the co-MVPs were Damian Lillard and Josh Selby. They went on to have radically different NBA seasons.
But the one guy in Las Vegas who leapt out to me as a potential steal of a pick was 19-year-old German point guard Dennis Schroder of the Hawks, who was drafted at No. 17.
In the helter-skelter, pick-up style of the NBA Summer League Schroder showed a mature game, a patient and unhurried style that stood out — especially since he was one of the youngest players there.
“I think part of that is having experience playing in Europe,” Hawks Summer League coach Quin Snyder said of Schroder, who played two seasons professionally in Germany before entering the draft. “He was living the professional life in a lot of ways… the competition he’s playing with — he’s playing against men, players that have played professionally for eight, nine, 10 years some of them. When you see him play his game reflects that at some level.”
The thing that grabbed you first about Schroder was his defense — he got down in a low crouch and pressured the ball. Again he was mature, he wasn’t gambling he was counting on his quick feet and ridiculous wingspan to take away what the ball handler wanted to do. At 19 he was the best defensive point guard in Las Vegas.
“He’s got the quickness and the length to be very good on the ball,” Snyder told ProBasketballTalk. “I think the thing that stood out for us is that it’s very difficult to screen him. He gambles a little bit, but for the most part he’s just impacting the game by consistently applying pressure.
“Maybe the biggest is his ability to not be screened in the pick-and-roll. Pick-and-roll defense is an important thing.”
There were ups and downs over the course of Schroder’s play in Vegas — he shot just 34 percent overall and 29 percent from three, and while he dished out 5.6 assists a game he also had 3.4 turnovers. He showed a great feel for the game, but everything was not smooth. He was adjusting to the NBA game.
“I think everybody’s athletic here in America, in Germany it was a little bit different,” Schroder said.
“I know some of the things coach (Mike Budenholzer) has challenged him on, he can continue to shoot the ball, his focus on the court and really maintaining it, having an even keel mentally and really keeping his poise. Some of those things you just don’t work on on your own, you need to play, and I think the more he plays that will be good for him.
“He was in the gym while we were in Vegas working on his shot, so some of those things he needs to do to evolve as a player we’re going to see more as his competition increases.”
Schroder lands in a good spot in Atlanta — Jeff Teague is back as the starter and will get the bulk of the minutes, with Lou Williams coming off the bench and wanting the ball in his hands also. Shelvin Mack is also on the roster.
But what Schroder showed in Vegas was a guy ready to get some NBA minutes — he can come in off the bench, play good defense, set up some teammates and start to get a feel for the NBA game.
Watching him, I saw what could well be a quality NBA point guard down the line, a guy who can start and lead a team on both ends if he develops.
And that would be a real steal at No. 17.