If there’s one thing the Lakers will not be doing in this truncated offseason, it’s stand pat. While the idea of running it back always sounded nice, even the best teams are trying to find ways to improve, and the defending champion Lakers are no exception. With that, reports that the team is going to make a trade aren’t necessarily a surprise — even one that involves their starting shooting guard.
That’s right, Danny Green will reportedly be on the move in a trade, heading to Oklahoma City along with the #28 pick in Wednesday’s NBA Draft in exchange for Thunder backup point guard Dennis Schröder. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski has the report, including this key exerpt:
Schroder, 27, has been one of the most sought-after guards in the trade market, and he fortifies a Lakers backcourt that potentially could lose veteran guards Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley in free agency.
Schroder has one year and $15.5 million left on his contract and would be acquired with the intention of eventually signing him to a new contract to remain with the defending NBA champions, sources said.
The trade is expected to be consumated after Wednesday’s draft where the Lakers will make their pick at #28, then trade that player along with Green to the Thunder for Schröder. Rules dictate that the Lakers, who have draft pick commitments to the Pelicans as part of the trade for Anthony Davis, cannot trade picks in consecutive draft years, thus the need to make the selection first before executing the deal.
The terms, however, are agreed to per Woj’s report.
Before we get to Schröder, the idea of losing Green isn’t without concern. Green may not have had a stellar playoffs offensively and certainly had his ups and downs as a shooter in his lone season with the team, but he’s still a strong defensive player who contributed in multiple ways on that end of the floor. He was very good as a weakside helper, rotating well to the paint while still recovering back to shooters around the arc. He was also still a very good shot blocking guard and his ability to drop down and bother shots in the paint contributed to the Lakers being one the best shot-blocking team in the league.
His size as a shooting guard also allowed him to defend SG’s and SF’s, often times taking the burden of defending the other team’s top wing threat to save LeBron from carrying that load over the course of a long season. He also remained one of the best transition defenders in the league, and there’s few players I trusted more as the lone defender back in a 2 or 3-on-1 fastbreak chance to make a defensive play and force a miss or a turnover. And while he was clearly not the isolation or lock and trail defender he once was, his size and smarts allowed him to hold up in those situations well against most offensive players he matched up against.
Add to this the respect defenses showed Green as a shooter, despite those ups and downs, and Green was a strong net positive for the Lakers this year. He was a part of some of the team’s best lineups and was the team leader in on/off net rating during the playoffs. Part of that success is surely related to all the minutes he played with LeBron and AD, but just as those players helped him be effective, his strenghts on both sides of the ball helped those lineups perform strongly too.
Green was a steady veteran whose even keeled personality and commitment to the team over self are the hallmarks of what you’d want from a high functioning role player on a team with championship aspirations. So, he will be missed for his contributions, tangible and intagible alike.
That said, I’d be lying if I said I thought the Lakers couldn’t use his salary in more effective ways even when considering all the contributions I mention above. Which brings us to Schröder (who makes nearly the exact same salary as Green).
The Lakers need for a secondary ballhandler and offensive shot creator on the perimeter beyond LeBron is well known. Rajon Rondo proved capable during the playoffs, but relying on him to replicate that next season is a real gamble. Schröder is the exact type of player who can take on some of that burden, not only as a lead guard who can initiate offense and run a team’s sets, but as a go-it-alone scoring threat who can thrive as a self-shot creator both in isolation and the P&R.
Schröder isn’t a pure PG like Rondo by any means, but his ability to get downhill for shots in the paint or to make defenses pay by hitting pull up jumpers is a skill set the Lakers simply do not possess with any consistency outside of Bron.
There’s really not understating how important these skills are and one only look at why Rondo (and, to a lesser extent Caruso when he was aggressive offensively as a scorer) was such an impactful player during the playoffs. When at his best, Rondo’s ability to get into the teeth of the defense to score gave the Lakers a balance and needed boost as team’s paid extra attention to Bron and AD. This is a real strength of Schröder and having that tool in your box every night rather than every 5th or 6th one would be a major boost for the team.
As a shooter, Schröder’s career mark of of 33.7% from beyond the arc doesn’t scream marksman, but his 38.3% from distance last year continues a (mostly upward) positive trend in his development over the course of his career. Of further note is that Schröder shot 42.4% on 3’s taken when he did not take a dribble (aka catch and shoot 3’s) and hit 39.4% of his 3’s considered open or wide open, per the NBA’s tracking data. When you consider the types of 3’s the Lakers create for their perimter players by playing through Bron and AD, if Schröder can replicate this past season’s numbers from OKC in Los Angeles, it’d be a tremendous boon to the Lakers offensive attack.
Defensively, Schröder isn’t a top flight defender by any means and his lack of size goes against type for how the Lakers played to their best level on that side of the ball this past season. That said, I was impressed by how he competed defensively during the playoffs for the Thunder, particularly in his want to aggressively get into the airspace of the man he was guarding and really force the action to turn his man into a driver. This type of assertiveness is a hallmark of the Lakers defensive attack and if he can bring that same level of commitment during the regular season, I envision him fitting in well on that side of the ball too.
I understand there’s a lot of if’s here. If the jumper falls. If he commits defensively. Not to mention the questions of whether he maintains a positive attitude should he not start and whether the competitive streak he showed in the playoffs transfers over to Los Angeles. But, in the big picture, I see this as a gamble worth taking.
The Lakers needed another shot creating guard and Schröder is exactly that. His presence very well could allow the Lakers to do more than tread water when Bron goes to the bench and there is real potential for a Schröder/AD P&R to be the type of dynamic action you can build a 2nd unit offense around. When you add in the fact that he has the potential to be someone who, like Rondo, can actually find ways to share the floor in productive lineups with Bron and AD, the overall boost to the Lakers offense could be exponential.
I get there will be defensive questions and with Green heading out the door, the need for more size on the wing becomes a bigger priority in free agency than it was before this deal materialized. That said, I’ll take that chance. Particularly with Bron and AD anchoring, more potential growth from Kuzma coming, a wildcard in THT, and players like Caruso and KCP showing they’re willing to battle on that end of the floor vs. any opponent.
Fact is, there are rarely perfect trades and that’s especially true when swapping one role player for another. But, the Lakers have filled a glaring hole and have enough in house and the spending power in free agency to still fill out their roster in ways that limit their exposure. In other words, I’ll take it. Welcome to L.A. Dennis Schröder. And thank you for all your contributions, Danny Green — you helped win this organization a championship and I won’t be forgetting that anytime soon.