Like most of the players on the Celtics roster, point guard Dennis Schroder has been inconsistent this season. His numbers are solid—15.8 points and 6.2 assists—but he is not always a model of NBA efficiency. He has made 40.0% of his 3-pointers but has struggled badly with his midrange game, and is shooting only 39.5% on his 2-point attempts.
That is by far the worst of his career, as Schroder has made 47.3% of his 2-pointers in his nine NBA seasons.
Still, Schroder has brought something the Celtics have lacked in recent years: Individual speed. As a whole, the Celtics have played faster this season, their pace number currently at 101.46 possessions per 48 minutes, 11th in the NBA. That is up considerably from last year, when the pace number was 98.94, 20th in the NBA. Schroder has been part of that improvement.
And coach Ime Udoka has been appreciative.
“His pace changes our tempo, changes the team, and we get out and get much more easy baskets,” Udoka said of Schroder’s speed.
Udoka: Schroder Has ‘Upped the Pace’ for Celtics
Schroder has actually had his struggles in transition this season, but Boston has been more aggressive about getting into the fast break, and Schroder is at least part of the reason. The Celtics have scored 68 points on the break this year in five games, and 34 of those came in the two games in which Schroder was a starter and played his most minutes.
“He upped the pace, increased the pace as soon as he got in,” Udoka said after Wednesday’s loss to Washington. “But he’s done that the last three games. All season actually. Just more so making shots in these last three games when he started the last two on the road. But his pace changes our tempo as a team and we get out and get much easier baskets. He’s finding his groove overall.”
Making shots has been especially important. Schroder started the year with two abysmal games, going 6-for-20 from the field for 16 total points. But he has scored 21.0 points on 44.4% shooting in Boston’s last three games.
He has used his speed to put pressure on defenses, too, going to the free-throw line an average of 6.0 times in those games, making 88.9% of his foul shots.
Schroder Has Said He Should Be a Starter in the NBA
Schroder’s recent performance, especially in the two games he started, have only added substance to the question that is sure to hang over Udoka all season: Should Schroder be in the starting five more permanently?
Udoka has already shown a fondness for the big starting five of Robert Williams at center, Al Horford at power forward and the Jaylen Brown-Jayson Tatum pairing on the wings, with Marcus Smart at point guard. But a small lineup with Williams at center, Horford out, Brown and Tatum at the forward spots and Schroder and Smart in the backcourt has some appeal.
Schroder has been willing to accept a bench role, but he has consistently throughout his career said he should be in the starting lineup, including earlier this month during Boston’s preseason.
“Of course, it’s always great to be a starter as well,” Schroder said. “I think everybody knows that I’m a starter but I mean right here, right now, what we need it whatever coach needs me to do, I’ll do it. I’m a winning person and I’m a team player so at the end of the day, whatever coach is telling me to do and whatever the group thinks is the best, we’re just gonna figure that out.”