Dennis Schroder Won’t Stop Fighting for Atlanta’s Starting Point Guard Job
The Atlanta Hawks have reached the playoffs for the past nine seasons. While the club just has one Eastern Conference Finals appearance to show for their efforts during this time period, the franchise has been resilient when it comes to handling change. From head coaches – Mike Woodson, Larry Drew and Mike Budenholzer – to players such as Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams, Mike Bibby and Josh Smith, the Hawks’ winning ways have persisted through the years.
But this summer could be one of big changes for Atlanta’s core as we’ve come to know it. All-Star center Al Horford is headed to unrestricted free agency for the first time of his career. With the league’s salary cap set to rise exponentially, there will be plenty of executives with extra cash in the wallet who will want to be active in free agency.
Horford is the team’s biggest priority this offseason. If the old adage of not allowing elite talent to walk for nothing in return holds true, then the Hawks will roll out the red carpet (after all the team could have moved Horford at the deadline to ensure some value).
But after the Horford issue is settled, it will be time for Budenholzer to focus on his emerging point guard battle between former All-Star Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroder.
As the team cleared their lockers for the final time, Schroder once again stated his desire to become the lead floor general for the Hawks, despite the presence of Teague.
“In the future, I want to be a starting point guard,” Schroder said according to ESPN. “Everybody knows it. But in the situation I was this year, I was fine with it. I played my minutes, and I just tried to get better. When the coaching staff and everybody decides I get the team [and start], I’m going to be ready for it.”
For those following the team, Schroder’s comments aren’t a new revelation by any stretch of the imagination. Since entering the league, the young guard has always been extremely confident in his ability and wants a chance to prove himself at the highest level.
However, the Hawks do have Teague, drafted by the club in 2009, who has developed into an All-Star caliber performer organically.
Teague, 27, is entering his physical prime but has surprisingly witnessed his minutes steadily deteriorate since Schroder was drafted by the franchise in 2013.
Here are Teague’s regular season minutes per game:
2013-14: 32.2 (Schroder drafted)
Teague’s minutes decreasing over the years becomes even more pronounced come playoff time:
2013-14: 34.6 (Schroder drafted)
Keep in mind, this was the first season since 2013 where Teague’s minutes didn’t go up in the playoffs from his regular season allotment.
It also must be noted that Schroder was the first draft choice selected after Budenholzer was hired in 2013. Even though Danny Ferry was calling the shots at the time, in many ways Schroder has always been the guy – Budenholzer’s guy.
For reference, in 2013 when Teague was a restricted free agent he signed an offer sheet with the Milwaukee Bucks, who had just hired Larry Drew after he wasn’t re-signed by Atlanta (who opted to hire Budenholzer). During the entire free agency process, Teague voiced his frustration about the Hawks’ front office for not aggressively attempting to re-sign him earlier in the period.
There were questions at the time about whether Ferry believed Teague was the man to run the offense. Teague’s All-Star ascent, along with Ferry’s dismissal, quieted most of that chatter but the guard’s name was prominent on the trade market before the deadline passed in February.
Teague will be an unrestricted free agent in 2017 and with Schroder breathing down his neck for his starting spot, it isn’t unrealistic to assume the guard fully explores his options. It also wouldn’t be unrealistic for the Hawks to shop Teague this summer to secure assets and give Schroder the starting role full-time next season.
For now, Budenholzer is keeping his cards close to his vest on future plans.
“We value both Jeff and Dennis,” Budenholzer said. “They have both been incredibly good for us. Part of the reason we have had success is we have had two really good point guards.
“I am not ready to say anything other than how much we love them both. They are a big part of why we have been successful.”
At the end of the day, Teague may be on the move and Schroder may get his dream of leading a NBA franchise as a starting point guard.
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