Playing alongside Chris Paul, Dennis Schroder had a superb season for the surprise Oklahoma City Thunder in 2018-19. The Lakers signed him this past offseason expecting more of the same, namely as a second creator next to LeBron James and a floor-spacing shooter.
The latter expectation stemmed from Schroder’s career-high 38.5-percent mark from 3 with OKC, but that number dipped to 33.5 percent with the Lakers. That’s a big deal. LeBron needs shooters around him, and if Schroder isn’t giving him that, then his value lies almost exclusively in his on-ball work.
LeBron deferred to Schroder an awful lot in the Lakers’ first-round loss to Phoenix, allowing him to create offense as James stood by, and the results were not great. Schroder averaged 14 points on just under 12 shots per game against the Suns. He shot 30 percent from 3. In a pivotal Game 5 with the series tied 2-2, Schroder was held scoreless on 0-of-9 from the field.
All of which is to say, perhaps Schroder should’ve taken that $84 million the Lakers reportedly offered prior to the March trade deadline. From ESPN’s Brian Windhorst on the Hoop Collective podcast:
The most that Schroder can extend for under his current contract is four years, $84 million. What I have been told is the Lakers did indeed offer him that $84 million over four years … and he said no. He said no to that extension. And subsequently the Lakers offered him in trade for Kyle Lowry.
That attempt to trade for Lowry obviously fell short, and now Schroder is entering free agency after leaving a bad postseason taste in everyone’s mouth. Not many teams have cap space, to begin with, and is a 33-percent 3-point shooter and non-All-Star point guard really going to get more than $84 million on the open market? That’s the same amount Fred VanVleet got from Toronto, and Schroder is no VanVleet.
The Lakers likely offered Schroder that max extension for lack of options. They don’t have cap space to replace Schroder, but if they want to keep free agents Alex Caruso, Wesley Matthews and/or Talen Horton-Tucker, they’re going to have to pay them as well. How much are the Lakers willing to pay Schroder with potential tax implications? Lakers legend Magic Johnson, for one, doesn’t think Schroder should be back with the team.
“Schroder, I don’t think he’s a Laker,” Magic Johnson told AM570 LA Sports. “That’s just my opinion. I don’t know if they’re gonna sign him back or not. I don’t think he brings the winning mentality and attitude that we need, and he had a chance to show that in this series, and to me, he failed in this series. But again, if he comes back a Laker, I’m gonna support him, I’m gonna cheer for him and all that, but I just don’t think he’s a Laker.”
When Schroder reportedly turned down that $84 million offer from the Lakers, he obviously did so thinking there was going to be a high offer in free agency. That seems unlikely now that he didn’t come close to replicating his 2019-20 season. Leverage is everything, and Schroder has likely lost a considerable amount with the Lakers, who aren’t going to bid against themselves in the absence of other high-dollar suitors.
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This is particularly true when you consider Schroder could well move to a bench role if he does come back. That’s too much money for a potential bench player who led the Lakers to a minus-6.6 net rating, per Cleaning the Glass, without LeBron on the floor even when he was playing alongside Anthony Davis. If Schroder isn’t going to shoot at a high clip alongside James, and he’s not going to create consistent offense when James is on the bench, how much value does he really have?
That’t not to say this past season is necessarily an indication of how next season might go for Schroder. Teams often make this mistake. Plenty of guys back up good seasons with bad ones, and he reverse it true as well; backing up an average season, as Schroder just had, with a good one. That said, Schroder’s 38-percent 3-point shooting season was a career anomaly. The 33.5 percent he shot this season is closer to a true mark, based on his past numbers.
Bottom line, if Schroder wants to come back to the Lakers, it likely will be for significantly less than the $84 million he could’ve had earlier this year. My guess would be something closer to $55-60 million. That’s somewhere around $25 million he could’ve potentially lost by rolling the dice. Betting on yourself doesn’t always pay off.