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Jeff Teague, Not Dennis Schroder, is the Hawks’ Answer at Point Guard

Curtis Compton/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire

Atlanta Hawks point guard Dennis Schroder took a giant leap in 2014-15 after a horrible rookie season. He gained confidence in his dribble-drives, did a nice job setting up teammates and suddenly became a decent threat to score from the outside. The 22-year-old German wunderkind saw his minutes spike, and he averaged 10.0 points and 4.1 assists as the sixth man for the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed.

Now, heading into his third season, Schroder wants a bigger role.

The young point guard told this to Bild magazine last week, translated by Sportando’s E. Carchia:

My goal is to start as point guard. If this doesn’t happen, I will look for other opportunities. The Hawks are a great team, the city is nice and everything is perfect now. Teague? He was an All-Star and he helped me a lot. I must be patient and work hard and eventually I’ll have my opportunities.

Schroder is a rising young talent, and it’s good to see that he strives for a starting spot. On several squads, he could start this season.

But Jeff Teague, Atlanta’s starting floor general, turned just 27 years old during the summer and had a career year last season, making his first All-Star appearance. For the time being, he’s Sharpied in at the 1-spot for the Hawks.

So what should the team do with this situation? Ultimately, I believe Atlanta should keep Teague as long as they can, and look to trade Schroder this season. Why? Read on and find out.

Schroder and Teague Cannot Start Together

Wait — Schroder and Teague are both good players; can’t the Hawks just start both of them and have either Kyle Korver or Thabo Sefolosha play the 3?

Before you get any ideas, the answer to this is no. It’s both a bad idea in theory and in practice.

Teague and Schroder both like the ball in their hands a lot, and neither is a natural off-the-ball shooter. It’s a waste of talent to have both of them taking possessions from each other and clogging the lane for each other’s drives.

If there’s any offensive advantage playing the pair together on a consistent basis, it’s completely wiped out by the defensive issues the tandem creates. Since Schroder is 6’1″ and 172 pounds while Teague is 6’2″ and 186 pounds, neither has near the body to check shooting guards.

Last season, head coach Mike Budenholzer tried playing Schroder and Teague together in spurts to get some extra offensive punch on the floor. Overall, the 190-minute experiment was not a success. The Hawks were better when both Teague and Schroder were on the court individually than when they played together:

Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 8.01.04 PM

So, eliminate that option as a possible way to resolve this conflict.

What Schroder Said Was a Red Flag for Atlanta

It’s one thing for a bench player to believe he deserves a starting role on his team. I’m sure most players riding the pine in the NBA are constantly looking at certain teammates ahead of them on the depth chart and telling themselves they’re better than said teammates.

It’s an entirely different thing to publicly voice that opinion.

Schroder didn’t specify when he wanted to be starting for Atlanta by, which does leave some possibility that he was referring to the non-immediate future. But as the saying goes, timing is everything. He brought up his desire to start now, thus we can only assume it’s important to him to have a starting role now.

That’s not a distraction the Hawks, a team with a strong chance at a deep playoff run, can afford.

If you know anything about Budenholzer and his San Antonio Spurs background, you know that chemistry and unselfish play are staples of his squads. Atlanta achieved a lot last season because of its ability to mesh as a unit; its players sought to benefit the team, not themselves.

Schroder saying he wants to start doesn’t bode well for what he’ll provide on the court for the Hawks in the upcoming season. He’ll probably view his minutes on the court as a tryout, a time to prove to his personal worth to the league, rather than fit within a team concept. Atlanta doesn’t want to deal with that.

Plus, what does he mean by “I will look for other opportunities”? Schroder has absolutely no leverage in his current contract situation. The Hawks have a team option on him for the 2016-17 season, which the Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s Chris Vivlamore says the squad will likely pick up before the Nov. 2 deadline. He’ll then be a restricted free agent in 2017 if an extension isn’t reached before next season. So basically, the Hawks control Schroder’s destiny for the foreseeable future.

At this point, all Dennis can do right now that approaches looking “for other options” is to demand a trade. Atlanta doesn’t want to deal with that, either.

Teague is a Better Fit with this Hawks Team

There’s no doubt Schroder has sexier superstar potential than Teague does. He’s only scratched the surface at the age of 22, and has the raw talent and aggressive mindset to be a team’s clear-cut alpha dog.

But he’s not there yet, and Teague, at 27, is still the much better and smarter player on both ends of the floor:

Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 9.04.44 PM

Let’s say the Hawks did give in to Schroder’s wish to start and are tantalized by what he might give them in the future. They trade Teague early this season for some nice assets, but it’s ultimately a downgrade because the starting lineup gets much worse thanks to losing his All-Star skills and the chemistry he had with his teammates.

For a team like Atlanta that’s waited so long to be a legitimate threat in its conference, waiting around for Schroder’s development into a superstar (which may never happen) makes little sense. A core of Al Horford (29 years old), Paul Millsap (30), Kyle Korver (34), Tiago Splitter (30) and Thabo Sefolosha (31) isn’t getting any younger, and it definitely wants to win now.

Schroder, meanwhile, is on his rookie contract and can give the Hawks some nice value in return on the trade block, if Atlanta finds a team wanting the young German as its starter. Losing Schroder would hurt some, but Shelvin Mack is a veteran in Coach Bud’s system who can handle the ball carefully and knock down jumpers for 15 minutes a game. The players and/or draft picks Atlanta could get in return for Dennis would make up for the talent drop-off between Schroder and Mack.

But if the Hawks try and keep both Teague and Schroder around in their current roles, Schroder will likely be unhappy and mess with team chemistry. Looking to trade the youngster just makes the most sense.

Conclusion

One of the most fun parts about watching Atlanta play last season was how invested its bench was in the outcome of games. Instead of just waiting around for when they’d enter the game, the reserves were happy when their teammates did positive things and cheered them on in entertaining ways:

The Hawks can’t afford to have someone publicly unhappy about their role sitting on that bench. Chances are, everybody on the roster has heard about Schroder’s comments by now and is disappointed that he’d say something like that, whether they’d admit it or not.

Schroder could become a great player, but the Hawks need to look to move him this season to benefit team chemistry and their on-court product.

Note: All statistics used are from ESPN, Basketball-Reference and NBA.com

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