OKC Thunder Preseason Previsions: A fresh start could net Dennis Schröder Sixth Man award

OKC Thunder guard Dennis Schröder (Photo by Ronny Hartmann/Bongarts/Getty Images)
OKC Thunder guard Dennis Schröder (Photo by Ronny Hartmann/Bongarts/Getty Images) /

Can Dennis Schröder turn a fresh start with the OKC Thunder into Sixth Man of the Year honors? Or, will Schröder’s baggage be too much to overcome?

Sam Presti and the OKC Thunder took a risk when Dennis Schröder was acquired from the Hawks, in exchange for Carmelo Anthony. The Hawks needed a partner to take Schröder off their hands and conversely, the Thunder needed a partner to do the same with Anthony. Therefore, it was a dream deal for all parties involved.

With training camp around the corner, Presti spoke to the media ahead of the rest of the players and head coach. Asked about Schröder Presti made an interesting remark:

"He’s only 24 and his best basketball is way in front of him, and you know, obviously for him, like maybe the biggest impact he can have on our team right away is defensively and he has the chance to be an elite defender and we’ve got to get him back to that."

What is most striking about the statement is Presti described Schröder as an elite defender. Dennis possesses a career defensive rating (DRTG) of 109. His best defensive rating came in 2015-16  when he registered a 103. DRTG. This may be only one metric, but it is a good indicator when it is used to judge a player’s defensive ability.

Another good metric for judging defense is shots contested. Among 271 guards, Schröder ranked 44th with 407 contested shots last season. After using a filter to refine the search to only include Guards 6′4″ or shorter, Schröder contested the 11th most shots among 92 players.

Contested shot data via NBA.com/Stats

Perhaps there is hope Dennis can become a defensive menace, if not Sixth Man of the Year. The award isn’t typically won due to outstanding defense. Rather offensive prowess tends to take precedent. With that, let’s examine some recent Sixth Man of the Year (SMOY) winners:

Taking a peak at past winners

NBA Winners Table
2017-18Lou Williams31LAC7932.822.
2016-17Eric Gordon28HOU7531.
2015-16Jamal Crawford35LAC7926.914.
2014-15Lou Williams28TOR8025.
2013-14Jamal Crawford33LAC6930.318.

Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/22/2018.

Over the past five years, Jamal Crawford and Lou Williams have had a strong hold on Sixth Man with Eric Gordon being the only other player to win the award over the past half decade. Three stats immediately jump out from the previous five winners stat lines: points per game (PPG), field goal percentage, and free throw percentage.

Schröder’s statistics from last season stack up for the most part. As a starter for Atlanta Dennis averaged 19.4 points on 43.6 percent shooting and shot 84.9 percent on foul shots. Although his anticipated role is as a reserve in OKC, the Thunder still have 15 field goal attempts per game to fill with the departure of Melo.

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Using the previous winner’s total field goals attempted as a template, over the past five season’s the Sixth Man field goal attempts per game average is 13.7 shots per game. Schröder attempted 17 shots per game last season for the Hawks. His shot volume will likely decrease in Oklahoma City, but not dramatically. And given he’ll be facing reserves he should be able to easily adjust and thrive.

Schröder will be seeking his highest finish in the Sixth Man voting since the 2015-16 season, where he finished ninth, at age 22. The OKC Thunder have had one Sixth Man winner, James Harden. The current MVP won the award during the 2011-12 season. OKC has three players (Reggie Jackson, Enes Kanter, and Kevin Martin) who’ve ranked inside the top-five in Sixth Man voting in their history.

In conclusion, given Schröder buys into his role in Oklahoma City, and his level of play is similar to the 2017-18 season; the only thing that will prevent Schröder from winning SMOY is starting too many games in Westbrook’s indefinite absence.

Next. 3 reasons why OKC Thunder acquisition Dennis Schroder raises roster’s ceiling. dark

Other than those factors, Schröder has a great chance to compete for and ultimately become Oklahoma City’s second Sixth Man of the Year award winner.

All stats provided by Basketball-Reference.com, unless stated otherwise.