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I can't wait to see the four letters hype for Bama vs. FSU. Since last year we were bombarded with "Best Opening Week EVER" constantly. I can already see the "Best week one game EVER" promo's being run all over ESPN. I can't wait for the game but the hype may be way over the top.
Schröder will swing Atlanta's season, a fact that triggers something ranging from dread to fidgety optimism in every member of the organization.
Schröder's personality occasionally rankled teammates, coaches, and higher-ups over his promising three-year stint backing up Jeff Teague. He was a pouty loner when playing time dwindled, and a yapping taskmaster who chastised veterans when his confidence bloomed. His active night life made him an awkward fit among the staid Spurs East.
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But the dude has that "it" dynamism, and the Hawks were right to promote him -- and flip Teague for a lottery pick. Schröder is a better defender than Teague, and maintaining a stout defense should stabilize Atlanta amid unusual roster turmoil. Atlanta ranked second in points allowed per possession last season, and Dwight Howard's combination of rim protection and sorely needed rebounding -- teams destroyed Atlanta on the boards -- should compensate for the loss of Al Horford's mobility.
Cleaning the glass would jump-start Atlanta's transition game, where Schröder thrives. He has a good eye for reading waves of defenders crashing around him, and spotting shooters -- especially Kyle Korver -- in the pockets that pop up in their wake. "He's just starting to understand how much ground he can cover in the first three seconds of the shot clock," said Mike Budenholzer, Atlanta's coach.
The Hawks need fast-break buckets; they plummeted to 18th in points per possession last season, and struggled (again) on wide-open 3-pointers. Hitting the gas would make it harder for Schröder's defenders to set their feet, slide waaaay under the first pick Atlanta sets for him, and wall off his driving lanes -- daring Schröder to pop his unreliable jumper.
When defenses can't lay in wait, Schröder unleashes the full creativity of his game. He has a wicked crossover. He's among the very best at faking toward a pick, coaxing his defender that way, and then zooming away from it -- and into the lane for a zippy drive.
That's just mean.
Atlanta needs Schröder to hunt his own, but not so often that he subsumes the Hawks' equal-opportunity style.
"I'd actually encourage him to be more aggressive," Budenholzer said. "He doesn't have quite the same confidence Jeff had."
On most possessions, the defense will be waiting for Schröder, and that's where he needs to be better. He shot just 37 percent out of the pick-and-roll when he used the screen, among the worst marks for high-volume point guards, and coughed up a hail of wild turnovers. Good news: He has gradually improved his jumper, and his mechanics are mostly sound; the Hawks are confident he can drain enough 3s and midrangers when defenders duck under picks.
But Schröder is a slithery driver at heart, and for these revamped Hawks to approach their ceiling, he needs to pilot with more craft and nuance. He sometimes telegraphs his decisions, picking up his dribble 20 feet from the rim to toss no-chance-in-hell lobs:
It's admirable that Schröder wants to get rid of the ball early instead of pounding it. He just has to recalibrate his unselfishness. He'll make some early passes -- like those lobs -- that torpedo Atlanta's offense, and two possessions later, charge into a thicket after looking off an open shooter.
And when Schröder puts his head down, defenses know he's going full-speed-ahead to the rim. He's not a good-enough finisher to play so predictably. Schröder shot just 53 percent in the restricted area last season. He's not a mega-leaper, or strong enough to dislodge help defenders with a shoulder-block so he can finish over them. He resorts to thread-the-needle scoops and sky-high flip shots, only he's moving too fast to control them.
He needs that live-dribble, change-of-pace game that keeps all five defenders guessing. He has shown flashes of it, including a teardrop shot, but the Hawks need more. "There is not the variety in his game that will come with development," Budenholzer said. "It's about shifting down a gear, so that you really freeze someone."
Schröder also loves to dribble around a screen, and then cross back the other way -- right into the screener's path to the rim. That's not an issue with Horford and Paul Millsap popping for jumpers, but Schröder has to give Howard a workable corridor to pay dirt.
On a side note, Schröder is eligible for an extension ahead of the Oct. 31 deadline, and the two sides are talking, according to league sources. It's hard for either to act when no one knows what the rules will be in the new collective bargaining deal.
One wrinkle in the current proposed deal, according to sources familiar with it: Cap holds attached to free agents coming off rookie contracts could jump to 250 and 300 percent of their prior salaries, up from 200 and 250 percent, to prevent teams from arranging wink-wink deals as San Antonio and Detroit did with Kawhi Leonard and Andre Drummond, respectively: "Hang in free agency as a cheapo cap hold, and we'll sign everyone else first." That extra few million matters for teams scrounging max cap space.
As of now, cap holds attached to players with more experience would stay the same, per league sources. That could change, of course. But the status quo would be huge for Golden State, which is counting on Stephen Curry's under-market cap hold -- $18 million, way below his $30-million-plus max salary -- to fit Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala, and Shaun Livingston.
This is friggin awesome and hilarious!