Dennis Schroder: The talent to carry the Atlanta Hawks to the next level

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The Atlanta Hawks are entering a new dawn with the departures of Jeff Teague and Al Horford, and it's impossible to say whether the team's dynamics will change in light of the new roster.

Horford was a constant double-double threat during his nine years at the Philips Arena and Teague was an offensive-minded point guard that averaged 12 points and five assists during his seven years in the south.

Both men were vital components to the Hawks side that won the Eastern Conference in the 2014-15 season and made it all the way to the Conference Finals.

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Despite winning 60 games, ultimately, the Cleveland Cavaliers would sweep them 4-0 and advance to the NBA Finals where the Golden State Warriors claimed the Larry O'Brien trophy.

Still, it was the closest the franchise has come to a title since they became the Atlanta, and not the St. Louis Hawks, back in 1968–69.

Horford has now departed for Boston Celtics in free agency and Teague was sent to the Indiana Pacers in a three-team trade in July. In their place, Dwight Howard has arrived on a three-year, $70.5 million contract and Dennis Schroder has been promoted to starting point guard.

Howard is now 30-years-old and has not played his best basketball in some time. He has still averaged a double-double every season throughout his career, but his impact on the game is only waning.

However, Schroder is where the franchise's hopes are really resting.

The 22-year-old German has shown some real class in his limited minutes since arriving as the 17th pick in the 2013 draft.

ESPN analysts labelled him a "young Tony Parker" as well as a "magician out there" after a dazzling display in the 2015 Rising Stars Challenge where he put up 13 points, nine assists and three steals.

His career averages of 8.9 points, 3.7 assists and 2.1 rebounds from 18.3 minutes are quite modest, but he has been playing second fiddle to Teague for the majority of his career.

In March 2015, he showed what he could do in place of Teague as he scored a career-high 24 points and tied his career high of 10 assists against the L.A. Lakers.

A more recent reminder of the Braunschweig-born star's talents came in game one of Atlanta's loss to the Cavaliers during the 2016 conference semi-finals where he tallied a playoff career-high 27 points.

He's being given a lot of responsibility at such a young age, but his teammates appear to have every confidence in his ability.

“Dennis has an incredible talent,” veteran Thabo Sefolosha told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently. “He’s going to be great. He’s going to be the point guard. It’s going to be tough. I think we are all going to help him. I think it’s a tough position to be so young and to have so much on your shoulders. I think it’s going to be on all of us to help him.”

Schroder is as determined and intense as he is talented and his defensive style is likely to help the Hawks in the backcourt.

A starting five of Schroder, Kyle Korver, Kent Bazemore, Paul Millsap and Howard is more than capable of challenging in the east.

The promising guard is eligible for a rookie contract extension before October 31, and one would think the Hawks will be desperate to tie down such an important young player.

However, if the Hawks hold off and let Schroder earn around $7 million during the 2017-18 season, they might just have enough flexibility to secure a free agent to a max contract.

We'll see just how serious they are about Schroder in the coming months.

Kyle Korver
Atlanta Hawks
Southeast Division
Eastern Conference
Dennis Schroder
Dwight Howard
Houston Rockets
Southwest Division
Western Conference
Kent Bazemore
Paul Millsap

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