With big names like Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Steven Adams on the roster, the Oklahoma City Thunder has a number of players that they look to on a regular basis to make things happen for the team. With playoffs rapidly approaching, the Thunder is going to need all the help they can get, and while Westbrook and George will likely carry the brunt of the load, history shows that teams need valuable performances from role players in order to be truly successful.
Oklahoma City has a number of players that could fall into this category, but when it comes down to it, there are three players that could easily be argued as the most important member of the Thunder headed into the playoffs. Over the next few days, I’ll lay out the these three, starting with backup point guard Dennis Schröder.
The obvious choice for the Thunder’s Most Important Player headed into the playoffs has to be Dennis Schröder. There’s a reason he’s one of the larger contracts on the Thunder’s payroll, and despite coming off the bench, his contributions to the team are incredibly important to sustained success.
Schröder has been streaky in his first season in Oklahoma City, but his potential to impact a game on any given night is probably the highest of any non-All-Star on the team.
Going into the All-Star Break, the Thunder’s record was 37-20, and Schröder was OKC’s 3rd-highest scorer behind Paul George and Russell Westbrook. In just a little over 28 minutes per game, Schröder was averaging 15.7 points per game on 42.6/36.0/82.0 shooting percentages.
Since the break, however, Schröder’s playtime has jumped to 31.2 minutes per game, but his scoring has fallen to 14.1 points per game on 37.7/27.2/78.7 splits, and with his fall in numbers, the Thunder has won just 9 of their last 22 games.
Even though Schröder has not played particularly well since the All-Star Break, he has shown signs of his prior glory over the last couple of weeks.
In a win in Toronto over the Raptors on March 22nd, he put up 26 points on 10-16 (62.5%) from the floor—including 4-7 (57.1%) from 3—plus 7 assists and 6 rebounds.
In the game after that, a loss in Memphis to the Grizzlies three days later, Schröder scored 25 points on 9-14 (64.3%) shooting—2-4 (50.0%) from 3—as well as 3 assists and 3 rebounds.
Just Friday he had one of his best performances of the second half of the season as he scored 14 points on just 6-14 (42.9%) shooting, including a rough 1-5 (20.0%) outing from 3, but he dished out 10 assists, his 2nd-highest number of the season, while grabbing 7 rebounds, which ties for his 4th-highest of the season.
Typically a team wants ball movement and sharing the ball, but sometimes you need a guy to lead the second unit by simply going out there and getting a bucket on his own. Schröder has made twice as many shots on his own as he has assisted, and 184 out of his 436 makes on the season have come from within 8 feet of the basket, where he’s knocking down 48.9% of his attempts—his highest percentage from any distance.
While his percentages are not anything exceptional, whether it be from before the All-Star break or after, what makes Schröder so dangerous is uncanny ability to work his way to the rim, particularly through traffic, despite his smaller frame.
Dennis Schröder may not be the sharp-shooting backup point guard that Thunder fans have longed for over the past few seasons, but his skills are desirable, and if he manages to play as well as he has over the last few games, he will be a vital piece to OKC finding success in the playoffs.
Be sure to follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram and like us on Facebook, and don’t forget to check out our latest episode of Thunder Things with the Thunder Guys on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, and Stitcher.