The Dennis Schroder redemption tour is far from over.
Just when everyone thought that the 30-year-old had reached his peak when he led Germany to win the FIBA World Cup in Manila last September, he has found yet another level in this new NBA season with the Toronto Raptors.
Schroder, who has not played two consecutive seasons with the same franchise since ‘19-’20, has kicked off his stint with Toronto in the best way possible. Through the Raptors’ first six outings, he has averaged 15.3 points, 2.8 rebounds, 9.3 assists, and an impressive 1.8 turnovers per game.
The 6’3 guard has gradually developed into a more mature player in recent years, a transformation which seems to have begun during his brief stint as a reserve with the Boston Celtics in ‘21-’22. The controlled pace that he has settled into since then has allowed him to emerge as a much more effective floor general. This was first previewed in brief spurts when he was still with the Los Angeles Lakers during their postseason run last May before it came into full bloom during the FIBA World Cup where he was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
While Schroder’s play has not directly translated into a particularly strong start for Toronto, their most recent win over the revamped Milwaukee Bucks sent a stern message to the rest of the league that they cannot be overlooked.
The Raptors, having lost three consecutive matches following an opening night win, were clearly focused on getting back on track from the opening tip against Milwaukee. They never trailed during the contest and built a 16-point lead as early as the first quarter. Their advantage never fell below double digits for the rest of the contest as they walked away with an impressive 130-111 win.
Schroder’s stellar performance was key for Toronto in this statement victory as he led the team with 24 points and 11 assists–both of which were season-highs–in only 28 minutes of action. He was efficient from the field, hitting nine-of-13 field goals and all four of his free throws, while he only had two turnovers. His play sparked the rest of the Raptors as the team wound up having all five starters shoot at least 50% from the field and score at least 14 points in the contest.
Toronto’s starting line-up of Schroder, Pascal Siakam, Scottie Barnes, OG Anunoby, and Jakob Poeltl may not be a star-studded one, but this unit has enough versatility, size, and tenacity to give opponents a run for their money on any given night.
Schroder, despite being the smallest player in this group by at least four inches, has played a crucial role so far as the facilitator for their attack. The role that he has taken up is similar to that of longtime Toronto point guard Kyle Lowry who grew into the stabilizer for this team.
If this Raptors team is to achieve any form of success this season, Schroder must continue to embrace this new role of his as the team’s steward. It is actually not too distant from what he had to do with Germany during the FIBA World Cup, although his ability to keep this up over the grind of an 82-game season remains to be seen.
Toronto may not have come into this campaign with expectations of contending for a title, yet they do have all the ingredients to emerge as a pesky over-achieving team that could challenge for the fourth or fifth seed in the East. The Raptors have been stuck in mediocrity since winning the NBA title back in 2019, but this could finally be the year that this team, led by a reformed Schroder, shows its fanbase that better days are indeed ahead for this franchise.