Ahead of last season’s tip-off, many pointed to the lack of overall shot creation within the Lakers’ offense and wondered if their half-court offense would cause them to not be one of the top teams in the Western Conference. People weren’t really wrong, but they also overlooked how disruptive the Lakers defense would be, anchored by Anthony Davis and led by the defensive-minded Frank Vogel. Still, Rob Pelinka and the Lakers wanted to improve shot creation this offseason (outside of LeBron James), although the Lakers didn’t necessarily need it to win a championship. As a result, Dennis Schröder was the first player attained by the Lakers in this offseason. The Lakers hope that he can provide the scoring punch at the point-guard position that Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley, and Alex Caruso weren’t able to provide, and to help, they gave him a great pick-and-roll partner in addition to Davis in Montrezl Harrell.
It remains to be seen what the Lakers’ starting lineup will be, as Vogel can go many different ways with it. For the purposes of this editorial, we will assume that the Sixth Man of the Year finalists will come off the bench with a starting lineup of KCP/Matthews/LeBron/AD/Gasol. Either way, Schröder and Harrell will get a large share of minutes and may even eclipse some of the starters as the two did for their respective teams last year.
So how scared should opposing coaches be when they put in their bench lineup and see Schröder and Harrell standing up to come in against them?
Let’s just start with “very scared”.
Love his handles pic.twitter.com/Ib3shnYHSj
— Laker Film Room (@LakerFilmRoom) November 27, 2020
There’s no question that Dennis Schröder and Montrezl Harrell can both hurt the defenses when matched up one-on-one with their defenders. The two ranked in the 81st and 84th percentile last year in regards to Points-per-Possession when in Isolation (Harrell’s ability evidenced in Pete Zayas’ video above). However, with spot-up shooters and potential cutters surrounding them like Kyle Kuzma, Alex Caruso, and Markieff Morris, the duo’s ultimate potential on the offensive end may be unlocked through numerous pick-and-rolls.
Lakers fans already know how devastating a pick-and-roll can be with Anthony Davis as the pick-setter. It may surprise them to know that not only did Montrezl Harrell perform more pick-and-rolls overall, but he performed better in them than Davis did, even with the ball-handler usually being LeBron James in Davis’ case. Below is a comparison of the two players’ statistics as the roll man in pick-and-rolls last season.
Anthony Davis: 1.28 points-per-possession, 3.0 possessions per game (12.7% frequency), 64.3% effective field-goal, 77th percentile
Montrezl Harrell: 1.31 points-per-possession, 2.9 possessions per game (17.3% frequency), 69.7% effective field-goal, 81st percentile
Harrell accumulated these statistics as a part of the Clippers dynamic bench duo that also included Lou Williams. Williams and Harrell’s pick-and-rolls were brutal for opposing bench defenses to cover and were much of the reason for Williams winning Sixth Man of the Year twice with Harrell winning it last year. LeBron James should prove to be an even better partner for Harrell when Davis is off the floor, but those types of LeBron-on-Davis-off lineups were hardly seen last year. Getting back to the prospect of our bench lineup, how did Dennis Schröder fare as the ball handler in pick-and-rolls last year?
Looking at the statistics, the pick-and-roll wasn’t so much a factor for Schröder finishing second in Sixth Man of the Year voting last year. He was in the 51st percentile last season as the ball-handler in pick-and-rolls, as he seems to not be the match for Harrell in pick-and-rolls as initially suspected.
However, his situation on the Oklahoma City Thunder has to be taken into consideration. Schröder was running pick-and-rolls with Nerlens Noel and Steven Adams, two players that just don’t stack up to the athleticism and skill owned by players like Anthony Davis and Montrezl Harrell. Before ending up on the Thunder, Schröder was rising up the ranks with the Atlanta Hawks where he had somewhat better talent on the roll man in John Collins and Ersan Ilyasova.
In his final season with the Hawks (2017-18), he was a little better as the PnR ball-handler in the 68th percentile with 0.88 points-per-possession on 10.9 possessions per game. He made 46% of his field goals attempted out of the PnR that year, with those efficiencies expected to increase with Harrell as his roll man as his current talent level definitely exceeds all of the aforementioned Hawks and Thunder big men.
The best part about the potential of the Schröder and Harrell combination is how interchangeable the parts are within the lineups they’ll be a part of. Alex Caruso in Schröder’s spot would open some opportunities for Caruso to kick it to a wide-open Schröder behind the arc. Schröder hasn’t been an amazing three-point shooter in his career, but he had his best year by far last season shooting 38.5% from three. In addition, Anthony Davis could be Schröder’s roll man in some lineups as stated above, while Kentavious Caldwell-Pope showed some brief flashes as a pick-and-roll ball-handler last season with Dwight Howard as his roll man. Harrell could easily replace Howard in those actions, and would do so much more efficiently.
There’s definitely some validity to the worries of what Dennis Schröder and Montrezl Harrell will do to the Lakers’ defense, but any sort of shortcomings on that end will almost assuredly be covered by the upgrade on the offensive end those two will be. Their pick-and-rolls may become as beloved by Lakers fans as LeBron-Davis pick-and-rolls, especially considering the fact that Schröder and Harrell may have more success than the Lakers’ two superstars as a result of them going against inferior bench lineups.