Dennis Schroder's first season as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers didn't go exactly as planned. The Lakers, who sorely needed another ball-handler to run the offense when LeBron James went to the bench, acquired Schroder hoping he would help them repeat as NBA champions. Instead, the Lakers were knocked out of the first round. The Lakers were 11.1 points per 100 possessions worse without James than they were with him, yet the duo didn't fit particularly well when they were on the floor together, either. Schroder shot 38.5 percent from behind the arc with the Oklahoma City Thunder last season. He fell to 33.5 percent this season, and James often had to deal with cramped driving lanes as a result.
Schroder's struggles crescendoed with a disastrous 0-for-9 shooting performance in Game 5 of the Lakers' first-round loss to the Phoenix Suns. The player the Lakers added specifically to ease LeBron's scoring load couldn't even get him a single point in that defeat, and now, the Lakers have a decision to make. Schroder is set to be a free agent this offseason, and if you ask one team legend, the Lakers shouldn't re-sign the veteran point guard.
"Schroder, I don't think he's a Laker," Magic Johnson said Friday on AM570 LA Sports. "That's just my opinion. I don't know if they're gonna sign him back or not. I don't think he brings the winning mentality and attitude that we need, and he had a chance to show that in this series, and to me, he failed in this series. But again, if he comes back a Laker, I'm gonna support him, I'm gonna cheer for him and all that, but I just don't think he's a Laker."
Had Johnson remained in his position as president of basketball operations for the Lakers, he would have had the power to let Schroder walk in free agency. Instead, he resigned and ceded his position to Rob Pelinka, who not only traded for Schroder, but reportedly offered him a four-year, $84 million extension. Schroder declined that offer, and that's a decision he now likely regrets.
He said after Game 6 that he hopes to return to the Lakers next season. If a sign-and-trade can't be constructed, the Lakers would be wise to re-sign him. They are so far above the salary cap that they would have no way of signing a replacement if he did leave, and with fellow guards Alex Caruso, Wesley Matthews and Talen Horton-Tucker also bound for free agency, the Lakers are at risk of losing most of their backcourt talent in a single offseason.
But if Schroder does come back, he might be returning to a different role. Schroder largely came off the bench for the Thunder, but when he joined a superior Lakers team, he made it clear that he expected to start despite the less-than-ideal fit alongside James. Winning championships requires sacrifices. Johnson knows that as well as any Laker, and whether it comes in the form of shots, minutes or money, Schroder will have to accept that if he hopes to remain with the team next season.