Atlanta was one of the more entertaining squads Friday in Las Vegas, mainly due to the already budding chemistry of the rookie pair of Dennis Schröder and Lucas Nogueira. Both were relatively unknown commodities before last night in terms of how they could translate to the NBA. However, it became apparent that they communicate well with each other and that they both are talented rookies.
With Schröder, the first thing that immediately became apparent was the control he exercised when in possession of the ball. Dennis’ tight dribble wasn’t something opposing point guard could effortlessly slap away and his passes seemed very crisp and precise. There are a multitude of ways that Dennis can pass the ball, as his different bounce passes and lobs navigated well through different angles. He finished with seven assists and two turnovers, and the numbers were fitting with how he operated the position. So long as that part of the game translates, ball control won’t be much of an issue while Schröder is on the floor.
As for the jump shot, it didn’t seem nearly as awful as some of the Rajon Rondo comparisons would have suggested. Mechanically, everything was sound, but the issue came in the comfort Dennis exuded while taking the jump shot. Every time he was left space, there was a reluctance and a show of discomfort in his body language. Yet, the results were there (he made two threes), and hopefully the confidence grows over the next year. On the defensive end, he was mostly solid, with some highlights coming from his on-ball pressure. The only real issue seemed to be the lack of rotational awareness he had when the team was out of sorts; that kind of thing likely would be worked on in his coming time with Coach Budenholzer.
Negatives with Schröder are rooted in his lack of size. Dennis is listed at 6’1″, 168 pounds on the Las Vegas Summer League media guide, and the lack of strength was apparent in attempts close to the rim. Dennis was 0-for-4 from two point range, and had two layups blocked with ease. Not only was avoiding contact detrimental to him making layups, but also contributed to his zero free throw attempts. Bulking up will certainly be a priority for Dennis in the coming months.
As for Lucas, the surprise late addition made highlight plays while coming with some struggles of his own. How well Nogueira runs the floor is immediately noticeable. His long gait gets him up and down the floor at speeds that other centers can’t match, and should be an immediate strength for him when he finally is playing in the NBA full time. The way in which Lucas uses his athleticism in the pick and roll is also a big plus, as him and Schröder connected a few times on alley oops. (highlighted with this play in particular) Also, Nogueira’s length is helpful in which he tracks down offensive rebounds. Ending the game with three offensive boards, Lucas is able to use his length to reach over opposing players to posses the ball without fouling.
As for weaknesses, they also come from Lucas’ current body build. Samardo Samuels picked on the thinner Nogueira in the post right away for some early baskets. Bebe was also over-aggressive in attempting to chase down help-side blocks. Had he focused more on going up just going up vertically, he would be a much bigger fortress in defending the rim. Also, Clipper big men feasted off the offensive glass due to Lucas’ lack of strength and being out of position after chasing down the blocks. LA became accustomed to Lucas not being there to box them out on the offensive glass, and simply moved him out of the way when Nogueira was actually there. The lack of boxing out is another common issue that rookie big men feature, and certainly will be addressed by Bud’s staff when they fully get their hands on Bebe full time.
As a pair, there was already a level of communication between the two that seemed rare for the short amount of time together. However, I caught Lucas after the game and it seems that Dennis and him have made the most out of the time they have had together. “I love him,” Lucas says going on to tell me “he tells me, ‘Lucas, pick-and-roll, go to the rim because I watch you every time.'” Noguiera adds more saying “I was really excited to play with Dennis, I watched him play a lot on YouTube, he really knows how to pass. Lobs, alley-oops, I think he is great for me.”
Lucas also addressed how Hawks second-year man John Jenkins helped him stating “I don’t really talk much about the game with him, but he is a great guy who is helping me acclimate.” When asked about what he wants to add to the team, Bebe answered with “running the floor, block shots, protect the rim, pick-and-roll and roll fast, and play hard.” Finally, you could sense Nogueira’s excitement to play in some kind of NBA action when he added “I feel great. First game (in the NBA). I feel great because it was the first time I played in two or three months. The team didn’t win, but it felt really good.”
The ATL rookies will be in action again tomorrow at 10PM EDT. The game will be televised on NBA TV.