There’s a common debate among bloggers, fans, media, and even in some front office circles. When should a young player be given more playing time? Many out there feel that a young player, once they show any kind of promise, should be given a lot of minutes; let them work out the kinks in a trial by fire setting. Only then will we know their worth. Others want them to earn every single minute they play. If they want to play then they have to beat out that guy in front of them no matter the skill level. Obviously both of these feel like extremes. There has to be a happy medium somewhere.
During the 2013 NBA Draft, the Atlanta Hawks selected Dennis Schröder. This pick excited Hawks fans. Those not happy with Jeff Teague’s play, so far in his career, claimed Schröder could be the point guard of the future in three years. After a strong summer league, this only got fans even more excited. To make things even better, Schröder had a strong beginning to the season. Unfortunately for him, that strong play didn’t continue.
As Schröder’s play faltered, another player rose. Journeyman Shelvin Mack began to outplay Schröder on a nightly basis. Mack never turned the ball over and was a consistent player, something the Hawks lacked. This left the team with a decision, do they go with trial by fire for the young rookie, or the consistent veteran where they had an idea of what they would be getting, production wise?
Because the team was locked into a playoff race, the decision was made to reduce Schröder’s minutes and give them to the more consistent Mack.
In hindsight, this was the right call. Schröder never showed too much improvement and Mack’s steady play off the bench was just what the bench unit needed. He rarely did anything too crazy, but he brought consistency in both playmaking and occasional scoring.
This, more than anything, is why the Hawks re-signed Mack. That steady play off the bench they can always expect. There aren’t many surprises with Mack; that’s a good and a bad thing. While Schröder is more likely to turn the ball over, brick some shots, and be a negative, his ceiling is infinitely higher than Mack. Mack is a player that Schröder can compete with, and at the same time, emulate. He can learn from Mack and, at the same time, improve his game. Eventually the minutes we all expected Schröder to have, will be given to the young guard. And when that time comes, Mack looks to be an asset on a cheap contract that can be traded to a team that needs bench help.
But until then, the Hawks need the steady veteran guard that they know won’t fail them and that is Shelvin Mack.