The Phoenix Suns appear to be set on running back a majority of their roster from their record-breaking, 64-win 2021-22 season.
After they did not trade for Brooklyn Nets superstar forward Kevin Durant, the Suns will at least return their core: All-Star guards Chris Paul and Devin Booker; Defensive Player of the Year runner-up Mikal Bridges; and starting center Deandre Ayton, who signed a four-year, $133 million offer sheet with the Indiana Pacers that Phoenix matched in his restricted free agency.
The Suns have multiple players on expiring contracts, including starting forward Jae Crowder, backup forwards Cameron Johnson and Dario Saric, which means they could make more deals ahead of and during this season. After it signed forwards Damion Lee, Josh Okogie and Jock Landale in free agency, Phoenix has 14 of 15 maximum players on its active roster.
Recently, there has been speculation the Suns should sign Dennis Schroder for their 15th roster spot. Schroder — who has helped lead Germany to a 3-1 start in Eurobasket play this offseason — was Paul’s teammate with the Oklahoma City Thunder during the 2019-20 season, when Schroder finished second in NBA Sixth Man of the Year voting.
The 28-year-old point guard then played for the Los Angeles Lakers — when he infamously rejected a four-year, $84 million contract extension — during the 2020-21 before he signed with the Boston Celtics on a lowly one-year, $5.9 million contract in free agency last summer.
Schroder played 49 games with the Celtics before he was traded to the Houston Rockets, averaging a combined 12.7 points, 5.1 assists and 2.9 rebounds while shooting 41.7 percent from the field (33.9% from 3-point range). At the time of the trade, the Celtics were 31-25. After the trade, the Celtics went 20-6 and made a push to the NBA Finals.
If the Suns acquired Schroder, it could come at the expense of Payne, who struggled last postseason after he excelled out in the playoffs the year before. Phoenix coach Monty Williams has stuck with a consistent rotation in his three years with the team, typically never playing three point guards in the same night.
Schroder would bring an instant scoring and playmaking boost for the Suns, but is it worth it? Bright Side of the Sun took a look at the potential benefits and cons of adding Schroder.
Schroder has been a proven threat since the 2017-18 season, when he played for the Atlanta Hawks and averaged a career-best 19.4 points per game.
Listed at just 172 pounds, he is one of the thinnest guards in the league but has quickness to make up for it. Schroder is creative off the dribble, able to shift between attacking the basket at full-speed or hesitating to create his shot or opportunities for teammates at great effectiveness.
When he played with the Hawks from 2013-14 to 2017-18, Schroder was within a post motion-based offense under current Milwaukee Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer, who is a protege of San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. He has played in more of a free-flowing system with LeBron James and Anthony Davis in Los Angeles before he returned to methodical sets with former Celtics coach and current President of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens.
Schroder was the first point guard off the bench with Paul and Oklahoma City. Over 2,070 possessions in which they played in the same lineup, they had a point-differential of plus-15.6, which ranked in the 99th percentile in the league.
If he were to sign with Phoenix, Schroder would play in a five-out set under Williams, who prioritizes ball movement and multiple actions to create shots. Unfortunately, he would not be able to play with former backup center JaVale McGee, who signed with the Dallas Mavericks, making his straight-line drives potentially less effective with backup center Bismack Biyombo.
Schroder’s role would likely be to share the basketball, shoot off dribble penetration and create for himself when the opportunity presents itself. He could play well alongside Saric, whose presence helped Payne create opportunities for himself in the 2021 postseason.
Suns general manager James Jones said he is looking to keep the “continuity” of the team’s roster, which includes its stars but also role players like Johnson and even Payne and Saric to an extent.
Adding Schroder would be a risk for team chemistry. The Suns have the NBA’s record over the last three seasons for a reason, and shaking up what has already been a successful rotation by removing Payne could be a risk.
Schroder also has questions about his attitude dating back to when he was arrested for a late-night fight in September of 2017. Lakers legend Magic Johnson said Schroder lacked “a winning mentality and attitude” during the team’s 2021 postseason — when it lost to the Suns — and notably went scoreless while shooting 0-of-9 in a 30-point Game 5 loss.
Previously, Schroder declined the massive contract extension from the Lakers — who won the championship in 2020 — in expectation for a bigger deal in free agency. It didn’t happen.
You never want to have locker room drama, especially with a Suns team that is actively pursuing a title and has its stars, general manager and coach locked down on significant contracts. Could Schroder provide that? Possibly.
Paul might be an important person for this deal. If he vouches for Schroder, Paul and Williams have a close relationship — as Jones does with Williams — and it could get done. If not, the Suns may run back their current roster and call it a day.
Schroder could be an upgrade over Payne with his offensive ability. But is it worth sacrificing locker room culture and continuity?
We don’t think so. The Suns have been just fine with Payne as the backup to Paul, and even though Payne had a bad postseason all things considered, he understands Phoenix’s system and is loved by his teammates.
Plus, even though Aaron Holiday could have been a bigger piece in the postseason, Williams elected to stay with Payne, a sign of loyalty to his players.
Saric’s return could be a big plus for Payne, who benefited from his pick-and-pop ability in 2021. He sacrificed a bigger contract to return to Phoenix last summer and seems fully bought-in to helping his team win.
Could Schroder add that too? It’s very possible. But the Suns seemingly didn’t make a move for Durant since they didn’t want to sacrifice too much. It’s hard to see them changing a key piece here.
Should the Suns sign Schroder to their 15th roster spot?
This poll is closed