Dennis Schröder emerging as leader in LeBron James’ absence

Playing at a breakneck pace, point guard’s effort is undeniable

They call point guards floor leaders for a reason. But when LeBron James is on the floor, the rest of the team is (rightly) forced to take on more of a complementary role to one of the best players to ever play the game.

Since arriving in a trade from Oklahoma City last year, Dennis Schröder has done a nice job of embracing the role of a wingman for the Los Angeles Lakers during the first half of the season.

However, with James out indefinitely due to a right, high-ankle sprain, it’s Schröder’s show now.

The mercurial playmaker has been more assertive on both ends of the floor and he’s proved up to the task of taking on a more vocal role.

Since James has been out, Schröder is averaging 16.5 points and 7.6 assists while playing a season-high 33 minutes a game, as the Lakers lean on the 27-year-old playmaker with James and Anthony Davis (right calf strain) out.

Schröder has struggled taking care of the basketball, turning it over 3.6 times a game during that stretch. However, he brings toughness, playing through nagging injuries. That was on display in L.A.’s win against the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday, as Schröder suffered a pelvis contusion falling on the floor and taking a charge from a driving Blake Griffin in the first half.

Schröder staying the game but was later ejected for arguing with Kyrie Irving.

“I love Dennis Schröder,” Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said afterward, when asked about seeing him match up with Irving. “I think that’s the first thing you have to state. His competitive spirit. His swag. I think that wins for you.”

Schröder is listed as probable for Monday’s game on the road against the New York Knicks. The Lakers are currently 3-2 on their seven-game road trip.

“He’s an emotional player,” Vogel said. “And he brings that out on the court. He’s highly competitive, and that’s just the way he plays.”

Of course, the Lakers have struggled at times without their top two players on the court. At 33-20 overall, the Lakers have slid to No. 5 in the Western Conference.

Los Angeles is 5-7 without James in the lineup this season and 15-15 in games Davis has missed due to injury. With both of those players like still out a few more week at minimum, the Lakers are searching for a blueprint to win games consistently, and Schröder is the leader of that effort.

“I think you always have to go through the BS to get to the good stuff,” Schröder said. “Sometimes with a lot of bodies out, it’s just how we come to work every single day. Come to practice with everybody getting better. And we’ve been doing it through the last week. The chemistry has been pretty good, even though we’ve lost a couple of games.

“The locker room was still positive. And in those stretches, I think that’s big time to have that. Mentally, you know me, I’m always in a good place. My family is healthy and I’ve got one of the best jobs in the world, to be an NBA player. And I’m grateful for that, and you can’t take that for granted.”

While Schröder is serving as one of the frontline players for the defending NBA champs, he also wants to be paid like one of the top players in the NBA. Schröder is on the final year of a $15.5 million deal.

When he came over in the trade from the Thunder, Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka said he wanted to get a long-term deal done that kept Schröder in the fold.

However, according to The Athletic the Lakers and Schröder’s representation are far apart in negotiations. Schröder became eligible for a contract extension on Feb. 16 and according to that report is seeking a multi-year deal that would pay him more than $20 million a year.

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported Schröder turned down a four-year, $84 million extension.

Schröder said he wants to remain with the Lakers. However, Schröder also said he wants to wait until the end of the season to become a free agent and let the open market establish his value.

Every game he performs well with James and Davis out, Schröder’s price tag gets higher.