Spencer Dinwiddie
Feb 3, 2017; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie (8) advances the ball during the third quarter against the Indiana Pacers at Barclays Center. Indiana Pacers won 106-97. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Why Spencer Dinwiddie Deserves Serious Consideration for the 2017-18 Most Improved Player Award

In his fourth season in the league, Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie has proved he deserves to be a starting point guard in the NBA.

Drafted by the Stan Van Gundy coached Detroit Pistons with the 38th pick of the 2014 NBA draft, Spencer Dinwiddie spent two unimpressive seasons in the Motor City before finding his way to the Big Apple for the 2016-17 NBA season. In his second year with the Nets, Dinwiddie has blossomed into a solid starting point guard and his contract is widely regarded as one of the best bargains in the league (On January 6th his $1.5-million deal for this season became fully guaranteed).

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The MIP Case of Spencer Dinwiddie:

Forced into the starting lineup because of injuries to Jeremy Lin and D’Angelo Russell, Dinwiddie took the opportunity and ran with it. The fourth-year guard is putting up career highs in multiple categories, averaging 13.2 points, 6.4 assists, and 3.1 rebounds in 27.9 minutes per game, around a five-minute increase from last season. With that five-minute increase in minutes, Dinwiddie has nearly doubled his scoring and assist numbers. His scoring numbers have improved from 7.3 points to 13.2 points per game (granted he is taking 5.5 shots per game as well) and his assist numbers have doubled from 3.1 to 6.4 assists per game.

Despite the increase in minutes and in assists, Dinwiddie’s turnover numbers have barely risen. The point guard is second in the entire league in assist to turnover ratio (out of players who average at least 15 minutes per game), dishing out 4.49 assists per every turnover he commits. The only player whom he trails is Washington Wizards backup point guard Tomas Satoransky, who barely leads with a ratio of 4.50 assists per turnover. Additionally, Spencer Dinwiddie has dished out the 9th most assists in the league with 256 assists on the season. His average of 6.4 assists per game is good enough for 13th in the league. Dinwiddie is doing all of this while playing for a Kenny Atkinson coached team that plays at the fifth highest pace in the league, which makes his low turnover numbers even more impressive.

Moreover, Spencer Dinwiddie ranks 13th in the league in real plus-minus (an estimate of how many points, on average, a player adds or subtracts to a team’s scoring margin per 100 possessions). Dinwiddie’s RPM of 4.45  places him just ahead of Chris Paul at 4.44. As if his importance to the Brooklyn offense isn’t already crystal clear, Dinwiddie’s on-and-off court numbers paint the picture of how vital he is to the Net’s fast tempo offense. With Dinwiddie on the floor, the Nets have posted an offensive rating of 105.4. When the point guard is on the sideline, the Nets’ offense drops down to 99.2, over a six-point difference.

The Competition:

Victor Oladipo has received most of the attention in the 2018 Most-Improved Player race through the mid-point of the season, and rightfully so. However, Oladipo’s situation is a bit different from Dinwiddie’s. Oladipo spent the 2016-2017 season playing next to Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City, whose style of play held the shooting guard back. Now with a team of his own, (the Indiana Pacers), Oladipo is flourishing, averaging 24.6 points, 4.1 assists, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.9 steals while shooting career highs from the floor and from the perimeter. However, the Pacer has benefited from a huge increase in usage percentage, (the amount of team plays used by a player when he’s on the floor). Oladipo’s usage percentage in OKC was 21.4 percent, the lowest of his career and a product of playing next to Westbrook. With the Pacers, Oladipo is boasting a usage percentage of 30.5 percent, nearly a nine percent increase. His 17-18 percentage places him 12th in the league, ahead of players such as Steph Curry, Blake Griffin, and John Wall.

Dinwiddie’s usage percentage has also increased from the 2016-17 season to the 2017-18 season but still pales when compared to Oladipo’s percentage. Dinwiddie’s usage has risen from 14.1 percent to 20.7 percent, still nearly 10 percent less than Oladipo’s. This raises a question, is Oladipo’s improvement merely a product of the increase of his already higher usage percentage? While Oladipo has the 12th highest percentage in the league, Dinwiddie is only 54th in the league and trails most of the other starting point guards in the league.

When compared to the other improved players in the league, Dinwiddie scoring increase of 6.1 points ranks at 13th highest in the league (Kris Dunn leads with an increase of 10.1 points). His increase in assists, 3.3 more dimes per game, is the fourth highest increase in the league (Kris Dunn also leads this category with a 3.9 assist increase). After reviewing these numbers, you may wonder if Kris Dunn deserves mention in the MIP race, but traditionally, second-year players aren’t considered since they’re usually bouncing back from a rough rookie season or just beginning to define their benchmark measurements.

Moving Forward:

Unfortunately, Spencer Dinwiddie probably won’t come away with the 2017-18 Most Improved Player award. Whether he loses to Oladipo or another player who breaks out in the second half of the season, his name should still garner consideration. Furthermore, the Nets guard will most assuredly receive second and third place votes. Another point for future contemplation is how Dinwiddie and D’Angelo Russell will co-exist at the guard spots once Russell returns from injury.

Nevertheless, the Brooklyn Nets’ youth movement continues to impress despite the team’s lack of draft picks and roster depth. Spencer Dinwiddie is leading the way in terms of re-defining the identity and culture of Brooklyn’s franchise. That in itself is something Dinwiddie can hang his hat on regardless of whether he ends up with the accompanying hardware.