Spencer Dinwiddie is one of Sean Marks’ wisest additions. On a team that boasts eight guards, it will be interesting to see what Dinwiddie’s role will be next season for the Brooklyn Nets.
Before beginning his NBA journey, Spencer Dinwiddie had an illustrious high school and college career. His tall, thin frame, combined with elite playmaking skills, allowed him to dominate smaller competition. He never quite put up eye-popping stats, but was always unanimously thought of as a leader on and off the court.
He played high school ball in southern California alongside future second-round pick DeAndre Daniels. Dinwiddie was not thought of as a pro prospect in high school and only garnered a few scholarship offers from major conference schools as a result. He ultimately decided to attend the University of Colorado over his future teammate’s alma mater, Harvard University.
Dinwiddie prided himself upon shooting high percentage shots in college. He made over 40 percent of his shots from the field and behind the arc in his freshman season in Boulder. Dinwiddie helped the Buffaloes reach the NCAA tournament in each of his first two years playing under Tad Boyle. He played at a number of positions during this time period as well. Despite growing by the end of his sophomore season, the Buffaloes’ coaching staff still used the California native at point guard, due to his elite passing ability.
A breakout start to his junior season seemingly locked up a first-round slot in the draft for Dinwiddie. However, in January 2014, he suffered a Shaun Livingston circa 2007-esque knee injury. This setback sidelined him for the remainder of the 2013-2014 college basketball season. Despite this, Dinwiddie elected to forego his final year of eligibility and enter his name in the 2014 NBA Draft.
Miraculously, he was still drafted that year, and was able to play on opening night of the following season. Dinwiddie stayed with the team that selected him, the Detroit Pistons, for nearly two seasons. After an offseason trade sent Dinwiddie to the Chicago Bulls, he was quickly sent to the team’s G League affiliate, the Windy City Bulls.
Last Season in Brooklyn
Enter Sean Marks and the Nets’ new “talent acquisition” state of mind. Despite the injuries and lack of playing time over the course of his career, the Nets’ front office saw value in Dinwiddie. He possesses a unique skill-set for a guard, and in a perfect world, with a little guidance from the “point guard whisperer” (Kenny Atkinson), Dinwiddie used those skills to the fullest.
Despite joining the team a month into the season, Dinwiddie played more games for the Nets than he did over the course of the previous two seasons combined. He saw consistent minutes in Atkinson’s rotation and always maximized them.
Dinwiddie is a prime example of a player who isn’t necessarily the best shooter, but makes up for his deficiency by only attempting high percentage shots. It appears as though he truly embodied this during his first season in Brooklyn. Over the course of his first two years in the NBA, Dinwiddie failed to shoot over 20 percent from 3-point range. Contrariwise, in Brooklyn, he nailed nearly 38 percent of his 3s, which was a welcomed sight on a Nets team that featured many ill-advised shots last season.
While some guards may feel more compelled to continue launching shots from behind the arc after making one, Dinwiddie always knows his limits. Among his best shooting performances, it would be tough to find a game in which Dinwiddie made more than two 3s. This is not to say he can’t be aggressive from behind the arc. In mid-February, he shot 9-of-15 on 3s over the span of six games. This stretch came in the midst of one of Jeremy Lin’s many injury setbacks, which demonstrates Dinwiddie was still able to perform efficiently, despite being tasked with more responsibilities.
Considering Dinwiddie had only started one NBA game before coming to the Nets, it was reasonable to be worried when he became the only true point guard on the roster after Lin’s many injuries. However, he handled this pressure well.
The Nets’ coaching staff essentially threw him in the middle of the action right away, as he was consistently playing over 20 minutes a night after only being on the team for a month. This was an interesting strategy to make Dinwiddie accustomed to NBA basketball. If he was able to handle this amount of responsibility early on, it’s reasonable to assume he could be extremely effective in a smaller role in the future.
Even though Brooklyn failed to win many games last season, Dinwiddie did exactly what was asked of him. He never tried to play out of his comfort zone, which was embraced on a young team that featured many developing players.
What Dinwiddie Has to Offer
Perhaps Dinwiddie’s most interesting trait is his size. Most importantly, this allows him to be a versatile player on both ends of the court. There are obvious reasons why being a tall point guard is advantageous, such as possessing a rebounding advantage and having supreme court vision, but there are also smaller positive details.
Defensively, he presents many possibilities. The Nets’ roster currently includes several guards who are undersized. Lin, Isaiah Whitehead, D’Angelo Russell, Sean Kilpatrick, Joe Harris and assuming he returns, Randy Foye can all be paired with Dinwiddie in the backcourt to form interesting defensive tandems. In most of these scenarios, Dinwiddie’s above average size for a point guard would allow him to crossmatch with the other team’s shooting guard. This would be assuming the Nets elect to play a man-to-man scheme.
No doubt, a big red flag with Dinwiddie will be his shaky injury history. There will always be a lingering “what if” when discussing Dinwiddie’s ceiling in the NBA. Most importantly, the risk of re-injuring his left knee, or injuring the opposite knee as a result of favoring it, will always be present.
This injury has set back Dinwiddie in more ways than one. There are points where it seems as though he fails to be aggressive, perhaps out of fear of re-injuring his knee. Oftentimes, he prefers to pull up for a floater as opposed to muscling his way into the lane. Taking his inordinate height into account, being more aggressive driving to the hoop may take his game to another level, as he would tower over smaller defenders near the rim.
An alternative to this may be adding a post game. Shaun Livingston, another tall point guard, tends to facilitate out of the post (whether to set up a teammate or shoot over or around a smaller defender) and has benefitted greatly because of this:
Considering Dinwiddie is bulkier than Livingston, it’s very likely that if he worked at it, he could be extremely effective out of the post.
Dinwiddie’s Future in Brooklyn
It’s difficult to see Marks making a long-term commitment to Dinwiddie. Given his previous knee issues, it simply wouldn’t be wise to offer him a guaranteed deal for more than two years after his contract expires in 2019. The Nets’ front office must be very strategic with any future contract extension involving Dinwiddie.
The trade market for Dinwiddie is likely dry. It’s tough to imagine any teams clamoring for an injury-prone reserve guard. If Marks becomes set on dealing Dinwiddie, he would be lucky to fetch an unprotected second-round pick for him. However, this is not to say he won’t be valuable on the court for the Nets in the immediate future.
Assuming Russell starts at the two alongside Lin, Dinwiddie would be a good choice to be the first guard off the bench. As previously mentioned, his supreme size would allow whoever stays on the court — out of Russell or Lin — to match up with the opposing point guard defensively, while Dinwiddie could cover the opposing shooting guard.
Dinwiddie would be an ideal choice to get minutes over the Nets’ other guard options because of his conservative style of play. While Whitehead and Kilpatrick are both useful in certain scenarios, they both tend to play a sporadic style offensively. Whitehead likes to put on a show when taking the ball to the hoop, while Kilpatrick tends to take a number of risky shots from behind the arc. Even if he plays 30 minutes a contest, Dinwiddie rarely attempts more than six to eight shots during a game. Most importantly, he prioritizes making his teammates better over putting the ball in the basket himself, which is something that can’t be said for many of the Nets’ guards.
For the short term, Dinwiddie’s spot in Atkinson’s rotation should be secure. While the Nets have a bit of a log jam at both guard positions, Dinwiddie’s unique skill-set sets him apart and will garner him consistent minutes. Based on where he is health-wise and in his development track, Marks will have a decision to make on him by the time his low-risk, high-reward contract expires in two seasons.