The Jeopardy! answer to “The most important Brooklyn Net in the month of October” might be “Who is Spencer Dinwiddie?”
Before December of last year, when the Nets picked up Dinwiddie from the Windy City Bulls of the then D-League on a 10-day, not many knew much if anything about him. And when Yogi Ferrell blew up with a 32-point primetime outing in Dallas two months later, fans and critics began to look at the Brooklyn Nets sideways for letting go of the spunky 6’0” undrafted sharpshooter in favor of a guy who both Detroit and Chicago gave up on.
Ferrell is playing well in Dallas —11.9 points and 2.1 assists— but Dinwiddie has become critical in Brooklyn, particularly after the loss of Jeremy Lin on opening night. Slowly but surely, he’s developing a body of work.
“He continues to play like this, we have to find more minutes for him,” coach Kenny Atkinson said the other day. “There’s just no choice.”
Last season, amid the Nets’ point guard turmoil (which also started with an injury to Lin), Dinwiddie, now age 24, gained a distinct reputation for stability in the backcourt. He wouldn’t turn the ball over. despite playing 15, 20 or 25 minutes at a time.
At one point in late February, early March, Dinwiddie went five consecutive games —more than 150 minutes of playing time— without posting a turnover.
This season, he’s taken a further step in his development – and it didn’t take long. In fact, we saw it in the fifth game of the season. No Lin, no D’Angelo Russell, but a big game by the 6’6” Angeleno.
Dinwiddie scored a then career high 22 points, and hit multiple big shots late in a win over the LeBron James-led Cavaliers.
Since that game, Dinwiddie has tied that career high in points (22 vs. the Nuggets) and recorded a new career-best mark in assists (11 versus the Knicks), the floor general has averaged 15.8 points and 6.3 assists to 1.3 turnovers over 26.5 minutes per contest. And he’s leading the NBA in assist-to-turnover ratio at better than 4-to-1.
Needless to say, he’s gotten accustomed to, and is, in some ways, already thriving in Kenny Atkinson’s offensive system, which he’s worked on all summer long ahead of his 4th NBA season.
“With Kenny’s style and wanting to play uptempo and wanting to shoot a lot of three’s and run-and-gun, having a modern NBA offense, obviously you want to continue to work on that and make it a point of emphasis so you can fit in and hopefully flourish in the system,” Dinwiddie told NetsDaily.
“I really owe it to my teammates,” he continued, speaking like a true point guard. “They either create space on the floor and have made it easy for me to drive and get shots or a lot of my three’s, which come off penetration from others, they’re helping me in that department with scoring, and obviously assists go both ways.
“I could pass it all I want to but if they don’t make shots it’s not an assist. I credit my teammates with every assist I get because they’re the ones who have to knock the shot down. I appreciate and am very grateful for everything going on right now but it doesn’t mean much without team success. I’m hoping that we could start to get some wins under our belt and continue the path we start.”
And surprise, surprise, he’s now shooting 46.4 percent from deep, 55.6 percent in the last four games. Yogi who?
Comparisons between Ferrell and Dinwiddie are now a distant memory to fans... and to Dinwiddie. He’s not thinking about that, but he has thought about his first year as a Net, his third in the league, and how much it helped plant the seed for what we’re seeing out of No. 8 at this moment.
“It’s like having gone to summer school before you go to college,” he said of last year’s crash course aiding him to a strong start this season. “That’s kind of what last year was for me. That half a season is giving me a jump start on this season. Learning the system last year and getting acclimated and learning how to play in a manner that they like, I kind of went through a lot of my rough patches last year in the growth process.”
And he’s getting noticed. Here’s what Zach Lowe and Bobby Marks tweeted about him before Tuesday’s game.
One of the fun early-season stories. He has made himself a player. https://t.co/s1YiHUp8EG— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) October 31, 2017
Now, we’re hearing fans suggest it’s time to pair Dinwiddie and Russell. So far, they’ve played a little more the 20 minutes together. That’s likely to change.
Maybe the best part of the story for the Nets is that they’re going to be the beneficiary to all that player development for another year after this. Sean Marks signed Dinwiddie to a three-year deal last December 8, all of it at vets minimum numbers. He’s playing well above his pay grade.
If this is sustainable and there’s no reason why it can’t, Dinwiddie’s story speaks to what the Nets can sell players in terms of development. But in the meantime, it’s about Dinwiddie, the smart, hard-working guy who’s become a fan favorite ... and what the Nets progress is all about.
The dude is different.