It wasn’t a popular move at the time.
In the same afternoon last December, the Nets waived Yogi Ferrell, the signed D-Leaguer Spencer Dinwiddie to a three-year, partially guaranteed deal. Ferrell had shown flashes, but Kenny Atkinson likes big guards and saw something in the 6’6” Colorado product.
The Nets were shuffling the roster, desperate for backups who could step up after Jeremy Lin and Greivis Vasquez went down, Lin for months, Vasquez for good. Several players got opportunities, namely Isaiah Whitehead, but eventually it was Dinwiddie who came in and impressed. He didn’t have the big outings that Ferrell did starting a few weeks later, but by season’s end, he was a solid addition.
Now, he is one of the most intriguing pieces to Brooklyn’s puzzle for next season.
At the moment, he’s working out at HSS Training Center. As he told Pete Walsh of SLAM last Thursday, he’s been “working out, and going where the Nets tell me to go: working out, going to Vegas, back in Brooklyn, time off in L.A. to see family. Other than that, working out.”
The question is how much does the 24-year-old develop? He looked good at season’s end, nearly matching Ferrell’s numbers despite fewer minutes, then followed it up with a solid summer league performance.
Dinwiddie is a smart point guard who rarely turns the ball over. He fits the high character and hard-working persona that Sean Marks and Atkinson look for. He fits the vision. Now, he must show growth in training camp and preseason to get one of the more serious roles on a team where minutes are distributed evenly.
Zach Lowe mentioned Dinwiddie in his story about Brooklyn’s rebuild. It was a passing but telling reference.
One of Marks' long-shot bets must pay off. A castoff like Spencer Dinwiddie must become their Danny Green. A pick in the 20s has to pop.
Danny Green was one of Marks’ favorite players back in San Antonio. Lowe doesn’t suggest anything, really, but there was a comparison and there is some sort of connection. It poses the one of many questions for the Nets.
He has played a combined 105 games over a three-year career with the Nets and Pistons, wrapped around stints in the D-League.
In 59 games with the Nets – 18 starts — Dinwiddie averaged 7.3 points and 3.1 assists in 21 minutes per game. He shot 37.6 percent from deep on nearly two attempts per game. He evolved as the season went on and developed a crafty move that forces defender to foul him behind three-point line. He’s a quick learner and turned the ball one time per game. In one three-game stretch at the end of March, beginning of April, he didn’t the ball over at all.
If he asserts himself on defense in training camp and preseason, the backup role will likely be his. So will his contract. He’s currently only partially guaranteed. His deal required him to play in the summer league and off-season conditioning. For that, he got $50,000. Then, he’ll get another $200,000 if the makes the team. His contract won’t be fully guaranteed until January and then only at the NBA minimum.
The Nets have plenty of guards who can play multiple positions in a small ball lineup. With Dinwiddie, the Nets have a player with length covering a smaller point guard. In other cases in Atkinson’s position-less scheme, Dinwiddie can match up with at least the two guard spots, maybe at the wing as well. The Nets tried that in 2013-2014 with Shaun Livingston.
His biggest problem was inconsistency. He went through a couple of solid three-game stretches followed up with a shaky performance. The numbers fluctuated and his game wasn’t balanced. But that all comes with the growing pains of developing.
At the end of last season, he offered his own appraisal of the opportunity the Nets presented him.
“The experience that you gain in being able to play consistently just brings a certain level of comfort and calm that you don’t necessarily have when you play once every five games because every game feels like your first and you jitter and want to be perfect,” the always articulate Dinwiddie offered.
“I’ve never been a huge stat guy throughout my career but I’ve been a good leader, low turnover, really efficient, that’s kind of been my calling card throughout my career, and doing whatever it takes to win.”
Next he’ll have training camp and then pre-season before the Nets have to decide whether they want to retain him or not. It seems like a no-brainer, at least at this point. (Of course, two of the other players signed to deals during last season — K.J. McDaniels and Archie Goodwin — have been cut.)
How good is the deal for the Nets if he makes it? He has the same deal as players he will be competing against: Yakuba Ouattara, Milton Doyle, Jeremy Senglin and Jake Wiley. AND, he has the same deal next summer.
As Lowe wrote, Dinwiddie could be one of the “long-shot bets” that pay off. He showed signs of improvement over the course of last season and into this summer. The Nets are a team with several guards, several ‘playmakers’. He needs to prove himself not only as a point guard – but a position-less playmaker on a team that needs as many as possible.
There was a reason Marks took the chance on him. Does it work?