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ANALYSIS: This town ain’t big enough for the both of us… or is it?

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What does Spencer Dinwiddie’s contract extension mean for D’Angelo Russell in Brooklyn?

On Thursday the Nets and Spencer Dinwiddie agreed to a contract extension for three years, $34 million. Dinwiddie, who owns season averages of 16.9 points, 4.9 assists, and 2.5 rebounds while shooting 47.4 percent overall and 36.8 from deep, has cemented himself as one of the best sixth men in the entire league.

Despite backing up D’Angelo Russell for much of the season, Dinwiddie has been more than a reserve. Over the last 10 games, Dinwiddie has averaged 20.6 points and 5.1 assists ... and 27 points in Nets winning streak. Coming off of a career high 39 points against Philadelphia, it’s evident Dinwiddie can handle more responsibility.

After committing to the 25-year-old Dinwiddie, the Nets are projected to have $19 million in cap space next summer per ESPN’s Bobby Marks. That’s taking into account the combined $28.5 million in cap holds for free agents, Russell and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. If Russell and Hollis-Jefferson are renounced and not brought back, the Nets could reach as much as $46 million in cap space to build the rest of their roster.

The monetary commitment Brooklyn would need to retain Russell and the purported duplication in Dinwiddie, many pundits and fans around the league have begun to wonder what Dinwiddie’s extension means for Russell in Brooklyn.

It remains to be seen what Russell might command on the open market, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see a player of his caliber and age command a deal in the $18 to $20 million per year range. Russell, at just 22 years of age, is averaging 17.9 points, 5.9 assists, and 3.7 rebounds while shooting 41.6 percent overall and 36.3 from deep – his best season as a pro. Russell’s offensive rating has jumped from 98 to 103 per 100 possessions, while his defensive rating has slightly improved as well, dropping from 112 to 111. Like Dinwiddie, Russell is an improving young player with even more room to grow.

With Caris LeVert out with injury, Russell and Dinwiddie have established themselves as easily the Nets two best players. Some nights the Nets best player is Dinwiddie, some nights it’s Russell. Fans have sided with their favorites, but in tandem, Russell and Dinwiddie have provided the Nets with 48 minutes per game of high level point guard play. With the point guard position being the most important in basketball, it makes sense for the Nets to hold onto both Dinwiddie and Russell long-term.

In quantifying the importance of strong point guard play, look no further than the best team in basketball, the Toronto Raptors. This summer the Raptors locked up backup point guard Fred VanVleet to a two-year/$18-million-dollar deal. On top of Kyle Lowry’s $31 million salary, Toronto is paying $40 million per year for their point guards. If the Nets can secure Russell for $18 to $20 million per year, having Dinwiddie and DLo for around $30 million would be a smart investment.

Extending Dinwiddie was a smart financial decision by Brooklyn to lock up a player they like, at below market level, without having to deal with competition this summer; it isn’t a situation of choosing Dinwiddie over Russell. The Nets might ultimately move on from Russell (that decision hasn’t been made), but all the signing of Dinwiddie has done is give the Nets a cheaper alternative should another team like Phoenix or Orlando decided to overpay Russell with an offer sheet this summer.

The Nets like Russell and are fascinated by the potential of the smooth lefty guard. Going back to summer of 2017, GM Sean Marks told Joel Myers and Tim Legler of SiriusXM, “We like (Russell’s) size. We like his passing ability. And the more I get to know D’Angelo, the more I like the person. We’ve spent a lot of time together and I think he fits with how we want to play. So we’re excited there.”

Back last summer, Kenny Atkinson told WFAN’s Mike Francesa, “(Russell’s) a talented, talented guy. He’s got a lot of time to grow and we’re thrilled to have him.” In an interview with WFAN’s Evan Roberts and Joe Benigno, Marks was bullish on Russell, stating, “I can’t question his basketball skills and IQ because they’re at a different level.”

It’s not a secret how high the Nets brass is on Russell. There has never been a question of Russell’s skillset inside the Nets organization, rather they have wanted to see his body develop and see if he could stay healthy for a full season. It has only been roughly thirty games, but Russell looks visibly stronger this season and has stayed healthy to this point; his health will determine a lot in if the Nets are comfortable locking him up long-term.

As a Net, Russell has improved as a player, put to rest any doubts about him as a person or teammate, and completely bought into Brooklyn - as an organization and a lifestyle. While rehabbing his knee last season, Russell told Brian Lewis of the NY Post, “I plan on being here for life…”

The Nets like Russell and Russell likes the Nets. Given the reasonable salary Dinwiddie signed for, his extension shouldn’t impact the Nets negotiations with Russell. It’s all about maintaining assets and selling high.

At this point, there’s NO reason for the Nets to cash in on Dinwiddie or Russell, yet. Both players are young and improving, especially the 22-year-old Russell. The Nets could extend both players and eventually move one later when they’ll have more clarity on their future.

When LeVert returns, that will give the Nets three young, dynamic ball-handlers with complementary skillsets to build around. For those worried about the cap space moving forward, don’t be. Allen Crabbe’s contract comes off the books after next season, as well as Deron Williams’ buyout/stretch money.

What does Sean Marks thing of how Din and DLo fit?

“I think time will tell,” he told reporters on Friday, just before the Wizards game. “This was an opportunity — where Spencer’s opportunity to sign happened December 8. The other guys, we’ll have to wait until the summer to figure that out.

“But as long as our guys want to be here, want to be a part of something that’s bigger than themselves, they’ve got a year to prove it and it’s not just the guys you mentioned, it goes for everybody here. It’s a competitive environment, that’s what we love and it starts with Kenny and goes right through the staff.”

As is often the case, Marks says little and a lot at the same time. “Time will tell” ... of course. But also we have players who want to stay here and that matters.

Cap space can always be created, players can always be moved, but unless a team comes and makes an offer the Nets can refuse, a player of Russell’s production and potential will be hard to replace. Ultimately, the Nets have to balance their negotiations with Russell on what he currently is versus what they think he can be, but Dinwiddie extension should not affect Russell’s future with the Brooklyn Nets.