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Dinwiddie Day: Why Nets must reward their symbol of player development

We tend to forget how far Spencer Dinwiddie has come. Now, it’s time for the Nets to take care of him, especially since he’s willing to stay for what will be a team-friendly deal, which will last through most of his prime years. Our Bryan Fonseca with the breakdown.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Brooklyn Nets Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

It’s December 8, and now the Nets are officially on the clock.

We’ve been waiting, but more importantly, so has Spencer Dinwiddie.

The date marks two years since the Brooklyn Nets signed the University of Colorado alum, fresh off a stint with the G League’s Windy City Bulls. More importantly, it’s the first day when the Nets can sign the team’s sixth man to a four-year, $47.5 million extension that would keep him in Brooklyn from 2019 through 2023, expiring when Dinwiddie – currently 25 – is 30 years old.

“He’s grown so much since we first got him,” Kenny Atkinson said of Dinwiddie following his 17 points and eight assists in the overtime win over Toronto.

“First, what a great job by Sean identifying him in the G League. That’s the hardest part, finding a guy, and he’s just been dedicated to our performance program. He’s probably No. 1 on the list in terms of his diligence with his body. And what he’s supplying for us his downhill speed … If you don’t have a guy that could get downhill, it makes it really difficult to switch. He can drive it, I wish he’d move it a little more sometimes, but you need that guy that can get downhill.”

We’ve referred to Dinwiddie’s extension number as a steal for a multitude of reasons, especially when compared to some of his peers …

And Dinwiddie’s max is four years and $47.5 million —for now— which is a steal considering what the above group is making.

Here’s how the numbers will breakdown if the deal is signed.

Finally, you have Dinwiddie himself saying that he’s down to make Brooklyn a long-term home – he just welcomed a son to the world this past April – but he isn’t trying to take this version of a hometown discount, especially when he’d likely earn a bigger pay day if he were to hit the open market in seven months.

“The ball is very much in Sean Marks’ and the Nets’ court,” he said early last week. “Everybody knows what my extension number is: Four for $47 1/2 million. It is well documented. Can’t go above. It’s not like I’m really looking to go below. It is what it is. I’ll find out when you guys find out.”

As of this writing, there are no ongoing talks regarding Dinwiddie’s extension yet.

But while the Nets do covet cap space – they’ll have anywhere from $51 to $84 million in space this coming summer – Brooklyn should reward their crowning achievement in discovering diamonds in the rough, especially in the aftermath the infamous Boston Celtic deal. A dark green cloud hovers over the Barclays Center to this day.

Out of necessity, the Nets have found guys like Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen in the draft. Rodions Kurucs looks poised to be a second-round steal.

Dinwiddie does now, too, but we forget what a difference two years makes. The 6’6” Californian didn’t curry favor among the demanding Net fan-base overnight. His signing was met with resistance, considering the lack of name recognition, and he replaced Yogi Ferrell. A fan favorite, Ferrell erupted for 32 points on a nationally televised game in Portland while on a 10-day with the Mavericks not long after Brooklyn went with Dinwiddie.

Dinwiddie, a back-up on the league’s worst team that season, racked up 18 starts in 59 appearances, at one-point playing behind both Jeremy Lin (when healthy) and then-rookie Isaiah Whitehead.

In fact, here’s what I wrote after Dinwiddie’s first media session upon joining the team.

“Dinwiddie may not appear to be the immediate answer for the organization struggling to find answers at the point, but he joins a list of players the Nets see as prospects ... that is, players who, you know, no one knows much of anything about.

Sean Kilpatrick, who’s in the running for team MVP (for those of you scoring at home), is the model. When the Nets called him up last season, he was a mystery too.”

Kilpatrick being the model then is mind-blowing in retrospect.

“I kept saying ‘there’s another Sean out there, in the (then) D League,’ there’s no doubt about it,” Atkinson told the media after Dinwiddie’s first team practice. “It’s just, can we find that guy? I hope Spencer is that guy. It gives us another chance to look at a guy who’s played pretty darn well in the D League. I thought it was a smart move by Sean and his group. Spencer’s got a good feel for the game, good I.Q., and it gives us more depth.”

It wasn’t until last year, where he earned Most Improved Player consideration, Dinwiddie began the evolution into his current form.

And he’s still trending upward. (Numbers per Basketball Reference.)

Sure, the cap space will dwindle by double figures, but on many levels, it’s better to take care of your own, especially for an organization in possession of a young core who’s median age is in the early-to-mid 20’s. It sends a message even stronger than what two-years and $16 million of Joe Harris will. (The Nets could afford it, by the way.)

And if you do decide to part with D’Angelo Russell – which you don’t have to. It’s likely that two point guards are competing for one available slot to be the team’s floor general. Not to mention Caris LeVert, long-term. Signing Dinwiddie now gives you insurance, and a starter, at what could be a special rate.

It’s easier to surround four-years and $47.5 million with talent. The Nets will be players in free agency this summer. To what extent? We don’t yet know.

And beyond bringing in more mercenaries, LeVert will need to be taken care of in 2020, so the Nets can’t afford to retain too many guys. Not if you’re trying to create as much space as possible.

But the Dinwiddie model is one other organizations are struggling to mirror, which is why his name has floated around in trade rumors with point guard-needy teams like the Phoenix Suns and Orlando Magic.

And, perhaps most importantly, Dinwiddie’s desire to stay should outweigh the enticing prospect of unknown possibilities. It’s good to put your money on the side of familiarity when you can, especially when everything seems tailored to what your favor.

“I would love to have an extension,” Dinwiddie said himself last week. “I would love to be here for a long time. If I don’t get an extension, then I’ll be looking forward to unrestricted free agency.”

It would be in-line with what the Nets preach regarding organizational culture. And, as evident by his play, he is still growing into his final form, which would be tapped during the duration of the deal.

It’s not often that one goes from G League pick-up, to Most Improved Candidate, to early Sixth Man of the Year favorite, and things seem to be getting better with time.

And because it’s far from a max, you don’t stop there, you build on it in July, perhaps even February. But as Dinwiddie said, the ball is in Marks’ court, so for now, we wait.