Spencer Dinwiddie thinks that maybe just maybe the Nets might not be done, that Sean Marks & co. could wind up being a part of trade for Damian Lillard or James Harden. That said, Dinwiddie pronounced himself a “fan” of what the front office has done and what his teammates are capable of.
In an hour-long interview with Dylan Burris of NetsPress that aired Tuesday, Dinwiddie said he doesn’t know the league’s off-season will be over till the Dame and James situations work out. But he added that he expects that if the Nets don’t make any moves, he expects the team’s core to improve, to “establish” themselves in the cases of Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson and Nic Claxton and for Ben Simmons to reclaim his status as an All-Star.
“Obviously, the off-season isn’t over,” said the Nets point guard. “I know the entire league is in a holding pattern for Dame and James. It could affect what we have going on.”
Asked what he knows about possible Nets interest in making a deal, Dinwiddie admitted, that’s certainly above my pay grade for sure.”
Whether Dinwiddie was just speculating or not, any trade for those two would be complicated and likely involve a third team if not a fourth. Lillard has specifically asked to be traded to the Heat while Harden has not specified his preferred destination if there is one other any team that doesn’t have Daryl Morey as GM.
The Blazers has said they will not trade Lillard unless the deal benefits Portland’s interests, which means young players and first round picks. With the Heat only able to offer two and the Blazers wanting more, a third team would have to provide the picks ... and get something in return. It’s role long associated with Brooklyn. Still, there’s no indication anything is imminent on either the Lillard or Harden fronts.
Dinwiddie was asked by Burris what he expects from this season’s team if it remains basically as is. Prefacing his answer with “obviously it’s hard to say,” with the possibility of more moves, Dinwiddie ticked off what he thinks his teammates are capable of.
“If we do have this team, which it looks like we will, it’s going to another year of coalescing, building,” he told Burris. “Mikal will try to establish himself as possibly an all-star, a first time all-star. I think Nic (Claxton) is going to try to establish himself as one of the premier big men in the league especially being in a contract year and heading into free agency next year. Cam (Johnson), I think, has more ball skills than people kind of expected. So I think you’ll see him play extremely well. I think him being comfortable signing his deal, being comfortable and stuff, you’ll see a little bit of a leap there. For Cam, Mikal and Dorian (Finney-Smith), I don’t think any of them had been in another system.
“We’re going to be a group that gets up and down and hopefully, we have a healthy Ben (Simmons) and if he’s in all-star form, you might have two All-Stars,” he said referring to Bridges and Simmons. “If he’s there, we have a real puncher’s chance against anybody.” He added that while he doesn’t know specifics about Simmons recovery, “all signs are really encouraging.” Dinwiddie also praised Simmons as a teammate.
More specifically, he was asked about Claxton with whom he worked out in L.A. this summer, Dinwiddie said the 24-year-old big man’s “touch has improved in terms of around the rim,” adding “He’s obviously phenomenal defensively — everyone knows that. I think overall, he’s gotten a ton stronger, more balanced which I think has made him more forceful on his drives, not getting knocked off the mark. I think the big improvement, the surprise, is to his body, his conditioning, to be able to do it over and over again vs. getting tired.
“There are points in the season obviously last year, in March, April, he was getting a little bid tired. After getting two, three four blocks he’d kind of run out of gas. Not he’s built himself up so he can have a super-strong 82,” he told Burris.
Bottom line with the 6’11” big man?
“I think Nic is going to make the biggest jump. I think he’s going to be supremely motivated. I think we’re going to see a big-time year from him,” said Dinwiddie noting how he called Claxton the second most talented player on the team “five, six years ago.”
He also called himself a “fan” of the Nets’ off-season acquisitions, specifically praising the addition of veterans Dennis Smith Jr. and Lonnie Walker IV, calling both “explosive” athletes who are “not afraid of the moment” and rookie Jalen Wilson who he watched play in the Las Vegas Summer League. Dinwiddie said he expects the 6’8” wing “to find a niche really quickly.”
The Nets currently have 19 players under contract: 13 guaranteed standard NBA deals, three non-guaranteed deals in Darius Bazley, Trendon Watford and Harry Giles III, two two-ways in Jalen Wilson and Armoni Brooks, and one Exhibit 10 camp invite, Patrick Gardner.
In another off-season note, Gina Mizell of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that David Duke Jr. has agreed to sign an Exhibit 10 deal with the 76ers.