A couple of necessary caveats:
- Drawing conclusions about a player’s effort or mindset on the court is rarely in good taste. Why speculate about what’s happening behind the scenes ears when there are so many X’s and O’s to analyze?
- Spencer Dinwiddie has earned a level of grace from Brooklyn Nets fans that not many other players have earned since the franchise moved across the Hudson. The 30-year-old point guard played a significant role in steering the team from one of the most miserable, directionless situations in league history to a title contender in his first five-season stint in Brooklyn.
With that being said, it looks like Spencer Dinwiddie is quitting on the Brooklyn Nets but the data also shows that his role has changed. It’s decidedly secondary on a team focused on Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson, not to mention Cam Thomas or his role vis a vis Ben Simmons. And he’s certainly not the only one playing poorly over this 3-14 stretch that’s tanked Brooklyn’s season into a hailstorm of misery and trade rumors, but he’s the only one that’s no longer trying to turn it around.
Over the last eight games, Dinwiddie’s taken just double-digit shot attempts just once. He’s become a bystander in a Brooklyn offense — which ranks 28th in the new year — that desperately needs his production. He’s the only player on the roster than can dribble, pass, and shoot at NBA lead-creator levels, and is now opting out of those responsibilities.
Is that on him? Or the team’s new priorities?
When Jacque Vaughn was asked about Dinwiddie’s recent lack of aggression, he gave subtle message to the 6’5” guard: “We have a pretty open offense where the ball-handler can attack and be aggressive on a nightly basis, which is unselfish and for the benefit of the group. So, there’s no blockade from allowing that to happen with individuals on the team.”
Well, other than the one Dinwiddie currently seems to be imposing on himself. One that people around the league are starting to take notice of.
In the latest edition of Zach Lowe’s weekly Friday column on ESPN+, he devoted a section to Dinwiddie, wherein he dropped some harsh truths.”
- “He has attempted six or fewer field goals in five of Brooklyn’s past seven games — and only 16 2-point shots total in that stretch. That is a point guard in name only — floating, half-present”
- “Dinwiddie is averaging 14 drives per 100 possessions — the second-lowest rate of his career, per Second Spectrum. His shots at the rim are near a career-low level. Both numbers are tracking down. It almost looks as if Dinwiddie is on some kind of strike.” [Emphasis mine]
This follows the New York Daily News’ C.J. Holmes declaring “it’s time to have an uncomfortable conversation” about Dinwiddie’s recent efforts.
Both Lowe and Holmes point out perhaps the most frustrating aspect of all this: Dinwiddie is still a good basketball player when he wants to be! In Brooklyn’s most recent loss to Portland, the starting guard took just one shot in the first half, on his way to another invisible performance, but then flipped on a dime to score 19 points in the second half. It was his best half of the season, scoring-wise, and he was the best Net on the floor, not only nailing threes but at long last last providing some of the rim pressure the team so desperately craves.
In his column, Lowe notes that Dinwiddie is still one of the best pick-and-roll players in the league. Yes, really: “The Nets have scored 1.23 points per possession on trips featuring a Dinwiddie pick-and-roll, per Second Spectrum — 14th among 166 ball handlers who have run at least 100 such plays. He ranks in the top 25% of that sample in assist rate (high!) and turnover rate (low!) out of the pick-and-roll.”
And of course, Dinwiddie has been with the Nets through ALL their ups and downs since Sean Marks took over in 2016 (and early on, underpaid.)
Sure sounds like a guy the Nets could use more of, right? After all, that pick-and-roll efficiency is nothing out of the ordinary for a player who, over his career, has been better on offense than a certain Atlanta Hawks guard the Nets are increasingly linked to.
But it seems as if the Dinwiddie ship has already sailed out of Brooklyn. There’s nothing to suggest the 30-year-old, unlikely to be part of the team’s future plans, will suddenly pick his engagement up and revive one of the most lifeless offenses in the league.
There have been reports, from both Ian Begley of SNY and Mike Scotto of Hoopshype, that that the Nets were interested in keeping him around, wer engaged in talks about an extension earlier in the season but there were reported significant differences over both salary and length of contract. However, the discussions were never serious.
So it would appear that Sean Marks’ hands are tied. The Nets should probably have traded Dinwiddie by this point, both from a roster-building and on-court standpoint, but what would the return be? Could Marks get a first-round pick, no matter how heavily protected, for an expiring contract currently sporting the NBA’s worst field-goal percentage?
Probably not. Yet, some teams may still be willing to take a swing on Spencer.
And thus, the Nets may be able to recoup a second-rounder or two by dealing their starting point guard away. Or maybe Dinwiddie is the salary filler in a DeJounte Murray trade; Scotto reported Atlanta is unwilling to take back salary beyond this season, making Dinwiddie a snug puzzle piece in that potential exchange.
Dinwiddie, though, is more than just an expiring contract. He is still a damn good NBA player when the circumstances are right and they are not right now.