As the Nets have started to get their act together over the last 10 days after the tumult from trading superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in advance of last month’s deadline, Spencer Dinwiddie has been receiving a decent share of the credit for setting the tone as the point guard.
Dinwiddie, who developed from a G League afterthought into an NBA contributor during his initial five-season run in Brooklyn before leaving via a sign-and-trade with Washington in the summer of 2021, happened to be one of the return pieces from the Irving deal with Dallas. Prior to Tuesday night’s 121-107 loss at Oklahoma City, Dinwiddie had been averaging 18.3 points, 7.5 assists, and 4 rebounds in his first 13 games. Nets Head Coach Jacque Vaughn, who was an assistant coach throughout Dinwiddie’s initial tenure here, recently went out of his way to praise Dinwiddie’s maturation since those earlier days.
I don’t doubt that Dinwiddie at 29 has learned quite a bit more about how the NBA game is played than when he was a younger pup. However, I’m not totally buying that we’re seeing a vastly different version of the player who used to both thrill and frustrate Nets fans. The inconsistencies, some of which can be traced to his “maturity”, continue to be maddening.
1) Shot selection
Like many players, Dinwiddie is a very streaky shooter. Currently, he’s in one of his slumps, having missed his last 12 three-pointers dating back to the fourth quarter of Friday’s overtime victory in Minnesota. His overall shooting split in his 14 games as a Net is a substandard 41/28.4/84.7, which is down significantly from his Dallas days when he often played off the ball alongside star Luke Doncic and was fed more wide-open looks.
To compound the matters from the change of scenery, Dinwiddie tends to get into trouble when he plays with an unwarranted confidence. In short, he often thinks he’s more skilled than his record suggests. We haven’t seen as many side-step three-pointers as we used to, but he did hoist 29 3s early in the shot clock in 13 games going into Tuesday night, according to NBA.com’s tracking. He knocked down 7 of them for a conversion rate of 24.1%, which isn’t what you want from your primary facilitator.
Dinwiddie hasn’t been efficient in crunch time either, despite the heavy responsibility Vaughn has vested him in these situations. Per NBA.com, he is 4-for-12 (including 0-for-3 from deep) with five turnovers in the 22 minutes during the four games he played since the trade where the margin was within five points in the final five minutes.
The confidence extends to his ventures into the paint, where he’ll run into the trees protecting the rim with limited success. He is shooting 58.7% in the restricted area as a Net, which ranks 29th among the 38 guards with at least 40 such attempts in that span, per NBA.com.
I would gather that on his 19 misses, he thought he was fouled on at least 15 of them, which leads me to…
I hate to break this to Dinwiddie, but refs missed plenty of obvious hacks on Durant’s shot attempts too during his short-lived Brooklyn run. It happens, and a pro learns how to play through it.
Dinwiddie, though, often can’t help himself. He’ll wildly throw up his arms after misses while pleading with the refs in a usually vain attempt to draw a whistle. It rarely works, for two main reasons.
First, Dinwiddie typically falls away from the basket on these shots. He should study how players like Oklahoma City guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander or even teammate Cam Thomas use their bodies to shoot through contact instead of trying to avoid it. It often makes the fouls clearer to the refs’ eyes.
And then there’s his constant griping, which doesn’t sit well with officials. We know some can be petty and hold grudges. Serial complainers, though, are more likely to be given “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” treatment.
You could tell that Dinwiddie was trying his best to contain his rage in Oklahoma City, but the results weren’t any different. Despite 22 drives to the basket, per NBA.com, he drew just four fouls that translated into six free throw attempts. As the game was getting away from the Nets during the fourth quarter, he started to seethe instead of running back on defense. After a turnover with less than three minutes remaining, he boiled over and was shown uttering an exclamation not meant for children.
The reality, at least according to NBA.com’s tracking, is that Dinwiddie has been fouled on about 8.2% of his drives since the trade, which ranks smack in the middle of players with at least 100 drives in that span and is more than noted foul hunters Trae Young and DeMar DeRozan.
Refs getting in your head is not a sign of maturity.
Dinwiddie is at his best when he uses his dribble to draw help defenders into the paint and then kicks the ball back out. The Nets were playing beautiful basketball in Tuesday’s first half using that formula, with Dinwiddie credited with 9 of Brooklyn’s 20 assists. In Brooklyn’s prior outing, a 122-120 upset at Western Conference leading Denver, Dinwiddie registered 16 assists, his career high.
I can’t help but think how many more assists Dinwiddie would have accumulated if he wasn’t, by my biased subjective eye test, the worst passing point guard in the NBA.
When Dinwiddie used to air mail all those lobs to DeAndre Jordan back in the day, I initially surmised that they were related to unfamiliarity or Jordan’s athletic decline. I learned quickly that the blame laid with the executions of the passes.
One of these nights I’m going to keep running tabs on how many times the Nets YES announcer mentions a Dinwiddie pass that was off the mark, including all the times he fails to connect with Nic Claxton on alley oops.
Dinwiddie’s flaws are as much in plain view as they were during his first go-round in Brooklyn, and it can be frustrating to watch.
Totally agree with your article and assessment. Not sure why, especially last night, JV did not try Sumner who has the speed to match OKC or use C Thomas more when they needed more points. Dinwiddie's frustration takes over and his judgement/play and perspective is affected which affects the whole team Seems he needs a 'timeout' and some more coaching in the moment for his own growth and thus the team as well.