Nets Have Big Decisions to Make at Guard

Brooklyn Nets D'Angelo Russell (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
Brooklyn Nets D'Angelo Russell (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /
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OAKLAND, CA – MARCH 6: Spencer Dinwiddie
OAKLAND, CA – MARCH 6: Spencer Dinwiddie /

Spencer Dinwiddie and D’Angelo Russell

No player performed better in Russell’s absence than Spencer Dinwiddie. From November 14 through February 18, Dinwiddie averaged 14.6 points and 7.2 assists per game. Dinwiddie took Russell’s role as the Nets’ primary ball-handler with the first unit,  and often had the ball in his hands to close out games.

With Russell’s return, though, the Nets have tinkered with their lineups, and Dinwiddie has struggled to settle in. Since Russell’s return, Dinwiddie has averaged 8.7 points, while shooting just 37.9 percent from the field.  When the two have shared the court, the Nets have scored well–114.4 points per 100 possessions, per–but there is a question of fit.

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Both Dinwiddie and Russell need the ball in their hands to thrive. At the same time, neither is a great three-point shooter–both are under 35% in their careers.  Dinwiddie excels as an isolation player, with frequency of 17.7%, which ranks 14th in the league. This puts him ahead of iso-heavy players like Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard, and Tyreke Evans. Likewise, his 0.99 points per isolation play puts him ahead of the likes of John Wall and Russell Westbrook, per Against the Hawks, Dinwiddie showcases his penchant to isolate, and ability to thrive in pick-and-roll action:

Similarly, Russell primarily operates in the pick-and-roll and isolation sets. Russell has been a less efficient isolation player, scoring 0.74 points per possession. Dinwiddie’s numbers as a pick-and-roll handler are superior.

The one area Russell has a clear edge is in the mid-range. He has always had penchant for mid-range jumpers, shooting a relatively efficient 43.7% of 3.2 shots per game this season, per In addition, Russell’s play-making ability is obvious as well. His 4.9 assists per game aren’t eye-popping. On certain nights, though, Russell shows tremendous vision, and flashes an ability that put him at the top of most teams draft boards coming out of college.

This season, advanced stats have favored Dinwiddie as well. He’s 24th in the league in Real Plus/Minus and 26th in Win Shares, according to ESPN. Russell falls outside of the top 100 in both categories. Dinwiddie also has the best net rating of any Nets player. The numbers are in his favor, but it’s a small sample-size.

Russell has missed a lot of time, and several Nets players have come and gone since his injury. With more time, we’ll get a better sense of what Russell can bring. Additionally, Russell is younger, and the Nets invested assets to acquire him. If they choose to move on, they’ll need to be sure Dinwiddie’s strong season is no fluke.