With the date the Brooklyn Nets can sign guard Spencer Dinwiddie now less than a week away, the buzz is already reaching a high pitch.
The Brooklyn Nets can sign combo guard Spencer Dinwiddie to an extension up to four years and $47.5 million as soon as Saturday and have until the end of June to keep their sixth man extraordinaire off the free agent market.
The date correlates to the anniversary of Dinwiddie signing with the Nets back in 2016, when the Nets plucked the former Detroit Piston out of what was then the NBA D League.
Dinwiddie ran with the opportunity and went from on the fringe of being out of the league to an established talent.
So do the Nets want to keep Dinwiddie? According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, in an interview with the Fordham University student radio station (per NetsDaily), Brooklyn is very interested in retaining the fifth-year guard, with a caveat:
"“What usually matters in instances like these is, ‘What’s the number? What’s the number on the extension that gets it done’ The Nets are limited, limited in the kind of raise he can get off his current contact. It’s all negotiation.“Starting next week, they can negotiate, he can sign an extension. But he can do it all the way through the summer. I think the Nets would very much like to keep him and keep him long term but again, it’s negotiation.“It will be at a number — I don’t know what the number is for Brooklyn — but I’m sure they have in their minds a sense of what they’re willing to do and then how does that measure up to what the other options are, what it does to their cap space, what they want to do with D’Angelo Russell.”"
One option for the Nets is to let Dinwiddie hit the market, where they could use Dinwiddie’s Bird Rights to re-sign him without it affecting the 2019-20 cap number.
As for Dinwiddie, he told Brian Lewis of the New York Post last week that he would prefer to stay with the Nets.
"“I’d love to have an extension. I’d love to be here for a long time. If I don’t get an extension, I’ll be looking forward to unrestricted free agency and going through the season trying to help the Nets win games as much as possible.“Either I’m going to sign an extension or I’m going to be an unrestricted free agent, simple as that. The ball is very much in Sean Marks and the Nets’ court.”"
But Dinwiddie didn’t sound like a player much interested in haggling over price.
"“Everybody knows what my extension number is: Four for $47½ million. … 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. We’ll either see something on the ESPN ticker that says ‘Spencer Dinwiddie offered $47½ million from the Brooklyn Nets’ and then you guys will know how much money my bank account has at that moment in time.”"
Dinwiddie is in the final year of the three-year veteran’s minimum deal he signed in December 2016 and is making a little less than $1.66 million this season. To say he’s outperformed that contract would be a massive understatement.
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Dinwiddie averaged 7.3 points, 2.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 22.6 minutes per game for the rest of the 2016-17 season, playing in 59 games and making 18 starts.
Last season, he started 58 of the 80 games in which he played and was a finalist for Most Improved Player honors after averaging 12.6 points, 3.2 rebounds and 6.6 assists in 28.8 minutes a night.
This season, he settled into the sixth man role with aplomb. He’s got an 18-game streak of scoring at least 10 points off the bench that has been on hold the last two games, as Dinwiddie has been starting in place of injured Joe Harris.
That 18-game streak matched the longest since 1983-84 for the franchise, matching an 18-game run by former Rutgers star Roy Hinson with the New Jersey Nets from Nov. 12, 1988, to March 9, 1989.
His personal streak of double-figure scoring was snapped at 19 Saturday night when he was held to eight points in 28 minutes in Brooklyn’s 102-88 loss to the Washington Wizards.
But even with that, he is averaging a career-high 15.6 points per game this season to go with 2.6 rebounds and 4.9 assists in 28.3 minutes per contest and his shooting is vastly improved over last season.
Dinwiddie shot just 38.7 percent overall in 2017-18 and made 32.6 percent from 3-point range. This season, those numbers are 46.2 percent and 36.2 percent, respectively.
If he hits the free agent marker, there will be suitors. The Phoenix Suns and Orlando Magic would almost certainly be in the market for an established veteran point guard with some upside (Dinwiddie turns 26 in April).
People sometimes forget Dinwiddie was a lottery prospect before a knee injury wrecked his junior season at the University of Colorado. He opted to enter the draft anyway and was taken 38th overall in the second round by the Pistons in 2014.
There are still observers who believe Russell, who will be 23 in February, has the higher upside, but that may be sparked as much by the respective draft slots of the two players as anything basketball related.
Russell was the No. 2 overall pick in 2015 and thus has to be the better, more talented prospect, right?
But Dinwiddie is more athletic than Russell, who lacks explosiveness going to the rim and in the open court, areas where Dinwiddie excels.
Dinwiddie can get to the rim almost at will, whereas Russell relies on a variety of floaters and jumpers in the paint to compensate for not always being able to finish at the rack.
And we’ve seen 215 games, 167 starts and nearly 6,000 minutes (5,998) for Russell in his career, more than two full seasons’ worth at this point. Consistency still isn’t happening and his shooting has dipped back to his career norms. He’s at 40.7 percent this season and 40..9 percent on his career.
Despite having one additional NBA season on his resume, Dinwiddie has less playing time — 209 games, 79 starts and 4,932 minutes. Dinwiddie has a slight edge in assists — 4.6 per game to 4.4 — and is a career 40 percent shooter, but one who has improved markedly this season.
Given a choice, I’d rather have four years of Spencer Dinwiddie than four (or five) years of D’Angelo Russell, who I believe is much closer to his ceiling as a player because of his lack of elite athleticism.
The question will be whether the Nets roll the dice and let Dinwiddie hit the open market or take the cap hit next season and lock him up when they are still the only game in town.