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NBA Daily: Spencer Dinwiddie — Next Season’s Wild Card

Spencer Dinwiddie made it through another rumor-filled trade deadline in Brooklyn. Drew Maresca discusses what Dinwiddie adds to the Nets — assuming he returns to Brooklyn and does so effectively.

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The Brooklyn Nets were allegedly dangling guard Spencer Dinwiddie as means of upgrading their roster this season. With Dinwiddie rehabbing an ACL injury that ended his season after just three games in 2020-21, the Nets could have been aggressive in pursuing an upgrade, but they stood pat. Puzzling? Savvy? Both?

For his part, Dinwiddie appears relieved to remain with the Nets after another trade deadline passed involving rumors of his relocation, posting a celebratory “The Wolf of Wall Street” GIF.

After all of the chatter, it turns out that Dinwiddie will be on a Net for at least the rest of this season and probably next season, too; Dinwiddie owns a player option for $12 million for next season, but he also liked a Bobby Marks’ tweet stating that six teams will have salary cap space this offseason, which either indicates interest in a move or he could simply be trolling us all.

But why would Brooklyn pass on the opportunity of an upgrade (e.g., Normal Powell or Avery Bradley, per HoopsHype) without any assurances they’ll return the 6-foot-5 combo guard?

First, they are probably fairly certain that Dinwiddie opts in or that they can work out an extension. With Dinwiddie on board, the Nets will be shockingly good next season – and it’s baffling that no one’s talking about it.

But it also speaks to how brilliantly the Nets have maneuvered this season since losing Dinwiddie in late December –  adding James Harden (via trade) and Blake Griffin (waivers). As a result, the Nets are third in the Eastern Conference, sporting a 30-15 record, despite Kevin Durant missing 17-straight games with a hamstring injury and Kyrie Irving missing a few games along the way, too.

Dinwiddie is a career-13-point-per game scorer. In the only season in which he’s averaged 30+ minutes per game (2019-20), he posted 20.6 points and 6.8 assists per game. He’s an effective scorer and proved that he can make his teammates better, too. He was a borderline All-Star in 2019-20.

Assuming he’s back, Dinwiddie will buoy a Nets team hoping to stretch the primes of Durant, Harden and Irving. He’ll likely see significant, regular season minutes, as (at least) Durant and Irving continue to rest, sporadically. Granted, his role will probably be scaled back to that of a sixth-man come the playoffs, but he’s been a significant force off the bench before (i.e., during his breakout season in 2018-19). He’s also been wildly successful as a starter, posting career highs in points and assists per game while starting 49 of the 64 games in which he appeared last season.

Never one to stay silent for long, Dinwiddie has posted videos to his Instagram account depicting his rehabilitation efforts. And while they might be meaningless for this season (the Nets received a DPE for Dinwiddie for 2020-21), those rehab videos should encourage those within the Nets organization. A February video showing Dinwiddie executing rehab activities featured a caption noting that he is 10 weeks ahead of schedule relative to “the protocol.”

This is the second major knee injury Dinwiddie’s suffered; he tore his ACL, MCL and meniscus while in college, just a few short months before declaring for the 2014 NBA Draft.

While that’s scary – just look at Kristaps Porzingis, who suffered a second knee injury in the 2020 playoff, hasn’t returned to pre-2018 form yet – there are key differences. First, Dinwiddie’s most recent injury is far less severe than the 2014 one. He spoke to that point recently on Instagram.

“Let me walk y’all down memory lane for a second,” Dinwiddie’s post began. “January 12th, 2014 against UW I suffered an injury. Massive amounts of pain and shock in a non-contact full tear of my ACL. The MRI would later reveal a completely torn lateral meniscus, MCL and partial tearing to the medial meniscus along with bruising in my bones. Surgery took four hours, mostly to stitch my lateral meniscus back together. Post-op prognosis, ‘will not play for a full year, may not ever return to the same level. Should definitely go back to school and get his degree.’ I had to spend 7 weeks non-weight bearing, essentially losing all muscle in my left leg. As many of you know I declared for the draft 3 months later, was fully cleared by the seventh-month mark and participated in both training camp (Stan Van Gundy two-a-days) and preseason that year. I’ve spent the last six and a half years making sure this would never happen to me again, being meticulous in diet, lifting and recovery from the beginning of my career. Those trials built the focus and fortitude to go from a second-round pick to a G-league cast off to the 20 ppg leader of a playoff team, earning the respect of my peers along the way.”

Additionally, there are other examples of players returning to pre-injury form after suffering ACL injuries. Danilo Gallinari did so after tearing his ACL in 2013 and Zach LaVine did the same after suffering inuring his in 2017. Both Gallinari and LaVine went on to play their best basketball after injuring their ACLs.

Ultimately, keeping Dinwiddie might be the best trade deadline move the Nets could have made. They’ll be a force next season, adding him to a team that could be looking to repeat as NBA Champions.

If they’re not already, all other contenders should prepare to maneuver accordingly – be it kicking the can on competing or stocking up in an arms race reminiscent of the Cold War.

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Bulls’ guard Zach LaVine desires respect for new contract

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According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, Chicago Bulls star Zach LaVine wants the respect he deserves for his contract extension. On Monday morning before Team USA’s practice to prepare for Tuesday’s match against Spain, the 26-year-old guard said to reporters, “I just want my respect, that’s the main thing. I outplayed my contract. I’ve been very loyal to Chicago. I like Chicago. I just want my respect. If that’s now or later, it’s something we’ve got to work out internally.” In the 2020-21 season, in 58 games played, LaVine averaged 27.4 points, five rebounds and 4.9 assists per game. He also shot 50.7 percent from the field and was selected to his first NBA All-Star Game.

Regarding the “outplayed my contract” comment, his argument his fair. Last season, with 200 three-point field goals made, he ranked ninth overall in the league. Despite the Bulls finishing 31-41 (.431) last season, he led the team in points and assists. Per ESPN, they are also reporting that Chicago is trying to work out a four-year, $105 million contract extension for their star guard. Though, this deal is expected to fall below his market value. In terms of signing available free agents this offseason, some Bulls fans are speculating the organization will pursue either Knicks’ shooting guard/small forward Reggie Bullock, Lakers’ power forward/center Markieff Morris or Pelicans’ point guard Lonzo Ball.

On July 13, 2018, the 2014 13th pick of the draft signed a four-year, $78 million contract with the Bulls. LaVine earned $19,500,000 last season, and he is set to earn $19,500,000 in the upcoming season. It is not urgent for Chicago to extend LaVine’s contract this offseason. The organization will have the full rights to re-sign him to a new deal for next season in 2022.

However, the guard will also become an unrestricted free agent next year, so the Bulls should work towards fixing their salary cap issues right now. Referencing Spotrac, center Nikola Vucevic has a cap figure of $24 million. Of this amount, his future guaranteed cash is $22 million. One notable 2021-22 cap hold is Lauri Markkanen. His qualifying offer is $9,026,952, and his cap figure is $20,194,524. On March 2, 2020, Markkanen was recalled from the Windy City Bulls of the G League.

Furthermore, on March 25, 2021, center Nikola Vucevic and forward Al-Farouq Aminu were traded by the Orlando Magic to the Bulls in exchange for Otto Porter, Wendell Carter Jr., a 2021 first-round pick and a 2023 first-round pick. This is quite the gamble for the Bulls organization, considering they traded away two future first-round picks. Vucevic is set to earn $24 million for the 2021-22 season. Chicago has $56,679,846 available in cap space. Their current luxury tax space is $29,405746.

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Rockets decline Avery Bradley’s $5.9 million team option

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First reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic, the Houston Rockets are declining Avery Bradley’s team option for the 2021-22 NBA season. On November 23, 2020, the 30-year-old guard signed as a free agent with the Miami Heat. He signed a two-year, $11.6 million deal. On March 25, 2021, the Heat traded Bradley, Kelly Olynyk and a 2022 first-round pick to the Houston Rockets for two-time NBA All-Star guard Victor Oladipo. The 2022 first-round pick is an option to trade for a potential Heat or Nets pick. Plus, Houston received a trade exception, too.

Moreover, Bradley earned $5,635,000 this previous season; the Rockets declined his 2021-22 team option of $5,916,750 for next season. In other words, both sides have mutually agreed to part ways, so the six-foot-three guard is now an unrestricted free agent. In early February, it was first reported that the Washington native would miss three to four weeks due to a calf strain. Before this injury, he averaged 8.5 points, 1.8 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game for Miami. Furthermore, he also shot a career-high percentage of 42.1 percent from behind the arc last season.

Though, Bradley disappointed both of his teams last season, leading to the Rockets finishing 17-55 (.236), ranking 15th overall in the Western Conference. Last season was the first time since the 1982-83 season that Houston failed to win at least 20 games. Since the 2011-12 season, it was the first time the Rockets had failed to qualify for the playoffs. In only 27 games played, the 11-year NBA veteran averaged 6.4 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game. He shot 37.4 percent from the field as well.

Likewise, the Miami Heat finished 40-32 (.556) last season, regressing from the team’s 44-29 (.603) record and sixth NBA Finals appearance from the 2019-20 season. Fans across social media are already speculating that the 2010 19th overall pick will end up playing for the Los Angeles Lakers next season. If this happens, he would join the team’s newly established big three: LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook.

After Bradley signed with the Lakers for the 2019-20 season, he joined the list of players in the league’s history who played for both the Celtics and Lakers. The list includes Brian Shaw, Clyde Lovellette, Mel Counts, Rick Fox, Don Nelson, Bob McAdoo, Isaiah Thomas, Charlie Scott, Gary Payton, Shaquille O’Neal and Rajon Rondo. According to Bleacher Report, the Lakers are also interested in signing Carmelo Anthony this offseason.

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Mavericks will pick up Willie Cauley-Stein’s $4.1 million option

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Per ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, the Dallas Mavericks are planning to pick up center Willie Cauley-Stein’s $4.1 million option for the 2021-22 NBA season. The deadline is tomorrow. Last season, in 53 games played, the seven-foot big man averaged 5.3 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. The sixth-year player also shot 63.2 percent from the field last season.

On July 8, 2019, Cauley-Stein signed a two-year, $4.46 million contract with the Golden State Warriors. Then, on January 25, 2020, Cauley-Stein was traded to the Mavericks for a 2020 second-round pick. If everything goes smoothly, the 27-year-old center is set to earn $4.1 million next season. The 2015 sixth overall pick’s contract consumes less than three percent of the team’s total salary cap.

This news comes right after Dallas received center Moses Brown from the Boston Celtics. Brown is a seven-foot-two, 2019 undrafted player out of UCLA. In 2021, Brown was named to the All-NBA G League First Team and All-Defensive Team. On March 28, 2021, the 21-year-old center signed a four-year, $6.8 million contract with the Thunder.

However, on June 18, 2021, the Oklahoma City Thunder traded Brown, Al Horford, and a 2023 second-round pick to the Celtics for Kemba Walker, a 2021 first-round pick and a 2025 second-round pick. With Boston, Brown was set to earn $1,701,593 next season. Of course, the Mavs organization is finalizing a trade to send Josh Richardson to the Celtics as well. In other news, today is Mavs owner Mark Cuban’s 63rd birthday.

Referencing Spotrac’s 2021-22 luxury tax totals, the Mavs’ current luxury tax space is $52,326,531. The 2021 NBA salary cap maximum is $112,414,000. Their current cap space is $27,595,632. Cauley-Stein’s contract is recognized as a club option, not a player option or guaranteed money. Richardson’s deadline is also tomorrow, so because he is getting traded to Boston, the team will not collect his $11,615,328 player option.

Plus, Jalen Brunson’s deadline is also August 1st. His guaranteed value is $1,802,057. Leading into the 2021-22 season, Kristaps Porzingis has the highest cap figure on the team, which is an amount worth $31,650,600, consuming 22.73 percent of the team’s total salary cap. At the moment, Porzingis is a popular name in trade rumor articles. Bettors and NBA analysts are predicting a possible trade to the Brooklyn Nets, Sacramento Kings or Philadelphia 76ers.

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