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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.

Basketball Insiders contributor residing in the Bronx, New York.

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