Over the past two weeks, Nets general manager Sean Marks has built what many view as the NBA’s deepest backcourt thanks to trades for talented second-year guards Landry Shamet and Bruce Brown and the signing on Friday of free-agent guard Tyler Johnson, who was a hit after joining the Nets for the NBA re-start last July in Orlando.
But Marks’ decision to stockpile talent at the guard and wing positions begs the question of what the future holds in store for backup point guard Spencer Dinwiddie, who has played an integral role over four seasons in turning the Nets from an also-ran into a playoff team the past two seasons.
Dinwiddie comes off the bench behind starters Kyrie Irving and Caris LeVert, but because of injuries to that pair, his 49 starts were just two short of their combined starts. And Dinwiddie’s season ended with a game-winning shot on March 10 on the road against the Lakers because he missed the re-start after testing positive for COVID-19.
Dinwiddie is entering the second year of a three-year deal worth $34.3 million, and he has a player option for the 2021-22 season worth $12.3 million, which is a bargain for a player of his caliber. His name surfaced in trade rumors for potential deals with the Pelicans and Mavericks, not to mention the fact he likely would be at the heart of any trade with the Rockets for superstar James Harden.
During his post-NBA draft interview, Marks was asked if he has discussed the trade rumors with Dinwiddie. "Spencer and I have an open relationship," Marks said. "He can come and talk to me about whatever he wants. That’s part of the business when you have to navigate a roster and personalities."
As for the uncertainty of Dinwiddie’s future with the Nets, Marks suggested it also depends on first-year coach Steve Nash.
"How does the fit work?" Marks asked. "That’s where Steve comes into play. Steve has managed this before. He’s been the point guard on some really important teams with a lot of different personalities. So, that’s what we’re going to have to do over the course of this year is manage them and what’s best for our rosters and, hopefully, at the same time do what’s best for all of our players."
As the Nets prepare for training camp on Tuesday and the first practice next Sunday, Dinwiddie is coming off the best season of his career. His averages of 20.6 points per game, 3.5 rebounds and 6.8 assists all were career-highs. But his three-point shooting dipped to 30.8%, which was his worst with the Nets.
At the same time, Dinwiddie is one of the best point guards in the NBA in terms of getting to the rim. He shot 48.5% from two-point range, the second-best figure of his career, while recording career-highs of 4.7 makes and 9.7 attempts per game. Plus, he always has excelled at crunch time as part of the Nets’ finishing lineup.
But the depth Marks has added in the backcourt now means the Nets not only are better equipped to handle injuries, but also, they have more trade ammunition. The depth chart at the two guard positions includes Irving, LeVert, Dinwiddie, Shamet, Brown and Johnson.
Wings who can play shooting guard or small forward include Joe Harris and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, and even Taurean Prince and Rodions Kurucs, who predominantly play power forward but can play small forward. And yes, superstar Kevin Durant has started much of his career at small forward though he figures to be the Nets’ power forward. Centers DeAndre Jordan and Jarrett Allen and big men Nic Claxton and free-agent signing Jeff Green, both of whom can play the five or four positions, complete the roster.
When he spoke to the media following the draft, Marks said, "You can never have too much talent. Certainly, we don’t want to have an imbalanced roster. We’re going to have some good conversations with the coaching staff (about) how they see the style of play."
So, with the cupboard so full compared to what it looked like when Marks took over four years ago, he has the assets to make a major deal, and it seems likely Dinwiddie’s name will continue to come up.
"There needs to be a purpose behind it…whether it’s the ‘win-now’ perspective or something that helps us over the course of the next two or three years," Marks said. "We’re weighing a variety of different options here. I couldn’t tell you if we’re done yet or not, but I don’t see us changing five or six guys on the roster."
Games: 64 Points per game: 20.6 Rebounds per game: 3.5 Assists per game: 6.8
Career stats (six seasons)
Games: 317 Points per game: 12.9 Rebounds per game: 2.8 Assists per game: 5.0