Of all the players culled from the NBA scrap heap who blossomed with the Nets over the past five seasons during the rebuild crafted by general manager Sean Marks, no one added more value than Spencer Dinwiddie. When the free-agent negotiating period opens Monday at 6 p.m. ET, Dinwiddie figures to become one of the most sought-after point guards on the market, which means his time with the Nets likely is over.
Dinwiddie, who played only three games last season before suffering a knee injury that required reconstructive surgery, recently turned down his $12 million player option to become an unrestricted free agent, and ESPN salary cap analyst Bobby Marks projects that he is in line for a four-year deal worth $18-20 million per season.
Dinwiddie recently noted the Nets can offer a maximum five-year deal worth $125 million to retain him, but the luxury tax implications for the capped-out franchise would be enormous for as an insurance policy behind veteran guards Kyrie Irving and James Harden. Following Thursday’s NBA draft, Sean Marks basically acknowledged Dinwiddie’s price tag likely is unaffordable.
"I think it gets back to the work that Spencer has put out," the Nets’ GM said. "I can’t tell you what his market is going to be, but the good thing for him is he’s likely in line for generational money and he deserves it. He’s put in a lot of work, and we obviously are very happy for anybody that’s done that and deservedly so."
Since opting out, Dinwiddie has been identified in multiple reports as a potential target for the Heat or the Mavericks, but on draft night, he emerged as a leading candidate to go to the Wizards to team in the backcourt with superstar Bradley Beal after they traded Russell Westbrook to the Lakers.
Many reports had the Wizards shipping former Lakers forwards Kyle Kuzma and Montrezl Harrell to the Nets as part of a sign-and trade deal for Dinwiddie. No doubt, it is in the best interest of the Nets to do a sign-and-trade to gain assets rather than watching Dinwiddie walk for nothing in return, but Shams Charania of The Athletic reported the Nets want more than just Kuzma and Harrell.
When asked about a potential Dinwiddie sign-and-trade, the Nets’ Marks said, "Spencer being a pending free agent, we’ll have to wait for the right time to talk to him and talk to his agents, and we’ll figure out what’s best for both Spencer and the Nets. If there’s something to be done where he’s returning, terrific. If there’s not and he’s moving on, we wish Spencer all the best. He’s been nothing but a pro his entire time here, and he deserves the right to be a free agent."
Indeed, Dinwiddie has done nothing but get better. He averaged 7.3 points when he joined the Nets in 2016-17 and then 12.6, 16.8 and a career-high 20.6 points the succeeding three seasons. He controlled the offense, excelled at driving to the basket, played outstanding defense and often demonstrated that he possesses the clutch gene. Dinwiddie earned the right to get paid "generational money."
The Nets also face tough decisions with three other key veteran free agents, including guard Bruce Brown and forwards Blake Griffin and Jeff Green. The Nets recently made a qualifying offer to Brown worth $4.7 million to retain his rights as a restricted free agent, but ESPN’s Bobby Marks projected Brown might get an offer worth $8-10 million that would incur a huge luxury tax that would multiply that figure.
If Brown proves too costly, one cheaper alternative might be to sign former Net David Nwaba, who was a tough defender similar to Brown and might only command the veteran’s minimum. Griffin and Green signed for the veteran’s minimum last season but played well enough to be projected to earn $4-6 million next season.
Both were valuable in the locker room, shot well from three-point range and defended well, and both indicated a desire to return. But after playing the past several seasons for the minimum, Green might be forced to leave. Griffin still is owed $29.8 million by the Pistons next season and would be in a position to return for the veterans’ minimum.
"I think those guys have done an amazing job for us and would love to bring them back," Sean Marks said. "Love them to be around. I think we’ll just have to see how everything settles next week. But for what those two brought to our organization, not only on the court but behind the scenes, both are consummate pros, amazing in the locker room and a pleasure to be around. I can’t speak high enough of either Blake or Jeff . . . our time with them and what we learned from them."
Whatever decisions the Nets make in free agency can’t become official until the signing period opens at 12:01 p.m. ET Friday.