After an ACL injury cut his college career short, Spencer Dinwiddie spent two seasons in Detroit and got very limited minutes. He has already exceeded his career minutes total this season in Brooklyn and has helped to fill in the hole left by Jeremy Lin's injury.
Spencer Dinwiddie tore his ACL at the worst possible time. After a solid sophomore season at Colorado, he led the Buffaloes to a 14-2 start in his junior season before the injury. The team went 7-8 after his injury, and Dinwiddie declared for the NBA draft. He might have been a mid-late first round pick without the injury but had to settle for being drafted #38 overall by the Pistons.
Even after he recovered from his injury, he did not see much time on the floor in Detroit. Dinwiddie played in 34 games averaged 13.4 minutes per game in his rookie season. That dipped to just 12 games and 159 total minutes in his sophomore season. The Pistons traded him to the Bulls, who cut him shortly before the regular season began.
Dinwiddie was signed by the Nets on December 8 and has already blown past his career numbers this season. He has played more minutes this season than in his first two combined and has started more games (14) than he played in last season. Jeremy Lin's repeated hamstring injuries have left an opening for Dinwiddie, and he has responded with solid play in an unexpected starting role.
The largest improvement in Dinwiddie's game has been his shooting touch. Dinwiddie had a miserable 42.3% True Shooting number last year, and an even more troubling 39.4% mark his rookie season. That percentage has skyrocketed to 54.5% this season, mostly due to his much improved three-point shooting. After shooting a horrendous 13 for 75 (173.%) from deep in two years in Detroit, Dinwiddie is shooting 37.5% on threes this season. Most of that is due to a dramatically lowered Usage Rate — down to 14.1% this season after being above 20% in his first two years. His increased role allows him to pick his spots on offense instead of being under pressure to score to stay in the rotation. When he does shoot, he is usually wide open:
In addition to his improved offense, Dinwiddie has shown promise on the defensive end. As a 6'6" point guard with a 6'8" wingspan, Dinwiddie can hound smaller point guards and can capably switch onto any perimeter player. Dinwiddie ranks in the 53rd percentile on defense according to Synergy Sports, allowing 0.903 points per possession. He has the second-best Defensive Rating of any Nets guard (behind Jeremy Lin's 106.4) and the third-best Defensive Rating on the team among players with over 100 minutes per NBA.com.
The solid play of the Nets' rookie point guards (especially Caris LeVert) has led to Dinwiddie being somewhat overlooked. However, he is still just 23 years old and under contract through 2018-2019. Since all three of the young guards are relatively big (Whitehead is 6'5" with a 6'9" wingspan, and LeVert is 6'7" with a 6'10" wingspan) and all three have decent vision, the Nets could easily play two of the three together. They might even be possible for the three of them to play together at times in smaller lineups, especially if Chris McCullough can develop as a stretch-four.
Spencer Dinwiddie had a difficult path to make it into an NBA rotation. However, he has shown more positive signs this season than in his two years in Detroit. It may have taken him time to fully recover from the ACL injury, or he may have needed an opportunity to shine. Either way, he has proven that he can be more than an end of the bench player. If Dinwiddie can show that his shooting ability more closely resembles what he has shown this year than his performance in Detroit, he should be at least a valuable rotation player going forward. Given how much he has improved this year, however, his ceiling might be far higher than that.