Reclaiming Spencer Dinwiddie's Stolen Year

Spencer Dinwiddie was on end-of-season award shortlists until recently. Here's why that's just fine.

Spencer Dinwiddie is having his year stolen from him. 

Coming into the year, there was significant talk of Dinwiddie being a candidate for both Most Improved Player and Sixth Man of the Year. Life comes at you fast. 

There wasn't a way to foresee Domantas Sabonis or Derrick Rose having the seasons they're having. This was supposed to be his year. 

If you ask Dinwiddie, last year was supposed to be his year, too. Dinwiddie finished 3rd in MIP voting last year. 

From New York Daily News' Stefan Bondy in October:

"In an interview with YES Network, the Brooklyn Nets’ Spencer Dinwiddie is adamant he should’ve won Most Improved Player over Victor Oladipo and Clint Capela. Dinwiddie says his ‘numbers were off the charts’ and he was performing at a level just below an All-Star."

And though Dinwiddie is (per The Athletic) leading reserves in double-digit scoring games (21), is second in assists (105), tied for second in 3-pointers made (44), third in points (351), fourth in free throws made (69), he probably won't be winning Sixth Man of the Year if the season ended right now. 

Dinwiddie is having a career year, and it could be all for nought. Unlikely 6MOY candidates bloomed overnight and now Dinwiddie is on the losing end of unique timing, something we all see happen to us retrospectively, but rarely get to see happen to someone else in real time.

Dinwiddie is a worthy candidate—a bright spot in the dimness that settled after Caris LaVert’s injury.

He is a consistent, reliable player, and it's time he gets his due. Consider this a Spencer Dinwiddie appreciation piece. Here's why Spencer Dinwiddie should be considered for 6MOY. Let's get this man his year back. He has the raw numbers. Let's admire his game: a style that is rarely fully appreciated, one built on nuance, timing, control, and play management.

Control and Timing

Ohhh, baby. This is really high-level timing. When Dinwiddie gets the ball, he shows mature decision making. He holds the ball for a split second. He knows that if he goes middle, Kahwi is waiting for him. But if he hesitates for a millisecond, it allows Danny Green to overcorrect and close out a little too hard. Dinwiddie takes advantage and squirrels his way to the hoop, throwing up an in-flight baby hook to avoid Siakim. I love this play.

Again, look at the patience and control. Dinwiddie looks like he's in a layup line. This sort of calm, cool, collected style of play can only be achieved by players who are keenly aware of the court situation. Dinwiddie abuses Hassan Whiteside in a peculiar way, here. It almost looks like some sort of mind-control. When he sees that Whiteside just isn't going to defend the pick and roll, he catches him in a strange no man's land. Whiteside begins backpedaling, unsure if Dinwiddie is going to drive or pull-up, but knowing he's probably toast either way. The way Dinwiddie finishes this is almost comical. If anything, its a subtle jab at Whiteside, showing off how easy he has made this read for Dinwiddie.

It is plays like this that will draw comparisons to Mike Conley. Dinwiddie is a supreme play manager. Like Conley, it's almost as if he can sense the current state of affairs on the court. He is hyper-aware of spacing and how the defense is working. In this play, Dinwiddie is constantly probing the defense, assessing how they react to him, and once he discovers a little wrinkle in the system, he goes for it.

Conclusion

Dinwiddie is a player who relies on feel. These players are rarely stars in the league, but they are coveted. You won't see him blowing by defenders or posterizing bigger opponents. What you will see is a player who is highly in-tune with the court, his teammates, and the defense, and he uses what he feels to his advantage. He is content to wait for the perfect moment instead of creating it.

It's unfortunate, but this isn't always what fans want to see. Take Conley, for example. He's on track to be one of the greatest players to never be an all-star, but somehow everyone knows and understands that he is an elite point guard, not for his athletic gifts, but for his unrivaled feel, grace, poise, and control.

This was supposed to be Dinwiddie's year. But maybe his career has another route. Maybe he's the Mike Conley of 6th men: a player who everyone knows is elite in their own, refined way, but isn't elite in the way that sells tickets. It's sad but special all at the same time.

Should Dinwiddie be 6th man of the year? He's deserving as anyone, but maybe the cards just won't fall. And that's okay.

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