Five years ago, around this time, Brooklyn Nets fans were arguing over Yogi Ferrell and Spencer Dinwiddie with hostility.
Seriously, go back and look. You would’ve had no idea unless you were covering the Nets, but it was a divisive time in Brooklyn’s era. (Even if it didn’t rise to the publicity of, say, Kyrie Irving’s vaccination status.)
Almost to this exact date in 2017, Ferrell memorably had what is still the best game of his NBA career, dropping 32 points in a nationally-televised game between his Dallas Mavericks and Damian Lillard’s Portland Trail Blazers while on a 10-day contract. That same day, Dinwiddie netted 13 (which tied for his second-highest output of the season), and it would be the last time he broke double figures for 10 more days.
The debate grew hilariously one-sided the following season, and Dinwiddie became a fringe All-Star candidate in both the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons. But the reason no one saw this coming initially is because Dinwiddie came up as a pass-first, low-turnover, traditional point guard — somebody who at one time went five games (134 minutes) without committing a turnover and took eight shot attempts per 36 minutes; that figure leapt to 13.1, 15.6, and 18.4 the next three seasons.
Dinwiddie’s game has seen multiple iterations.
The score-first, old-school point guard from 2016-17.
The inefficient, yet ultra-timely scorer who still rarely turned the ball over as a floor general in 2017-18.
The near All-Star who became a full-fledged, scoring point as a sixth man in 2018-19.
The even-nearer All-Star combo guard who averaged around 20.0 points and 7.0 assists and got to the free-throw line at will in 2019-20.
But last year, he tore his ACL for the second time in his basketball-playing life, and is still working his way back while in Washington.
The Wizards had a players’ only meeting before the regular season began. Since a 10-4 start, the team’s gone 13-22. Even worse, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Montrezl Harrell tried putting on a WBC Heavyweight Title bout in the Wizards locker room a few weeks ago.
Dinwiddie, who turns 29 in April, claims that the topic of leadership wasn’t welcomed when he brought it up earlier this season. (He’s never been shy.) And now, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer is reporting that the Wizards don’t even want Dinwiddie there:
“The Wizards want to move Dinwiddie because he looks like a shell of his former self and his teammates don’t want him there. Schröder is fine, but he leans too far toward scoring and would be an awkward fit next to Jackson.”
To be fair, this entire Wizards team looks like a shell of their 10-4 selves from this past November, but anyway…
Dinwiddie, who is averaging 13.0 points, 5.8 assists and 4.6 rebounds on .383/.314/.807 shooting splits is in the first season of a three-year, $54 million deal signed this past summer. After earning $17.1 million this campaign, he’ll rake in $18 million in 2022-2023; he has $10 million of $18.9 million guaranteed for the season after. And since the Wizards evidently want to trade him, let’s help ‘em out.
Cavaliers receive: Spencer Dinwiddie, draft compensation
Wizards receive: Ricky Rubio
This trade is quite simple on paper, and it starts with Ricky Rubio’s $17.8 million expiring contract heading to Washington in exchange for Dinwiddie. Rubio has a torn ACL and is expected to return at some point, just not this season. It feels like someone should send the other a draft pick or two here, but you could make the case going either way.
For the Cavs, they’d be sending over Rubio while inheriting Dinwiddie’s sizable contract as a result, so they should probably ask for some draft compensation as a result — and would be right to do so. In the Wizards’ case, they’d be trading Dinwiddie for someone who may never suit up for them and may want compensation for that reality alone.
To me, Cleveland should get the draft compensation since this deal could impact how it maneuvers this summer — including Collin Sexton’s future, which still needs addressing. The good thing is the pathway to doing that would remain, and Dinwiddie could play the Rubio role this season.
Rubio averaged 13.1 points and 6.6 assists in 28.5 minutes per contest in all but eight games off the bench, while posting .363/.339/.854 shooting splits. He was as impactful as he possibly could’ve been given the poor shooting, if you simply watched. Dinwiddie’s numbers, as outlined earlier, are strikingly similar, and coming off the bench for a good team might be more ideal for him than starting for an aimless one.
Celtics receive: Spencer Dinwiddie, draft compensation
Wizards receive: Dennis Schröder, Josh Richardson, Grant Williams
As Justin Lewis noted last week in our Celtics two-part retooling series, these dudes need an actual point guard. The version Dinwiddie seems to play now is a less-effective version of the 2018-19 combo guard he became, but again, let’s consider the environment. The Celtics are probably looking for a bigger trade deadline splash, but if pure-point Dinwiddie were to arrive in Boston, that’s a better fit next to Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown than Dennis Schröder is. The trade would be something along the lines of Schröder, Josh Richardson and say… Grant Williams for Dinwiddie and some draft capital, which should include a first.
A big part of why Dinwiddie’s been less effective isn’t only his shooting splits, but his free-throw rate is the lowest of his career at .240, and he’s only averaging 3.9 attempts from the line per 36 minutes, the lowest figure since his rookie season in 2014-15. That free-throw rate needs to elevate in Boston, and playing next to the Jays should provide those open lanes for spaced threes and clear drives to create more of that rim pressure we haven’t seen much of in Washington.
Pistons receive: Spencer Dinwiddie, heavy draft compensation
Wizards receive: Jerami Grant
Unfortunately for Dinwiddie, if the Wizards are as adamant to move on as is being reported, he may just be destined to become a salary dump for a team. Playoff-bound squads might use his own productivity against him when trying to determine whether or not he’d help their roster, especially when stacked against other potentially available point guards (like the aforementioned Schröder, Goran Dragić, John Wall or Kemba Walker). Walker and Schröder are on shorter term deals for much less money, Dragić is on an expiring contract and Wall’s probably the best of the bunch currently based on what we saw of him last season — the last he’s played.
The Pistons are looking to trade Jerami Grant, and the Wizards are interested. If you fire up a trade machine, Grant for Dinwiddie actually works straight up, even as Grant makes $20 million this season, and $21 million the next. But the Wizards would have to obviously add, say, two first-round picks (at least) to the deal for it to be fair. That’s one reason the Pistons would do it, and probably the main one. But the other is to give a young team a stable, veteran point guard to run with Cade Cunningham and Saddiq Bey among others.
We don’t expect the Pistons to be a free agent destination anyway. It’d be a weird way for Dinwiddie to return to the team that drafted him — but from a team building perspective, it does make sense both ways.
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Edited by Kristen Butler
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