Much like Kawhi Leonard, who signed with the L.A. Clippers in the summer of 2019 just weeks after winning an NBA title with Toronto, Brooklyn Nets combo guard Spencer Dinwiddie, who recently declined his $12.3 million player option, would love to play in his hometown of L.A.
Whether the seven-year veteran prefers the Lakers or the Clippers is unknown, but what is known is that for either team to get him, it’s gonna take some real doing.
Both teams are expected to be well over the salary cap and neither has much in the way of first-round draft picks to offer. This is especially a problem when it comes to getting Dinwiddie, since he is expected to fetch a hefty sum despite playing only three games this season before partially tearing his ACL. (Dinwiddie rehabbed the entire time in Los Angeles.)
But, if the Clippers are truly dedicated to the idea of bringing in Dinwiddie, a player who could immediately add significant scoring punch and playmaking to a backcourt likely to lose Reggie Jackson to free agency, there’s one scenario in particular that might get the job done.
Sign-and-Trade a Given
First off, given the Clippers’ cap situation, a move for Dinwiddie would require a sign-and-trade from Brooklyn. Obviously, the Nets, who would like to get something in return for Dinwiddie rather than just losing him to free agency, would prefer this route and Brooklyn GM Sean Marks said as much in his end-of-season press conference.
“We’ll deal with Spencer when the time comes,” said Marks. “And, obviously Spencer has put himself in a position to secure his future long-term. We’d obviously love to play a role in that, whether that’s here or whether we can help him. But you know, we’ll focus on that at a later date.”
If the Nets agreed to a sign-and-trade, for say $25 million, the Clippers could offer in return point guard Patrick Beverley, center Serge Ibaka and the lesser contract of seldom-used power forward Daniel Oturu.
There is good reason for the Nets to be interested in such a scenario. Though limited offensively, Beverley is an elite defender, albeit pugnacious and volatile, and would therefore add more than just a spark off the bench (behind Kyrie Irving) for a Brooklyn club that has no trouble scoring but has struggled defensively. This season, the Nets posted a league-best 117.3 offensive rating but were ninth worst in defensive rating at 113.1.
And Ibaka, assuming he opts-in on his $9.7 player option (a likelihood given the big man’s back issues that sidelined him for much of the regular season and all but two games of the postseason, necessitating recent surgery), would also bring a lot defensively. He is an outstanding rim protector and a good rebounder, and could be a positive veteran influence on Brooklyn’s young but raw center Nic Claxton. Not only that, Ibaka has the mobility to guard on the perimeter and is himself an above-average three-point shooter (career 35.9%).
The Clippers, meanwhile, look ready to roll with center Ivica Zubac as their future man in the middle, and even when Zubac is out of the game, coach Ty Lue has had success going with small-ball lineups. In fact, Dinwiddie’s size and strength would be an upgrade from Jackson in those small-ball lineups.
In any event, a starting lineup of Dinwiddie at point, Leonard, Paul George and Marcus Morris on the wings, and Zubac down low would be formidable, to say the least, on both ends of the floor.
From a Nobody in Detroit to a Star in Brooklyn
As mouth-watering as Dinwiddie in a Clippers uniform might be, many around the league believe he could easily end up with the Lakers or a team that has plenty of cap space and already enough talent to entice the 28-year-old — somewhere like Dallas, New York or Miami.
But wherever he goes, it will undoubtedly mean the end of a wild and unexpected ride in Brooklyn.
After failing to crack the Detroit Pistons rotation over the first two years of his NBA career and then getting waived by the Bulls in October of 2016, Dinwiddie finally gained traction with the Nets, playing 22.6 minutes in 59 games in 2016-17 and then 28.8 minutes in 80 games in 2017-18 while averaging 12.6 points and starting 58 times.
Though he was relegated to coming off Brooklyn’s bench at the start of the following season, 2018-19, given the emergence of D’Angelo Russell as an All-Star-caliber point guard, Dinwiddie had nonetheless become an integral part of the Nets rotation.
So in December of 2018, after averaging 16.9 points on 47.4% shooting through 29 games, Dinwiddie was awarded a 3-year, $34 million extension and his status as a fan favorite made the notion of him signing his next contract with the Nets more than plausible. For the season, Dinwiddie averaged 16.8 points, 4.6 assists on 44.2% from the field and 52.8% from three.
But two and half years later, following the ousting of head coach Kenny Atkinson, and the moving of heaven and earth (and Russell) to bring in superstars Irving, Kevin Durant and James Harden, it seems Dinwiddie’s days in Brooklyn are over.
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