The last shot of the last game the Nets played before the season was suspended sums up exactly where Spencer Dinwiddie is, and how far he has come.
The night before the NBA suspended the season over the coronavirus pandemic, Dinwiddie led the Nets to a come-from-behind victory over LeBron James and the Lakers. First he hit the game-winning jumper; then he looked in the Staples Center stands for his family and his son, Elijah.
At one point just a G-League flier taken by the Nets, Dinwiddie has steadily developed year by year, taking on more and more responsibility. First in terms of his individual improvement, then in terms of his leadership, and now in terms of his parenting, Dinwiddie has grown.
“My son is the most important person on the planet to me,” Dinwiddie said of looking up in the stands for Elijah, who will turn 2 years old next month.
“Having a kid, it really puts a lot of things in perspective, and really kind of shows you what love is, and what it should be and what impact it should have on your life. Looking for him [in the stands] being the first person is just because that’s where my priority is at all times.”
That March 10 winner wasn’t a one-off. Dinwiddie’s 16 go-ahead buckets over the past three years are a league-high, according to Second Spectrum. But there’s no doubt that in the past year, he has raised not only his game, but also his profile.
That includes his successful recruitment of Kyrie Irving, who in turn lured Kevin Durant. And it’s underscored by Dinwiddie’s own career year, under Kenny Atkinson and now under Jacque Vaughn.
“We’re going to put more responsibility: Whether it’s play-calling, whether it’s getting guys in the right position, he has the ability to do that and we’re going to keep pressing him to do that more,” Vaughn said. “Mentally right now he’s in a good place and he’s one of the more special, physical people we have on our team.”
That’s evidenced by the fact that Dinwiddie is one of the best downhill drivers and pick-and-roll threats in the NBA. He’s posting career-highs in points (20.6), assists (6.8), offensive rating (110.5) and usage rate (.287). He’s not only scoring and facilitating more, but leading.
Injuries to Irving and Caris LeVert forced Dinwiddie to learn to tune out bad calls or unlucky bounces, to remain focused and to guide the Nets.
“He’s growing as a basketball player. It’s great to see it. He has layers of his game that he’s unpeeling. One of them was the emotional part,” said Vaughn, who praised Dinwiddie’s improved ability to stay composed and stabilize the Nets throughout a tumultuous season — one that saw them reject trade interest in their point guard.
After inking a three-year extension on Dec. 14, 2018 — one that lets him opt out after next season and hit free agency at 28 — Dinwiddie will be in demand on the trade market again this offseason. And he clearly has found his footing and learned how to use his platform.
Dinwiddie was unbowed by pushback from the league, and token-ized his contract. When the pandemic hit, he pushed owners to take care of their hourly workers, and Joe Tsai personally replied that he would. Now he has launched a partnership with Cred to let people earn interest on stablecoins and other crypto assets amid volatile markets.
In a steady climb since Dinwiddie entered the league, this season has seen the greatest jump.
Position: Point guard
2019-20 stats: 20.6 points, 6.8 assists, 3.5 rebounds, 41.5 FG%, 30.8 3-point FG%
Contract status: First year of a three-year $34 million deal.