The upcoming free-agent class lacks the type of top-end talent teams like the Dallas Mavericks were banking on heading into this offseason. Players like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday signed long-term extensions. Victor Oladipo suffered an injury that could potentially cost him his career. Star veterans like Kawhi Leonard, who is recovering from surgery to repair a partially torn ACL, and Chris Paul appear unlikely to leave their current teams. Even younger players like Lonzo Ball and John Collins enter this offseason as Restricted Free Agents and their actual availability is unknown. What we do know is that the Mavericks have several glaring needs on the roster and limited resources with which to address them.
Spencer Dinwiddie is a 28-year-old, 6-foot-5 combo guard. A seven-year veteran, Dinwiddie is recovering from an ACL injury that cost him all but three games last season. He recently declined the player option on the final year of a contract that would have paid him $12.3 million this upcoming season. Despite his injury, Dinwiddie appears to be heading towards a pay raise in a market that lacks true star power.
The Mavericks’ biggest need is secondary playmaking. Luka Doncic’s absurd usage rate made the offense predictable and caused him to wear down in the fourth quarter of games. He, and the Mavericks, desperately need someone that can help shoulder the burden on offense. Dinwiddie can do just that.
In his last full season, Dinwiddie averaged 20.6 points and 6.8 assists per game. In years prior, he was the lone bright spot on some truly terrible Brooklyn Nets teams. He can create his own shot and is a good enough passer to get his teammates involved. In Dallas, he won’t be tasked with being the primary engine of the offense. He simply has to be good enough to attack defenses and hit open shooters when the opportunities present themselves.
Watching anyone other than Luka dribble the ball gave Maverick fans angst the past couple of seasons. Dinwiddie may not be Kyrie with the ball in his hands, but he is well above average in terms of ball handling. That would be a welcome addition to this Dallas team. His athleticism and ball handling allow him to attack closeouts and finish at a 63.7 persent clip around the rim. The ability to attack and finish around the rim was a skill that only Jalen Brunson possessed outside of Luka.
Weighing in at 215 pounds, he would give the Mavericks one of the more physical backcourts in the league. You would never confuse him for Kawhi on defense, but he is quick enough and strong enough to hold his own on the defensive end. Offensively, his frame and physical presence would allow the Mavericks to play him alongside another point guard.
ACL injuries aren’t the death blow that they used to be for players. The majority of players can regain most of their athleticism about a year removed from the date of the injury. Dinwiddie was cleared for basketball activities on June 22 and could have made a return to the court had the Nets advanced to the NBA Finals. With that being said, it is risky to invest significant money into a player coming off that type of injury.
The Mavericks are currently living with their decision to give Kristaps Porzingis a five-year, max contract with no injury protections. The health risks may allow the Mavericks to sign Dinwiddie at a slight discount in terms of annual salary or include some non-guaranteed money on the backend of the deal. A three-year deal with a team option on the final season may be the ideal structure for a contract should the two sides agree to terms on a deal moving forward.
Dinwiddie’s shooting splits are interesting. At first glance, his shooting stats appear to be ghastly. In 19-20, he shot 41.5 percent from the field and 30.7 percent from three. In a vacuum, that would scare off any team at a time when scoring efficiency is as important as counting numbers. A deeper dive, however, reveals some reason for optimism. Only 31 percent of his three-point field goal attempts were catch-and-shoot opportunities. He shot a respectable 40 percent on those attempts.
As a secondary playmaker, it’s safe to assume more of his shots would come on catch and shoot opportunities versus pull-up shots. As the primary ball handler on a terrible nets team, Dinwiddie was often forced into taking terrible and highly contested shots. That won’t be the case on a team with Luka Doncic.
Fit with the Mavericks
Dinwiddie can never be the best player for a legitimate playoff contender. On the Mavericks, he won’t have to be. He’ll be able to play off Luka and shoot well enough to keep defenses honest. He can create his own shot at will and can punish defenses when they choose to trap and/or double Luka. He isn’t the shooter that Tim Hardaway Jr. is, but he will undoubtedly make the offense more versatile. He is capable of running the pick and roll and would allow the Mavericks to incorporate more dribble hand-offs into their offense.
Dallas won’t have enough money to address all of their issues through free agency in a single offseason. Rim protection and wing depth are both huge needs for this team. Rim-running big men who can adequately defend the rim can be found on the scrapheap. Investing significant assets into players such as John Collins or Richaun Holmes may address one problem but compound another. 3-and-D wings are the rarest commodity in today’s NBA. They don’t come cheap and there doesn’t appear to be any players available that fit the bill.
Playmaking was arguably the greatest need for this team. Players such as Kyle Lowry and Mike Conley will command salaries that exceed $30 million a year. Dinwiddie fits a need and might come cheap enough to allow the Mavericks to allocate $15-$17 million on another player or two. The modern NBA is moving towards having as many playmakers on the floor as possible. Landing Dinwiddie would be a great start for the Mavericks.