Spencer Dinwiddie balled-out in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals. He did everything he could to try and extend the series with the Golden State Warriors, scoring 26 points and knocking down five three-pointers. Despite his heroics, the Dallas Mavericks’ season ended that night.
This kind of effort endeared him to Mavericks fans. They came to expect big plays from Dinwiddie soon after he arrived in Dallas as part of the trade that sent Kristaps Porzingis to the Washington Wizards in February. He instantly meshed with his new teammates, thrived in a new environment, and became a critical part of the Mavericks’ deep playoff run.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” Dinwiddie said. “It’s been a whirlwind; it’s been an extended season. I spent what, three or four months in each place? Obviously, it wasn’t as much fun losing as much as I did in D.C., and it was a lot of fun winning as much as I did in Dallas. It’s been a lot.”
It really was a tale of two cities for Dinwiddie–without a Dickensian portrait of class and social upheaval. In Washington, where he started 44 games, he averaged 12.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 5.8 assists. He also shot the ball poorly, connecting on just 37.6 percent of his field goal attempts and 31 percent from deep.
To his credit, it’s remarkable that Dinwiddie was even playing to start the season. He suffered a partially torn ACL last season and underwent surgery to repair it in January 2021. Nine months is an average recovery window, but it was clear that he wasn’t yet 100 percent.
“Playing an extended NBA season coming off of an ACL wasn’t something I had any previous experience for,” Dinwiddie said. “I did have the other injury, but I didn’t play as quickly. Overall, in terms of being an athlete, I’m proud–coming back and living through the ups and downs–for sure.”
Fast forward to after the trade, and Dinwiddie looked like a new person. Moving primarily into a reserve role in Dallas, he averaged 15.8 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 3.9 assists in 27 regular season games. His shooting averages saw a significant turnaround. He shot 49.8 percent overall and 40.4 percent on three-pointers.
Some of his biggest shots came with the game on the line. In back-to-back games in March, Dinwiddie sank both the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets with game winning baskets. In Boston, he hit the go-head three-point bucket with 11 seconds remaining to give Dallas a 95-92 lead that they held onto.
His buzz-beater in Brooklyn came three days later. With one second to play and the Nets leading 111-110, he splashed home a three off an assist from Luka Doncic. It was a defining moment of the season for Dinwiddie, made even more special because it came against his former team where he had spent five seasons.
The playoffs were more of the same for Dinwiddie. Although he did have some poor shooting nights, scoring under 10 points in six of Dallas’ 18 games, he mostly replicated his regular season performances. The Mavericks were 7-5 when he scored more than 10 points, with three of those losses coming against the Warriors.
He averaged 14.2 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 3.6 assists during the run to the Western Conference finals. He also shot 41.7 percent from the floor and 41.7 from three-point range as well. His percentage from deep was the best of his career in the postseason. In Game 7 of the conference semifinals against the Phoenix Suns, he scored 30 points, a playoff career high.
“I thought Spencer came out and was aggressive right off the bat,” Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd said after the game. “He didn’t wait. There was carry-over from Game 6. … I thought Spencer was incredible for us off the bench.”
This was the deepest playoff run of Dinwiddie’s career. Despite the success he and the team had, he knows that both he and the Mavericks are just beginning to scratch the surface of their potential.
“This isn’t an old group at all,” Dinwiddie said. “Most of our talent is under 30. Our superstar is 23. There’s no reason we can’t get better. It all depends on the mentality and the approach in the offseason.
“Personally, I plan on making tremendous leaps and bounds being more than a year removed from my injury and stuff like that. We’ll see what happens next year if I’m fortunate enough to come back.”
The Mavericks will have a lot of tough decisions to make this summer regarding roster building. Dinwiddie is still under contract for two more years, even though his final season is not guaranteed. Still, the scoring, playmaking, chemistry, and camaraderie that he brought to Dallas were invaluable components of the team’s longest playoff run in 11 years. For that alone, it should be clear to the front office that he’s worth keeping around.
“It’s a blessing to play meaningful basketball and fun basketball with a group of guys that genuinely like being around each other,” Dinwiddie said. “I’ve had two very distinct seasons crammed into one. I’ve had a lot of fun here for sure.”