Readers of this space will know that I’m a big fan of Professor Spencer Dinwiddie (formerly T.A. Spencer Dinwiddie, but he’s clearly been hired as a full time Basketballer who’s on the tenure track). Spence has received some love recently from the national media and basketball intelligentsia due to his (improved) play since D’Angelo Russell went down. To paraphrase the Professor himself, sometimes you just need the reps in order to show what you can really do. The Nets have given those reps to Dinwiddie and he’s showing that he is, at the worst, a starting point guard in the NBA; at best, he might be something special.
Let’s look at just one stat, assist-to-turnover ratio to see just how good Dinwiddie might be.
Here are the assist/turnover leaders over the past 10 years. (Only players who averaged at least 4 A/T and played at least 20 minutes per game.)
- Jose Calderon, 5.38 Assist/Turnover
- Brevin Knight, 4.62
- Chris Paul, 4.6
- Travis Diener, 4.56
- Jose Calderon, 4.24
- Chris Paul, 4.29
- Carlos Arroyo, 4.17
- Jose Calderon, 4.08
- Chris Paul, 4.42
- Jose Calderon, 4.09
- Jose Calderon, 4.5
- Chris Paul, 4.38
- Matt Bonner (haha!!), 4.36
- Chris Paul, 4.26
- Jose Calderon, 4.11
- Chris Paul, 4.57
- Josh McRoberts (I swear to God), 4.01
- Chris Paul, 4.41
- Mike Conley, 4.07
- (Chris Paul was 2nd with 3.8; Calderon was 3rd with 3.43)
- Andre Igoudala, 4.5
- (Chris Paul was 2nd with 3.83)
2017-18 (so far)
- Spencer Dinwiddie, 4.49
- Darren Collison, 4.11
- (Chris Paul is 7th with 3.47)
Okay, so what have we learned?
First, Chris Paul and Jose Calderon DO NOT turn the ball over. (All these stats were from NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com, btw.) They basically exhibit a skill that no one else in the past decade can mimic for more than a single season at a time.
Second, the Point God somehow became more divine to me. He is a fully engaged basketball laser-sniper: accurate, deadly, and super-effing awesome. He has love in his heart but murder on his mind. If he doesn’t ever win a championship (I really want him to, perhaps more than any other active player), Chris Paul will still be recognized as one of the best point guards of all time. He’s simply magnificent.
Third, the avoidance of turnovers is maybe not as vital as we think. The best players, the superstars, are the ones who have the ball the most and, thus, turn the ball over the most. The highest-usage/most-minutes guys are usually the ones with the most turnovers. This is a side effect of their greatness, not an indicator of their lack of control (sorta like errors in baseball: the best fielders are the ones who can actually reach the ball, and thus have more opportunities to make a play, be it for good or ill; so errors can be a side effect of a fielder’s good range or play). Chris Paul, while a super duper star, hasn’t even been to a Conference Finals, and no one considers Jose Calderon to be a generational player, so this stat is not an automatic sign that these are the most valuable PGs over the past decade. However, not turning the ball over while distributing it as the team’s main passer seems like a damn good thing, and these two guys have been the best at it, by leaps and bounds.
Fourth, if Professor Dinwiddie continues at his current A/T rate, he’ll have the 7th best A/T in the last 10 years. If a good A/T is a sign of an advanced point guard, then the Nets may just have themselves one of the best (least risky) distributors in the entire NBA.
In fantasy terms, if Dinwiddie continues to play at this level, then he’ll end the season as a top 75 player. His season line of 13 points per game, 6.5 assists, 3 rebounds, and two 3PM has him as the 64th best player on ESPN basic; over the past month he’s been the 31st best (better than Donovan Mitchell, John Wall, Kemba Walker, and Herr Dennis Schroder). He probably won’t end up as one of the 10 best PGs in fantasy this season, but he’ll come damn close. In 2017 only 15 players in the entire NBA averaged at least 6 assists, and only 11 of those players scored at least 14 points per game, and only 6 of those 15 players averaged at least two 3 pointers made per game. Dinwiddie’s averaged 14+ ppg over the past month.
Professor Dinwiddie is now owned in 62.2% of ESPN leagues. That’s basically the same ownership as Dennis Smith, Jr., and Zach “The Dentist” LaVine.
We’ve learned that Dinwiddie may be elite, at least in respect to distribution, but what does that mean for the Nets? Is Dinwiddie a foundational player that you keep and nurture (he can indeed improve on his shooting)? Or, is he an asset you use to acquire another, (hopefully) better asset?
In my humble opinion, Spence is cheap, young, and good. There’s no reason to trade him unless you want D’Angelo Russell to be your primary point guard; in that case, you should trade Dinwiddie so that he doesn’t hinder DAR’s development. I would keep them both, though. I’m not sure you can find a better asset than a cheap, 24 year old, (perhaps) masterful point guard.