While the rumor mill continues to churn on who will occupy as another Mavericks ball handler, Jason Kidd provided some clarity on that issue three months ago. He said Spencer Dinwiddie will be a starter. Of course, this move comes after the (not) surprising departure of Jalen Brunson, who decided to join the New York Knicks at the start of free agency. Brunson’s departure created several holes that pegged the questions, who will help Luka Dončić create offense and who else can get their own shot without Dončić?
Dinwiddie was the Mavs answer when they shocked the league by sending the oft-injured Kristap Porzingis, who no longer fitted within their offensive scheme, to the Washington Wizards. And as of now, Dinwiddie is part of their answer as to who can co-exist alongside Dončić and provide production when Dončić isn’t on the floor. Both elements are crucial in a Dončić-centered offense.
Reasons to start Spencer Dinwiddie
Outside of the Mavs second best guard, being a starter is not a new role for Dinwiddie. He was a starter for the Wizards before the trade. In the 23 games Dinwiddie suited up for the Mavs, he started in seven of them with 21.8 points. In that short time frame, he became the Mavs third leading scorer. Moreover, he was a key contributor in the first round in the first three games when Dončić was out. His length is an upside from Brunson’s notable height. He is more willing to shoot from three than Brunson, which could help with spacing, but settled for a lot of unforced pull up 3’s in the playoffs. He is at his best when he attacks the rim and collapses defense with his dribble penetration.
Compliment to Luka Dončić
While Kidd was clear to mention that Brunson can’t be replaced, Dinwiddie will operate in a similar role to the former Mavs guard. That is, being a secondary playmaker who will, in modest dosages, share ball handling duties with Dončić. It will also be expected of him to find the crevices in the defense when they decide to stick to Dončić and other Mavs non-ball handlers. It will be more crucial in the playoffs when defenses notably tighten and exploit weaknesses.
Looking at the small sample, Dinwiddie has shown that his offensive finesse is complementary to Dončić’s strengths.
This will be his second year back since his ACL injury, so I expect to see more fluidity and aggression that will help with Mav’s spacing. His injury history warrants some concern but in his first full return back from his injury, he played 67 games in the 2021-2022 season.
All last season Kidd preached that the season was a marathon and used the regular season to prepare for the playoffs. One should expect the message remains for the coming season. Dinwiddie’s ability to score shouldn’t be questioned. It’s a matter of sustainability, and his health, in part, determines that.
Two things to watch with Spencer Dinwiddie in the lineup
Brunson was a willing defender who was able to use his strong frame to help in situations where his height could not. Dinwiddie, though he has shown effort in spurts, isn’t known for his defense. He will have to find a way to make an impact on that side of the ball on a team that ranked 7th during the regular season and 4th overall during the playoffs.
Lack of ball handler on bench
Mavs addressed one problem but created another in the process. With Dinwiddie moving up as a starter, that leaves his former spot as a ball handler off the bench open. Dinwiddie as a third ball handler was a major contribution to the Mavs success. As the current roster is currently constructed, Frank Ntlikina, Josh Green and Tyler Dorsey will look to fight for some minutes. Ntlikina struggled to make an impact in the playoffs and Green was an offense liability who saw defenses intentionally leave him open to shoot. A ball handler-by-committee from the three guards doesn’t seem viable. I believe the Mavs will look to find another ball handler that is not currently on the roster.
Meanwhile, the impact of Brunson’s departure will be measured by Dinwiddie’s ability to score and willingness to play off the ball. Can Dinwiddie alleviate pressure off Dončić as a secondary playmaker and scorer? Can he play a vital role when Dončić is on the bench? Those questions will soon be answered.