On the one hand, he’s a G-League refugee, a guy who never caught on in Detroit, and a third option.
On the other hand, dude won the Skills Competition at All-Star Weekend. But anyone who is not Joel Embiid can navigate a skills course. Doing meaningful things in actual games is a whole other matter.
In the grand tradition of movable goal posts on this here publication, we tailor the test to the subject, so in order for Dinwiddie to move into the Confirmed column, he doesn’t have to be James Harden. Instead, considering that his role has been thrust upon him and he’ll be fighting for it when the guys who were supposed to start ahead of him got hurt, let’s frame the question this way:
Is Spencer Dinwiddie good enough to start, even for a bad team, or does he belong in Europe or China or the G-League?
With that in mind…
The Counting Stats
Dinwiddie is playing 29 minutes a game this year, and he’s scoring 13.6 points on 38.8 percent shooting, dishing 6.7 assists in coach Kenny Atkinson’s motion offense, and grabbing 3.3 rebounds.
Per 36 minutes, that’s 16.9 points, 8.3 assists, and 4.1 boards, with a 38.8 and 33.8 shooting and three-point split.
Which, if you’re being exceptionally charitable, makes him the poor man’s Jason Kidd, a guy who can pass the ball but can’t shoot a lick.
But consider that last year, Lin, per 36 minutes, posted 21.3/7.5/5.5 splits and hit 43.8 percent of his shots and 37.2 percent of his threes.
Meanwhile, in 25 games with the Nets this year, Russell’s put up 23.6/6.9/5.6 per-36 numbers while shooting 42.4 percent overall and 27.6 percent beyond the arc.
Dinwiddie is an atrocious scorer. He can’t shoot a lick. He also has no nose for the ball when it comes off the rim, as he’s the worst rebounding point guard on the team.
Then again, last year coming mainly off the bench, Dinwiddie shot the ball a lot better in a far more limited offensive role, as he shot 44.4 percent from the field and 37.6 from long range. Then again, his 11.7/5.0/4.4 splits per-36 made him all but a complete non-factor offensively.
The Advanced Stats
Let’s just stack up the Big Four stats side-by-side; Dinwiddie and Russell have their stats from this season; Lin’s numbers are from last year:
Dinwiddie: 17.0 PER, .135 WS/48, 1.3 BPM, 1.4 VORP
Lin: 19.2 PER, .116 WS/48, 2.2 BPM, 0.9 VORP
Russell: 14.9 PER, -0.015 WS/48, -1.0 BPM, 0.1 VORP
OK, so the first thing we’ve learned is that D’Angelo Russell sucks. He’s turning into an honest-to-gods draft bust after the Lakers took him second overall in 2015. As draft picks go, he’s a steaming No. 2.
The second thing we’ve learned is that Spencer Dinwiddie is not as good as Jeremy Lin, who puts up similar offensive BPM numbers but is not nearly the defensive sieve that Dinwiddie (with his -1.6 DBPM this year) has been.
But Dinwiddie put up a starter’s WS/48 on a team that is horrendous. The “homeless man’s Jason Kidd” falls apart because Dinwiddie can’t play a lick of defense while Kidd was a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate, but if you move the focus of the offense away from him and let him distribute the ball, “poor man’s Rajon Rondo” might be a bit more appropriate.
Remember, we had to establish that Dinwiddie is a capable NBA starter, even on a bad team. The shooting percentage, the defense, and a better good-stats-bad-team guy on his own squad flushes that idea.
But the advanced stats are good enough that it’s not a total loss. He’s better than the G-League or Europe or China. He’s a capable rotation player, and not just on bad teams; his passing makes him a good distributor and facilitator on the offensive end.
Plus, he won the Skills Competition. That’s gotta count for something. He’s not VERY good, but he is ANY good…sort of. And that means we’ll call this Plausible.