Few free agents have been as transparent about their asking price as Spencer Dinwiddie.
In a recent podcast with Sports Illustrated, the Nets point guard who recently elected to enter free agency said it would be hard to turn down a five-year, $125 million deal to stay in Brooklyn and wouldn’t be as interested in a three-year deal worth $60 million, all while noting it all depends on how the market shakes out. The Nets’ options for re-signing Dinwiddie or finding a sign-and-trade partner are both expensive and limited.
Dinwiddie’s problem is just that, the market. Finding a contending team that can pay him what he wants will be difficult, and those that have the cap space might not meet his range. To gauge the interest and fit Dinwiddie would have, seven of The Athletic’s NBA beat writers sat down and examined the 6-foot-5 guard’s potential suitors.
After he signed a three-year extension with the Nets in 2018, Dinwiddie said the following summer how he was looking forward to playing alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving and seeing how his game fit with theirs. That never really got to happen. Irving played just 20 games in his first season in Brooklyn while Durant rehabbed his torn Achilles. This past season, Dinwiddie tore his ACL just three games into the season, once again preventing him from playing alongside Brooklyn’s stars for an extended period of time. Since then, the Nets have traded for James Harden, giving Steve Nash two star point guards to stagger with the second unit.
But the Nets’ postseason injuries to Irving and Harden left Nash needing to rely on Mike James as a backup point guard, which hurt their playmaking and also led to Durant playing more point guard. He’s fully capable but was already carrying a heavy workload. Re-signing Dinwiddie would be the ultimate form of load management, as it gives Nash the ability to rest Harden and Irving more and further stagger his stars. But it would also sink the Nets further into the luxury tax and make one of the most expensive teams in the NBA’s history.
Dinwiddie said he’d have a hard time turning down the Nets if they offered him a deal in the range of five years and $125 million, and it’s harder to see the Nets coming anywhere near that number. Brooklyn is all in for a title and could use Dinwiddie, but he would be returning from his second ACL tear (on different knees) to a smaller role and not the contract he was looking for, with the chance to bring a title to the organization he helped revive. Point guards come a dime a dozen, and the Nets don’t necessarily need an insurance option as expensive as Dinwiddie to run point behind Harden and Irving. If he wants a bigger role and likely more money, the Nets are unlikely to satisfy Dinwiddie. If he wants to compete for a title but potentially not get full market value, and be a favorite for Sixth Man of the Year, then a reunion makes sense.
Boston could be an appealing option for both Dinwiddie and Brooklyn, as the Celtics can only get into the mix via sign-and-trade. They have an $11 million trade exception remaining from the sign-and-trade deal with Charlotte for Gordon Hayward last offseason, but that obviously is well below where Dinwiddie thinks his market will be and even where it honestly should be. But they can do a trade including one of Marcus Smart or Al Horford to make Dinwiddie a competitive offer and give the Nets something they could want.
Horford seems highly unlikely considering how much he is making and that he seems to be past his prime, though he could be an upgrade over what Blake Griffin was giving them last season. But Smart is the real play here. He can bring the defensive tenacity and flexibility the Nets got from Bruce Brown last year while having a much more dynamic offensive game. Smart can function as an off-ball wing, a point guard when just Durant is on the floor and a microball five when they need him to. There could be other sign-and-trade opportunities for Brooklyn that make more sense, especially considering Smart is on the last year of his deal. But Smart is a proven postseason leader on the side of the ball where the Nets need the most support and, well, they can get a pretty clear sign-off on his fit from his former teammate Irving.