DimeMag

How Spencer Dinwiddie Has Already Made The Mavericks Better

Four months with the Washington Wizards were seemingly not enough for Spencer Dinwiddie to rediscover his form of 2019-20 as a high-level offensive creator. He struggled to establish consistency, posted his worst scoring efficiency since 2015-16 — including a 50.1 percent true shooting — and lacked the necessary verve as a dribble-drive speedster.

During Dinwiddie’s six weeks with the Dallas Mavericks, all it took for him to rediscover that 2019-20 form was an eight-day layoff. In his first two games as a Maverick, he averaged six points and three assists while hoisting just 10 shots.

Since then, across 12 post-All-Star Break games, the 28-year-old is averaging 19.6 points and 4.3 assists on 62.5 percent true shooting (.494/.397/.794 split). He’s been integral to a surging Dallas squad that had found rhythm before his arrival, yet looks even more dangerous with him in the fold.

During this stretch, the Mavericks are 9-3 when Dinwiddie plays, featuring wins over the Jazz, Warriors (twice), Celtics, Nets, and Timberwolves — including game-winning triples from Dinwiddie against Boston and Brooklyn. Swapping him and Kristaps Porizingis has accommodated various pillars of the roster offensively, replacing an incongruent complementary player alongside Luka Doncic with a concordant one.

Although Dallas’ offensive rating sits just 17th since the All-Star Game, the manner in which Dinwiddie heightens this team’s attack is prevalent through both the film and an assortment of other numbers. And individually, the renaissance he’s enjoying is obvious. A longstanding hallmark of Dinwiddie’s offensive prowess is his explosion off the bounce. His ability to compromise defenders from a standstill empowered him to pilot an injury-riddled Nets team to the playoffs in 2019-20 and was a foremost allure when he entered free agency last summer.

Much of that dissipated in Washington. According to Cleaning The Glass, his rim frequency cratered from 38 percent (74th percentile) in 2019-20 to 21 percent (33rd percentile), while his finishing production fell from 60 percent (57th percentile) to 57 percent (40th percentile).

With Dallas, the former is up to 33 percent (74th percentile) and the latter is up to 65 percent (65th percentile). He just seems to have found the elite first step and start-stop ability that’s been the bedrock of his isolation and ball-screen creation, which has encouraged him to attack more often to better results. He’s lighter on his feet to change paces and directions before defenses can react, too.

Furthermore, by virtue of winning the initial battle with defenses routinely again, he’s back to his elite foul-drawing tendencies. His free-throw rate has ballooned from .291 in Washington to .440 in Dallas. He’s also trimmed the three-point rate from .459 to .405, largely the product of cutting out some pull-up triples, which have not been kind to him this year (29.9 percent).

The ripple effect of Dinwiddie’s own improvements is redefining a mediocre dribble-drive game for Dallas. Before his addition, the Mavericks ranked 12th in drives per game at 45.9, per NBA.com. Since he entered the lineup on Feb. 15, they’ve been second at 54.7. With more downhill juice moving forward, the hope would be they’re less reliant on Doncic’s do-it-all-nature and have more useful versatility on offense to avoid fatiguing him in key games, which has certainly been an issue at times in the last couple postseasons.

For instance Dallas was 14-15 with a 99.5 offensive rating on 51 percent true shooting in clutch situations before the All-Star Break. While there is almost assuredly some variance at work here, dastardly clutch play has plagued this team each of Doncic’s four seasons, so those numbers certainly aren’t just stemming from randomness. Post-All-Star Break, Dallas is 7-1 with a 134.3 offensive rating on 67.7 percent true shooting in clutch time. Dinwiddie is absolutely playing a role in that upward trajectory, even if the fickle nature of shot-making is also at hand to some degree.

His ability to thrive off the catch, whether it be as a spot-up presence (46.4 percent on catch-and-shoot threes with Dallas) or leveraging his burst pairs harmonically alongside someone like Doncic, who is constantly drawing help and setting up open threes. When defenses load up to quell Doncic’s creation, especially late in games, Dinwiddie has proven to burn them for that tactic.

Inversely, Dinwiddie provides the Mavericks another supreme advantage creator off of whom to play. While Jalen Brunson has been masterful this year, he’s better suited as a secondary scorer rather than holistic playmaker and doesn’t bend defenses to the magnitude someone like Dinwiddie can. A third perimeter creator and second beyond Doncic has been hugely beneficial. It’s easing much of the burden for Brunson during non-Doncic minutes, stationing another reliable ball-handler next to him.

Dallas sports a plus-12.4 net rating in the 439 possessions that Brunson and Dinwiddie have shared the floor sans Doncic. Brunson’s blend of footwork, shot fakes, and burst are lethal off the catch when defenses are scrambling to recover. The acquisition of Dinwiddie has increased those chances.

Before Dinwiddie, 33 percent of Brunson’s field goals were assisted. With the veteran guard in the fold, that number has risen to 51 percent. Brunson is an adept creator, but he’s assimilated seamlessly to a role featuring more off-ball reps and doesn’t have to toss the entire bag of pivots and fakes at defenders to catalyze the offense. Pre-All-Star Break, he averaged 16-5-4 on 57.9 percent true shooting. Post-All-Star Break, he’s averaging 15-3-3 on 59.4 percent true shooting. The adjustment is indiscernible on paper and the film displays someone who’s easily adapted.

Brunson isn’t the lone supporting cast member thriving with another creator around. Dorian Finney-Smith, who’s already playing the best hoops of his career, has been lights out amid Dinwiddie’s revival. He’s averaging 14-5.5-2 on 69 percent true shooting since games resumed, including a dynamite 45.2 percent clip beyond the arc. Whether it be spot-up threes or fakes into drives against a splintered defense, it just seems like the majority of his looks are high-quality these days. Dinwiddie plays a part in both of these prosperous month-long runs from vital members of the Mavericks.

With Dinwiddie in tow, Dallas now rosters a pair of ball-handlers who can simply torch switches. Brunson is certainly adroit as well, but Dinwiddie is another creator who is probably less susceptible to being quieted by disciplined wing defenders.

There’s also worthwhile contrast and overlap between the ways Doncic and Dinwiddie cook as scorers. Dinwiddie 0-60 acceleration leaves Doncic’s in the dust, while Doncic’s craft, with fakes and footwork, is perhaps a league-wide superlative. Yet they also win with size and physicality, comfortable applying their frames to yield comfortable shots.

That range of stylistic diversity will be — and has been — fruitful as the games assume greater gravity. Selling out to stop Doncic doesn’t immediately mean funneling the ball to unqualified creators. Dinwiddie will exploit that to a degree previous iterations of the Doncic-led Mavericks did not.

Dallas is 17.7 points better per 100 possessions with Dinwiddie on the court. His multifaceted creation has benefited himself and others. How he changes its postseason fortunes is already being showcased in the first six weeks of this partnership. Even if/when some regression comes (46.4 percent on spot-up threes and 63.6 percent on pull-up twos feels unsustainable), he’s layered novel dimensions into this squad. Dallas is rolling, and Dinwiddie sits near the top of the list of explanations.

A team that once didn’t quite have the flexibility necessary to secure a series victory now sits top 10 defensively and has diversified its offensive options. In channeling the Dinwiddie of old, he’s also helped further extinguish the Mavericks of old.

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