Mavericks: Brunson’s departure presents massive opportunity for Spencer Dinwiddie

Dallas Mavericks guards Jalen Brunson and guard Spencer Dinwiddie (Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)
Dallas Mavericks guards Jalen Brunson and guard Spencer Dinwiddie (Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports) /

The writing had been on the wall for months — Jalen Brunson was destined to ditch the Dallas Mavericks for Madison Square Garden. A family reunion to the tune of $104 million was hard to turn down, even if it meant giving up a chance to compete for a title alongside one of this generation’s basketball megastars in Luka Doncic.

Although his presence will be missed, the Mavericks are the deepest they’ve been since Doncic was drafted, lining a roster with 3-point marksmen, athletic bigs and defense-oriented role players. Dallas was active through the offseason, acquiring Houston’s Christian Wood for pennies on the dollar and three-time champion JaVale McGee to shore up the frontcourt.

Still, the second guard position next to Doncic is up for grabs and there’s one man who’s best positioned to take a step forward in his first full year with the franchise.

Spencer Dinwiddie is the Mavericks’ key to overcoming the Brunson loss.

Smooth as silk with the ball in his hands, 29-year-old combo guard Spencer Dinwiddie knows how to make his presence felt. A rangy guard with excellent passing accuracy and a buttery jumper, Dinwiddie has made an instant impact whenever healthy through the last five seasons of his career. Somewhat of a late bloomer in the league, Dinwiddie is far from a household name, but he’s also the type of player who teammates feel comfortable going to war with in the postseason.

With the Mavericks, Brunson was primarily a secondary facilitator and shot creator next to Doncic, but when the star headed to the bench for some rest, it was Brunson’s show. That’s when his pick-and-roll reps went through the roof, clearing the way for some impressive finishing or passing out to rotating shooters and rolling big men. It’s a function that perfectly fits his ability and empowered him as a shot creator to such a degree that he earned a historic contract for a second-round draft pick.

This job now turns over to Dinwiddie, who is perfectly suited to link the bench and starters as a high-usage facilitator and shot creator. His career percentages may not show it, but Dinwiddie is a skilled scorer at all three levels who can fire away from the mid-range or deep 3-point land at will; whether it be off the dribble or through spot-ups. What most people don’t expect is Dinwiddie’s keen passing. He’s excellent at changing his pace to catch defenders off balance and command attention across the floor, putting him in positions to hit open cutters or shooters off the drive.

Like a true floor general, Dinwiddie does a nice job of identifying which players have the hot hand and making sure the ball gets to their hands in ideal positions. While this might not seem like much of a skill, it takes awareness and IQ that often go underappreciated by the masses. His overall Playmaking grade from Basketball Index ranked at an A, finishing in the 91st percentile or higher in Passing Efficiency, Passing Creation Volume and High-Value Assists per 75 possessions.

Dinwiddie also has impressive body control which gets put to use when he stops on a dime to make a quick, unexpected pass or shifts laterally to create space for a leaning jumper. This comes into use on many occasions, but none more spectacular than on the fastbreak. Dinwiddie’s transition play is terrific as he zips passes through traffic or pulls off awe-inspiring buckets with his dribbling trickery.

The last several seasons haven’t been kind to Dinwiddie between injuries and turmoil within his teams, but he was stellar for the Mavericks. The 6-foot-5 guard posted roughly 16 points and four assists per game in Dallas on 49.8% from the field and 40.4% from 3-point land through 23 games.

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So yes, letting go of Brunson for nothing was a tough blow, but that loss will be mitigated by expanding Dinwiddie’s role for a Mavericks team with championship aspirations.