New York, N.Y. — Spencer Dinwiddie was one of the Pistons’ green tomatoes, the first draft pick when after Stan Van Gundy took over the helm in 2014. He was a second-round pick, with plenty of upside, as a 6-foot-6 point guard out of the University of Colorado.
Dinwiddie brimmed with potential but had a tough time getting playing time with the Pistons in his two seasons in Detroit. He played 34 games as a rookie and 12 games last season, starting only one game in his Pistons career.
After the Pistons traded for Reggie Jackson, the writing was on the wall that Dinwiddie wouldn’t get significant playing time. In June, Dinwiddie was traded to the Bulls and now with the Brooklyn Nets, he has found new roots — and he’s finally getting his big break.
In 46 games, he has 16 starts and is posting the best numbers of his career: 7 points, 2.6 assists and 3.2 rebounds in 23 minutes. Van Gundy is glad to see that Dinwiddie is finally getting a shot.
“A big part of development is opportunity — and we could offer him that. He tiptoed in the beginning, trying to figure it out,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. “With more minutes, he’s getting better. He’s a good kid. We’re pushing him to be more assertive — and that’s easier said than done.”
With injuries to regular starter Jeremy Lin, Atkinson has given the starting role to Dinwiddie, 23, who is playing the best basketball of his career, with extended time. For a young player, gaining confidence and having a team get behind you is a boost.
It’s just a case of getting enough time to learn the ropes and get his feet under him.
“You’re playing, you get a chance to get more consistent and get a chance to work through mistakes. Any basketball player needs that,” Dinwiddie said Tuesday. “It’s still (Lin’s) team and he’s had the unfortunate situation of being injured a lot. It’s the next-man-up philosophy and we’re trying to close this out on a high note and build for next year.”
The Nets already are eliminated from the playoffs, but more than just playing out the string of games left in the season, they’re trying to establish a winning culture by giving their young guys playing time — and that includes Dinwiddie and former Michigan standout Caris LeVert.
As the Pistons were ascending, they were trying to build a more veteran presence, which nudged the opportunity away from Dinwiddie, but Van Gundy has seen the improvement from afar.
“He’s played really well. It’s like a lot of things, when guys get an opportunity: he didn’t really get an opportunity with us, but played some really good games,” Van Gundy said.
“He played a great game at the Lakers last year, then he got hurt. The combination of him being young and people in front of him, I didn’t get him a great opportunity — and on top of that, he had injuries at some inopportune times.”
There was the game against the Washington Wizards in 2015, when Dinwiddie had 20 points and eight assists — the day before the Pistons traded for Jackson. He also posted his first double-double with 10 points and 10 assists against the Bulls that season. Last season, he posted 17 points and four assists against the Lakers.
There just weren’t enough opportunities to show more.
With the Nets, Dinwiddie has thrived, with 16 games in double figures and more consistent playing time. The Nets are struggling through a tough season, but the best thing for young players is getting court time.
Pistons at Bulls
Tipoff: 8 p.m. Wednesday, United Center, Chicago
Outlook: The Bulls are nipping at the heels of the Pistons and Miami Heat for the final playoff spot in the East. They plummeted after losing seven of eight with Dwyane Wade (elbow) missing the rest of the season.