Spencer Dinwiddie is one of the two longest-tenured Nets, a holdover from general manager Sean Marks’ first full season in 2016-17, but that tenure could be drawing to a close.
The veteran guard opted out of the $12.3 million final year of his contract, and will become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Considering Dinwiddie’s value on the market — despite the partially torn ACL that kept him out most of this past season — that was a given. What remains to be seen is where he’ll end up, how he will get there and how much he will be paid.
The Knicks, Lakers, Clippers and Bulls have all been suggested as potential landing spots for Dinwiddie, either via free agency or a sign-and-trade.
“Obviously Spencer has put himself in a position to secure his future long-term,” Marks said. “We’d obviously love to play a role in that, whether that’s here or whether we can help him.”
The Nets, who plucked both Dinwiddie and Joe Harris off the proverbial scrap heap in 2016, can still re-sign Dinwiddie. But that’s more possible than plausible, due to both finances and the Los Angeles native’s purported desire to go back home.
James Harden and Kyrie Irving make up not only arguably the NBA’s most potent backcourt, but command an outsized chunk of the Nets’ salary cap. Dinwiddie proved himself a malleable and valuable defender before suffering his season-ending knee injury on Dec. 27. But with Harden and Irving healthy, he would be a luxury — one that would come at an extravagant price.
Dinwiddie’s decision to opt out was an easy one.
“I’m gonna be more than healthy by the time free agency starts, so just from a dollars perspective you kind of have to,” Dinwiddie told Forbes last month. “Twelve million dollars isn’t market value for a starting point guard. It’s probably about half, 20-25. So obviously it’s pretty concrete that I’m gonna opt out.”
For perspective, the Raptors’ Fred VanVleet and the Pacers’ Malcolm Brogdon are both on four-year, $85 million deals. Where can Dinwiddie get a similar payday?
“If Brooklyn wants to use my Bird Rights and sign me, I’d be thankful to be back and be able to go and try to win, hopefully, a second championship,” Dinwiddie said before the Nets lost to the Bucks in the Eastern Conference semifinals. “And if not, then as an unrestricted free agent you can kinda choose where you wanna go. It’s an interesting situation to be in.”
Even if the Nets were to re-sign Dinwiddie outright at $18 million, their luxury-tax bill would skyrocket from $40 million to $114 million, according to the team’s former assistant GM, Bobby Marks, now with ESPN. And that’s not even taking into consideration retaining restricted free agent Bruce Brown, or the cost of using the $5.9 million tax midlevel exception.
Should Dinwiddie walk for nothing, the Knicks seem a perfect landing spot. They have interest, as reported by The Post, and a trove of cap space. They also need more offensive punch and a lead guard in his prime. Dinwiddie, who averaged 20.6 points and 6.8 assists in the 2019-20 season, fills both roles.
The third option is a sign-and-trade, which would be the Nets’ best option since Dinwiddie is their best asset, aside from Harris or the Big 3.
Such a deal probably would not bring back equal value, such as Kyle Kuzma or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope from the Lakers. Dealing with a capped-out team will be complicated due to base-year compensation and the hard cap. But a three-team swap could work, and could result in the Nets acquiring a draft pick (needed after the trade that brought Harden to Brooklyn) and a sizeable trade exception.
Bobby Marks mused over a possible swap in which the Nets would deal Dinwiddie to the Bulls (he played for the G-League’s Windy City club), along with sending DeAndre Jordan’s bloated salary and this year’s first-round pick to the Thunder. They would end up with ex-Net Thaddeus Young, a 2026 Thunder second-round pick, a $9.9 million trade exception and freedom from the two years and $20 million still owed Jordan.
To be clear, it was more thought exercise than reporting. But it’s an educated look from the Nets’ former assistant GM on what a return for Dinwiddie could look like.