BROOKLYN, N.Y. — One of the most intriguing NBA G League alumni stories in the NBA this year has been the rise of Brooklyn Nets point guard Spencer Dinwiddie.
Heading into the 2017-18 season, the Grand Rapids Drive and Windy City Bulls alum was slated to be the Nets’ third-string point guard behind Jeremy Lin and D’Angelo Russell. But Dinwiddie kept his focus heading into the season opener.
“Just staying ready and working hard on the stuff that is usually pretty cliché,” Dinwiddie said of his aim heading into his fourth year. “All that stuff to stay ready – if and when your opportunity comes.”
With Lin suffering a season-ending injury in the opener and Russell going down with injury early as well, it was up to Dinwiddie to step up into the rotation and play heavy minutes. He more than answered the bell.
Heading into the final stretch of the season, Dinwiddie has blossomed into one of the NBA’s top fundamental point guards – ranking fifth in total assists and currently owning the best assist-to-turnover ratio of players who’ve played in 20 or more games this season.
He’s also had a knack for the dramatic, draining three game-winning buckets for the Nets in January.
Part of Dinwiddie’s success story is where he had a chance to hone his skills – the NBA G League. His breakout in Brooklyn places him into a group of standout minor-league alums that include the Heat’s Hassan Whiteside, the Jazz’s Rudy Gobert, the Sixers’ Robert Covington and many more.
Dinwiddie had his first taste of the NBA G League in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons as an assignment player with the Grand Rapids Drive when he was a member of the Detroit Pistons.
“[Other G League alums] all kind of have had their own different experience,” Dinwiddie said. “I went on assignment a couple of times with Detroit, trying to follow the script and doing what I was told in that perspective.”
Dinwiddie turned in solid performances in his 20 games with the Drive, averaging 14.1 points per game, 5.8 assists per game and 1.4 made triples per game. But heading into the 2016-17 season, Dinwiddie found himself a free agent back in the G League – as a full-time member of the Windy City Bulls.
With Windy City, Dinwiddie was under the tutelage of then-head coach and current Chicago Bulls assistant coach Nate Loenser. It was there that Dinwiddie saw the tides of his NBA career start to change.
“I credit my coach at the time, Nate, just for giving me the ball and letting me play and start,” Dinwiddie gratefully recalled.
Dinwiddie only played nine games with Windy City, but he shined bright under the spotlight. In his stint with Windy City, Dinwiddie put up 19.4 points, 8.1 assists and an impressive 2.2 steals per game. That was enough to get the attention of the Brooklyn Nets when he got his NBA call-up on Dec. 8, 2016.
“[Playing for Windy City started] me getting to Brooklyn,” Dinwiddie said. “So it was a good platform for me to develop during that time period and I’m very thankful for it.”
In the 2016-17 season, Dinwiddie made 59 appearances and started in 18 games for Brooklyn, averaging 7.3 points and 3.1 assists per contest as a role player for the Nets. But this year, Dinwiddie has seen his numbers rise to 12.1 points and 6.7 assists all while averaging only 1.6 turnovers per game. Totals-wise, Dinwiddie is only 84 points away from 1,000 this season as well as only 23 assists away from an even 500.
In the midst of this breakout season, Dinwiddie was invited to participate in the 2018 Taco Bell Skills Challenge at All-Star 2018 in Los Angeles. The NBA G League alum did not disappoint, besting Buddy Hield, Jamal Murray and Lauri Markkanen to capture the title.
“It was cool being there and being a part of the festivities,” Dinwiddie said. “The best part about winning [the Skills Challenge] was the reaction my family had. The weekend was in LA and I’m from there so I had quite a bit of family that attended and was able to be a part of the situation – so that was the most special part about the event.”
With Brooklyn fighting to finish the season strong, Dinwiddie is appreciative of the system he’s been a part of with the Nets.
“[Playing with Brooklyn has] been a lot of fun,” Dinwiddie said. “Just to be able to read and react, and be in an offense where a lot of people get a lot of shots and have a lot of opportunity to make plays. I think we’ve seen a lot of players play well over the course of this year for us and we’re just trying to put it all together and hopefully it becomes wins.”
And to the NBA G League players looking for that NBA Call-Up, Dinwiddie offers one simple piece of advice that helped him grasp his opportunity.
“All the cliché stuff that everybody says but doesn’t necessarily take to heart, that’s honestly all you can do,” he said. “All you have to do is put your best foot forward every time you get on the floor and stay ready and hopefully have the blessing of staying healthy and take advantage of the opportunities when you get them.”
— NBA G League (@nbagleague) March 21, 2018