Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie suffered a partially torn ACL in his right knee, as The Athletic reported.
Dinwiddie injured himself during Sunday’s game in the third quarter while driving to the hoop against Charlotte Hornets center Bismack Biyombo and planting his right leg awkwardly.
Spencer Dinwiddie suffered a partially torn ACL, per @ShamsCharania. He has a $12.3 million player option next season. Caris LeVert, who has played the “Manu Ginobili” role off the bench according to Steve Nash, is a candidate to replace Dinwiddie as a starter for the Nets. pic.twitter.com/wYghkzevCY
— Michael Scotto (@MikeAScotto) December 28, 2020
Initially, the Nets ruled him out for the game with a right knee strain before further testing on Monday revealed the partially torn ACL.
With Dinwiddie set for surgery next week, HoopsHype polled five executives for their thoughts on what his injury means for Brooklyn’s chances to compete for a title and what he’ll do with his $12.3 million player option.
What’s next for the Nets?
On paper, Brooklyn was arguably the league’s deepest team, as Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens said recently. While Dinwiddie started in the backcourt alongside Kyrie Irving in all three games to begin the season, he also provided valuable point guard insurance. Irving has only played in 70 or more games just three times through his first nine seasons. Last season, Dinwiddie averaged 21.3 points, 7.3 assists, and 3.8 rebounds per game in the 49 games he started at point guard.
While the loss of Dinwiddie is a blow to the team, it doesn’t dramatically alter the team’s championship aspirations, according to a rival Eastern Conference general manager.
“The Nets are still championship contenders,” the rival Eastern Conference general manager told HoopsHype. “Injuries are part of every team’s season. If your All-Star goes down, then it doesn’t matter how deep you are if you want to contend for a title.”
Looking ahead, Caris LeVert, who had a breakout season for Brooklyn as a starter last season, is a candidate to rejoin the starting lineup. Before the season, Nets coach Steve Nash said, “Caris is a starter. Will he start for us? I’m not sure. He’s so good with the ball in his hands there’s a case to be made that he plays that (Manu) Ginobili role.”
If the Nets prefer to keep LeVert as the team’s top playmaker off the bench to lead the second unit, Brooklyn can turn to Landry Shamet or Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot at shooting guard. The Nets can also move Joe Harris to shooting guard and elevate forward Taurean Prince as a starter. Tyler Johnson and Bruce Brown should also earn more minutes now off the bench.
“Other than the hiccup against the Hornets, Brooklyn has looked potent out of the gate,” an Eastern Conference executive told HoopsHype. “The Nets were, and now are, looking for a reliable third scorer. It’s a tough break for the Nets in their pursuit of a championship and Dinwiddie in pursuit of his next contract. Next man up for LeVert, Shamet, and TLC.”
The Nets also have young assets and rotation players to make a trade if Brooklyn chooses that route.
“I think Brooklyn will look to trade for another point guard,” another Eastern Conference executive told HoopsHype. “They could look to move Spencer with a pick to get a player.”
In case you’re wondering about a James Harden trade, as Rockets beat writer Jonathan Feigen alluded to on the HoopsHype podcast, it was unlikely before. Now, with Dinwiddie injured, it becomes even more challenging.
A likely scenario is the Nets will apply for a Disabled Player Exception worth $5.7 million, worth half his salary, as ESPN’s Bobby Marks noted. The DPE can be used to sign, claim, or trade for a player in the last year of his contract. Brooklyn would need to clear a roster spot.
What’s next for Dinwiddie?
Dinwiddie will undergo surgery next week with an update to come afterward, according to the Nets.
He has a $12.3 million player option for next season. Before his injury, he was one of the top players available in our HoopsHype free-agent rankings. Now, executives are split on whether he’ll exercise his player option or become an unrestricted free agent.
“I think he’ll opt in now unless it’s really just a partial tear and not a standard ACL recovery,” a fourth Eastern Conference executive told HoopsHype. “The playoffs go until July. Can he come back in time for June or July? That gives him five or six months, literally. So if it’s that serious where he’s missing five or six months, tough to see him opting out for free agency, but if he can come back and play, then who knows.”
Another one of the Eastern Conference executives told HoopsHype he believes Dinwiddie will exercise his player option since he’s coming off his second ACL injury. Previously, Dinwiddie tore his left ACL in college at Colorado before entering the draft.
However, there’s also a belief among some executives that a partial ACL tear won’t significantly hurt his stock in a weak free-agent class this summer.
One rival general manager told HoopsHype he expects Dinwiddie to opt out of his contract and hit the market despite his injury. That same sentiment was expressed by a former Western Conference executive as well.
“I don’t think it hurts him overall,” the former Western Conference executive told HoopsHype. “There are a lot of teams with cap space next summer. If Brooklyn does well without him, they might not want him back if he opts out. The injury probably increases the likelihood he opts in slightly, but I doubt he exercises his player option.”
Dinwiddie has proven capable of being a starting-caliber point guard and has worked his way back from an ACL injury before. A $12.3 million salary is below a typical starting guard’s salary in the league.
As Dinwiddie contemplates his free agency future, he can also work on his digital token cryptocurrency project.
You can follow Michael Scotto on Twitter: @MikeAScotto