What Washington Wizards fans talk about when we talk about Spencer Dinwiddie

Spencer Dinwiddie #26 of the Washington Wizards. (Photo by C. Morgan Engel/Getty Images)
Spencer Dinwiddie #26 of the Washington Wizards. (Photo by C. Morgan Engel/Getty Images) /

When the Washington Wizards recruited Spencer Dinwiddie to be their starting point guard for the foreseeable future, the idea was that Dinwiddie would be the antithesis of Russell Westbrook. Smaller usage rate, fewer turnovers, and a more deliberate point guard at half the price.

And mostly, they were right. Dinwiddie’s usage rate this season is 21% compared to Westbrook’s 30% last year. He averages three fewer turnovers a game than Westbrook, and because he’s more deliberate with the ball and a more efficient shooter, his offensive rating this year and higher than Westbrook’s last year (107 vs. 105).

At less than half the price, Dinwiddie is giving the Wizards 76% of the production in points, 55% of the production in assists, and 56% of the production in turnovers—that is, if you even everything out in terms of possessions.

This all sounds like a win and a smart roster change for the Wizards’ front office. Yet, something is off. The Wizards are 5-11 since starting the season 10-3. They’ve lost winnable games in embarrassing fashion, and while Bradley Beal is having his worst season in quite some time, the eye-test tells you something isn’t right at the point guard position.

So what’s going on with Spencer Dinwiddie’s play?

There’s been a noticeable decrease in Dinwiddie’s offensive prowess since the start of the season. Here are his splits for each month according NBA.com:

October: 19.8 points on 16.2 shots per game, including 40% from beyond the arc.

November: 12.8 points on 10.7 shots per game, including 35.1% from beyond the arc.

December: 7.7 points on 9.1 shots per game, including 29.7% from beyond the arc.

There’s nothing wrong with your point guard taking fewer shots, but they have to affect the game elsewhere. Either their assists or their free throw numbers see an increase and the production balances itself out on the defensive end.

But that’s not the case with Dinwiddie. His assist numbers are exactly the same and his free throw attempts are almost half (2.4) of what they were in the first month of the season (4.2). On the defensive side, he’s regressed as well.

It doesn’t take a sharp analytical eye to see that Dinwiddie’s aggression has faded as the season has progressed. He’s not attacking mismatches, and he seems all too willing to give up the rock.

Is there an obvious solution?

Are “effort” and “grit” the easy fix?

Considering what Wizards fans have experienced with John Wall (bone spurs) and Russell Westbrook (quad injury), it’s fair to wonder if Spencer Dinwiddie is dealing with lingering issues from his recent ACL tear.

Did he tweak it in practice and is now playing a safer, less impactful game? Or are the missed games hindering his ability to build real offensive cohesion with Bradley Beal and the other starters?

Maybe Dinwiddie’s poor shooting numbers are having a compound effect on his game (let’s call it Ben Simmons Syndrome). Wall and Westbrook never let a poor shooting night stop them from staying aggressive on the offensive end, but Dinwiddie is a much more methodical player. His slower pace of play means he has fewer chances to affect the box score, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to learn that Dinwiddie is hyper-aware of every play he makes on the court.

If he isn’t feeling confident, he will not waste a possession by taking a shot. But the irony is his lack of aggression makes the game harder for everyone around them. If he isn’t penetrating and getting to the basket, opposing teams can happily set up in a zone and spare themselves real defensive effort.

Whatever the cause of Dinwiddie’s uninspiring play, the solution can only come from himself. Whether that means taking time to heal an unknown injury or shaking himself free of his broken confidence, Dinwiddie needs to get right, or the rest of the Wizards will continue to suffer for it.