Spencer Dinwiddie is thriving with the Chicago Bulls
Once traded this summer by the Detroit Pistons and subsequently waived by the Chicago Bulls, Spencer Dinwiddie is now thriving in the Windy City.
Spencer Dinwiddie has had a whirlwind of a summer. The third-year point guard was traded by the Detroit Pistons to the Chicago Bulls in June for Cameron Bairstow, only to get waived by the Bulls in July as they pursued Dwyane Wade in free agency.
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While the trade to the Bulls was ostensibly to present Dinwiddie with an opportunity to play – an opportunity that at the time appeared would not come for him in Detroit – it goes without saying that he would now be the clear favorite for the Pistons’ third-string point guard. Not typically a glamour position, it’s an essential spot right now with the injury to Reggie Jackson which will keep him out of action for up to 20 regular season games.
While Ray McCallum and Lorenzo Brown are doing battle for that spot now, there wouldn’t be much need for that competition if Dinwiddie was still in Detroit.
Point guard might be the most difficult position for a young player to step right in and play at a high level in the NBA. Similar to being the quarterback in the NFL, you have to be able to read defenses and run your offense effectively, and talent alone isn’t enough. There’s no substitute for experience when you’re a young point guard, and it has to be NBA experience if you want to actually excel at that position in the league.
“It’s one of those things that, probably that position more than any other, it requires game experience. No point guard is going to come right off the bat and be perfect without going through the bumps and bruises and getting that game experience,” Dinwiddie told me when we spoke recently. “So until obviously I’m able to find my role and my niche and get to that point, I’m going to have my rough patches.”
Spencer Dinwiddie is now earning his stripes in Chicago. After the Bulls waived him on July 7th to clear cap space to sign Wade, the organization wasted no time in letting Dinwiddie know that he was still part of the team’s plans going forward.
“There wasn’t a very long waiting period. They just said, look, here’s what’s going to happen, we’re making roster moves, we need your money, we have to waive you,” Dinwiddie said. “We still like you, we’d like you to come back for summer league.”
Fortunately, Dinwiddie didn’t have to wait long to get back on the floor as summer league got started just a couple of days after the waiving, and before most of the general NBA public knew it, he was back on the bench for the Bulls in Las Vegas.
In fact, the first hint that his time with the Bulls might not be at its ultimate conclusion was during the first summer league game when cameras showed him on the bench.
This summer league for Dinwiddie was a unique one. He was playing without a contract and essentially auditioning for a contract, or at least a training camp invitation.
He excelled in summer league. He averaged 10.5 points, playing 24.6 minutes per game in seven appearances and helped lead the Bulls to a summer league title.
Thanks to that performance, he earned himself a $2 million contract over two years with the Chicago Bulls, with the first year guaranteed.
In his play so far with the Bulls in the preseason, Dinwiddie has played 14.4 minutes per game in five appearances, including one start. He’s averaging 6.6 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game while hitting 58.3 percent of his 24 field goal attempts.
Now that his role as an NBA player is a bit more secure, Spencer Dinwiddie’s goal for the coming season is clear. He has been battling Jerian Grant and Isaiah Canaan for the backup spot in the preseason, and while he’s gotten the fewest minutes of the trio, he may actually have been the most effective so far.
“I just want to earn the backup spot. That’s the main thing,” Dinwiddie told me. “I’ve been in the league a couple of years and I haven’t really played much, but I believe in my talent and my ability to make shots and play and defend, and to be a big athletic presence out there at the guard spot. So my only focus is just to get the backup spot and help the team win.”
The Bulls have an interesting and somewhat problematic fit to their roster, primarily in the backcourt. In an era where spacing is crucial, they acquired Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade, two players who will likely start and who are noted for their inability to shoot from the outside. They also recently acquired Michael Carter-Williams from the Milwaukee Bucks, another player at the point guard position who is long and athletic but isn’t a shooter by any stretch.
It complicates the outlook for the Bulls roster on paper, and it gives Dinwiddie one more hurdle to overcome. Prior to the trade, there was talk that Dinwiddie could be the backup to Rondo. Now there are whispers that Carter-Williams might start and Rondo may back him up.
“I think that it (the Bulls’ roster configuration) is mainly strange on paper because of the way the league is going. When certain styles are en vogue, if you’re not part of that trend, you’re going to be looked at as weird. But you know, we have two bonafide shot makers,” Dinwiddie said. “Two guys that when they get off the bus, you gotta put at least 17, 18 points in the box. And then you have Rondo, who is going to be an a 8+ assist type guy. You’re looking at like 50 points right off the jump. And then the rest of it, guys need to make plays.”
While Dinwiddie loves being in Chicago and is grateful for the opportunity the Bulls have given him, he does miss his former teammates back in Detroit.
“I didn’t really play enough for the fans to boo me, so it’s not going to be a super-heightened emotional experience from that aspect. But it will be kind of foreign walking in as ‘the enemy’, and all the guys are really great guys,” Dinwiddie said when I asked about his feelings towards coming back to the Palace of Auburn Hills in future visits as the road team. “There’s a really great group of guys in that locker room, just man to man, they’re all really nice people and I still have friends on that roster. So it’ll be nice seeing them.”
It’s never been an easy road for Spencer Dinwiddie in the NBA. His draft stock faltered after tearing his ACL in January of 2014, just five months before the NBA draft. The Pistons benefited when he fell to them in the second round, making Dinwiddie Piston head coach and president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy’s first ever pick (the Pistons didn’t have a first round pick).
His journey may have become more complicated with the Bulls’ acquisition of Michael Carter-Williams, but Spencer Dinwiddie is too smart and talented for an obstacle like that to be anything more than a bump in the road. Pistons fans will continue to keep an eye on him as his journey continues.