Wizards need to get Spencer Dinwiddie back on track

Spencer Dinwiddie attempts to evade a pair of Nuggets defenders

When the Wizards loaded up on depth this past offseason and went away from the top-heavy payroll that defined their roster in recent years, the idea was that they would be less reliant on individual players. Through the first few weeks of this season, that played out accordingly, as they overcame injuries and off-nights from their top scorers.

But over the last month or so, they have come to realize just how important it is for them to have Spencer Dinwiddie playing well. He's their starting point guard, their first line of both offense and defense. And when he goes, they go.

His trajectory this season has perfectly mirrored the Wizards' as a team. When they began the year 10-3, he averaged 17.0 points and 6.0 assists while shooting 42.9% from the field and 37.7% from three. In their last 15 games, which they have lost 10, he has averaged just 9.3 points and 4.3 assists while shooting 33.3% overall and 27.8% from deep.

Though it's a perfect correlation, that is not to suggest he has been their only problem. In fact, there are many things they need to fix. But as their starting point guard, clearly his play makes a difference in whether they win or lose.

Head coach Wes Unseld Jr. seems to see Dinwiddie's struggles partly through the prism of his developing chemistry with star shooting guard Bradley Beal, who has also played below his usual standards to start this season.

"We have to find a way to get those two on the same page and get them both aggressive and playing well on the offensive end. That's been a struggle for us," Unseld Jr. said.


"I think it's something that we've really gotta hone in on and figure out because they are two of our best players. We need them both playing at a high level and the best version of themselves."

There's no question Beal and Dinwiddie have struggled together. They have a -7.2 net rating as a duo across 403 minutes. Lineups with those two have a 98.7 offensive rating and 105.9 defensive rating.

Dinwiddie, 28, is coming off of a major injury, which may be part of the equation. He had surgery to repair a partially torn ACL in January and is only about 11 months removed from the procedure. He just happened to start the season really well, then go through some growing pains, instead of the other way around.

Even Unseld Jr. admitted it's confusing the way things have played out.

"That's the season in general, there can be lulls in how everyone plays. I'm hoping this is just a brief lull for him and we can get him back on track. But there's really no significant [differences] as far as [defensive] coverage or even what we're running, so it's kind of a mystery," Unseld Jr. said.

You can see in the numbers that Dinwiddie isn't quite back to playing the style that suited him before his injury. This season, he is shooting a career-low percentage of field goal attempts within three feet of the rim (15.2%), which helps prove he's not getting there nearly as often as he used to when he was thriving with the Brooklyn Nets. That is coupled by the fact he's a career 31.9% three-point shooter.

Dinwiddie is also averaging just 2.9 free throw attempts per game, far below the 7.0 free throws he took on average in 2019-20, his last healthy season in Brooklyn. Though the NBA is enforcing foul rules differently this season, that alone doesn't explain the drop-off.

Unseld Jr. expressed confidence Dinwiddie can get to the rim whenever he wants, that it's a matter of doing so at the right time with the right spacing and at the proper angle. The Wizards head coach believes the pick-and-roll is the key to getting Dinwiddie downhill, which is when he's at his best.

Beal says he and Dinwiddie can help each other out in that regard.

"I think just us both being aggressive. That's pretty much all I can point to. Whether it's us scoring or us play-making, we've gotta play a little bit faster," he said.

Dinwiddie's play isn't the sole reason for the Wizard's recent losing, but he was a significant cause for their success early this season. They need to find out how to bring that guy back.