Spencer Dinwiddie
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Spencer Dinwiddie will provide a needed boost to the Brooklyn Nets struggling rotation. His relentless rim-attacking ways could pay major dividends.

Matt Brooks

Things in the eastern conference are starting to get a little murky. Not long ago, the Brooklyn Nets were firmly in sixth-place and were practically a playoff lock. Since then, things have changed.

Brooklyn’s biggest rivals at the bottom of the Eastern Conference have found their footing. Detroit is currently 7-3 in their last ten games and has looked outstanding with a reinvigorated Andre Drummond in their lineup. Orlando has also won 7 of its last 10 games, and just recently took down the defending champs, the Golden State Warriors Not to mention, the Magic have the fourth-easiest schedule according to Tankathon.com.

The Charlotte Hornets are a threat too, given that they have an All-Star talent in Kemba Walker leading the way.

Brooklyn has meanwhile looked pretty underwhelming over the last month and some change. Since Spencer Dinwiddie went down with a thumb injury on Jan. 24th, the team has gone 6-8. Brooklyn has seen a decline in pretty much every single offensive category. Their offensive rating has dropped off from 13th (110.1 points per 100 possessions) to 27th (106.2 per 100).

Not only has the Nets’ volume of scoring declined, but Brooklyn has also seen its efficiency wane. Brooklyn’s true shooting percentage of 56.4 was 11th-best in the NBA prior to Jan. 24th. Since then, that number has dropped to all the way 54 percent; 28th in the association.

Being a sub-.500 team since January has shrunk Brooklyn’s advantage over it’s Eastern Conference foe. The Nets are currently 32-31 with a 1.5 game lead over the seventh-place Pistons. (They have a sturdy three-game lead over the Orlando Magic).

Brooklyn’s number one goal for the rest of the season should be to maintain sixth-place in the East. If the season ended today, the Nets are aligned to play the Indiana Pacers as visitors in the first round. Even though the Pacers are a defensively-savvy powerhouse, this would be the preferable choice compared to the Toronto Raptors or the Milwaukee Bucks.

Fortunately for Brooklyn, things are about to get a whole lot easier. Per Thursday’s news, Spencer Dinwiddie is set to join the team against the Charlotte Hornets on no minute restrictions.

Dinwiddie brings many things to the table for the Brooklyn Nets. But the biggest is offensive versatility.

Coach Kenny Atkinson runs a “Moreyball” system in that he streamlines his offense towards at-rim shots and open threes. While Dinwiddie was out, Atkinson was able to maintain the three-point shooting barrage. With Allen Crabbe returning to full strength, Joe Harris showcasing continued brilliance, and D’Angelo Russell attempting pull-up threes from near half court, the team hasn’t missed a beat from deep.

Painted area shots are a different story. With Caris LeVert still recovering, the team hasn’t been able to get much going around the hoop outside of the occasional Joe Harris bail-out drive.

If Dinwiddie looks fully healthy, this will all change. There’s no other way to put this: Spencer Dinwiddie is a restricted area god.

Of players who take 3 shots per game inside the circle, Spencer Dinwiddie’s incredulous 67.7 field-goal percentage ranks fourth among guards (next to guys like Jimmy Butler, Bradley Beal, DeMar DeRozan, Ben Simmons, and Eric Bledsoe). Given that he has the ball most of the time, a majority of these shots come off the dribble.

Din’s primary instinct while dribbling is to put his head down and force his way to the rim, and he’s remarkably efficient at it. Spencer’s 52.4 field-goal percentage off drives is a top-20 mark in the association.

The loss of such a relentless attack to the basket has made the Nets look somewhat one-dimensional. Brooklyn went from a league-leader in drives per game to a middle-of-the-road team. Losing six whole drives each game is a tumultuous fate for a playoff team and it greatly inhibits Brooklyn’s explosiveness.

Dinwiddie’s drives also produce plenty of free throws: the easiest shots in basketball. Spencer was, by far and wide, Brooklyn’s leader at the stripe; he earns around five attempts per game. The next closest in this category is DeMarre Carroll and his 3.8 free throw attempts. Having Dinwiddie back on the floor will provide Brooklyn with more freebie points. And I’m sure we can all agree that would be a very nice thing.

D’Angelo Russell has been truly remarkable since the start of the new year. He’s put up some tremendous performances and has showcased the ability to heat-up without notice at an alarming regularity.

Not too long ago, it was Dinwiddie who was taking the NBA by storm in a similar, red-hot fashion.

Now, Brooklyn will once again have two guys who can abruptly catch fire. At the peak of their powers, Dinwiddie and D-Lo would alternate quarters while torching opposing teams with their scoring. They were the perfect Batman and Robin in this regard, providing 48 minutes of explosive offense.

Dinwiddie gives Brooklyn a go-to guy in the fourth quarter. Over the season, Dinwiddie has averaged 5.4 points on 50 percent from the field and 38.8 percent from three. (Those are his best numbers of any quarter.)

D’Angelo Russell, on the other hand, isn’t as effective in the final quarter of games. He’s averaged a shrug-inducing 4.2 points on iffy shooting splits (39.3 FG percent/27.9 3P percent). If anything, Russell prefers to do his damage during the third-quarter; he averages 5.8 points on 48.3/43.7 splits.

Lately, Russell has turned up the intensity. With Dinwiddie out of the picture, D-Lo has averaged 5.7 points in February fourth quarters.

If all goes right, with Dinwiddie here to stay, Brooklyn can deploy two point guards capable of scoring 11-plus points in fourth quarters. If for whatever reason, D-Lo regresses a bit, Brooklyn will still have Dinwiddie’s dependable offense to fall back on in close games.

Fans will get their first glimpse of Spencer Dinwiddie on Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET when the Brooklyn Nets play host to the Charlotte Hornets.

An NBA fanatic who specializes in the advanced analytics of the game. I cover the Brooklyn Nets here in the city. Follow me on Twitter for semi-witty basketball tweets. @MattBrooksNBA