Should the Brooklyn Nets Start or Bench Spencer Dinwiddie Once Kyrie Irving Returns?
With Brooklyn starting Point Guard Kyrie Irving’s return date imminent, Spencer Dinwiddie’s inspired play is going to force the coaching staff to make a tough decision.
The Brooklyn Nets have played their most consistent stretch of basketball of the season with Irving on the sideline hampered by a shoulder injury. During this time, Dinwiddie has been a key factor in the team's strong play. Over the last 8 games since taking over as the makeshift starter, the fifth-year guard has averaged 24.5 points and 7.8 assists per game whilst knocking down 2.3 three’s a contest. These numbers earned him the Eastern Conference player of the week for games played from Monday, Nov. 18 through Sunday, Nov. 24. Hence the decision on who to start once Irving returns is going to be a challenging one.
Although the Nets have played inferior opposition over the previous 8 games, a 6-2 record is nothing to sneeze at and changing the starting lineup has the potential to disrupt team chemistry. The possibility of starting both Irving and Dinwiddie in the backcourt together is an option that has been discussed by many fans. Having two elite ballhandling threats on the floor together would no doubt cause opposition defenses headaches. James Harden/Russell Westbrook and Damian Lillard/CJ McCollum are both prime examples of how two high usage players have managed to co-exist together in a starting lineup for successful teams.
A surprising development to come from the previous 8 games is that Dinwiddie has actually elevated his play against NBA starters. Most bench players are considered less talented than the starters, so for Spencer’s play to improve against better opposition is a real testament to the player he has become.
The main concern with starting both Irving and Dinwiddie together, is whether they can individually play their best basketball alongside another ball-dominant player. Although they both can be threats off the ball as catch and shoot three-point shooters, they predominantly do their best work with the ball in their hands scoring or creating for others. If Coach Kenny Atkinson is going to go down this route, he will have to find a way to stagger their minutes and have one of them on the floor at all times. As much as all Nets fans love Theo Pinson, he can’t be playing 15-20 minutes against high quality teams, creating the need to stagger both Irving and Dinwiddie’s minutes.
Garrett Temple’s strong recent play is another factor as to why the coaching staff will find it difficult to decide who starts in the backcourt. Since Caris LeVert went down with a thumb injury vs Portland, Temple has filled in admirably and seems to be improving every game with the Nets. His defensive intensity, leadership and knockdown three-point shooting has vindicated Brooklyn’s decision to sign him in free agency this summer.
Kyrie Irving’s return looks like it will come in the next week according to Coach Atkinson, with Irving participating in on-court work over the weekend. With Irving being the Nets marquee player, there is no doubt he will slide straight back into the starting lineup. The question is whether Temple will be relegated back to a bench role to allow Dinwiddie to continue his momentum with the starting unit. This may be a moot point, as for the Nets to work best as a team they just need to have either Irving or Dinwiddie running the point for the full 48 minutes, regardless of the starting lineup. As long as Coach Atkinson can achieve this, I’m sure all Nets fans will be content.