Spencer Dinwiddie has turned down the player’s option on his contract with the Brooklyn Nets, and although free agency is still over a month away, a return to his former team seems unlikely. The Nets already have two star goaltenders in Kyrie Irving and James Harden, and they should line up one of basketball’s most expensive lineups before they even re-sign some of their own free agents. So if a return to Brooklyn isn’t in the cards, where could the veteran free agent end up?
Two forces that motivate Dinwiddie’s decision, according to Kristian Winfield of the New York Daily News. The first is quite common: Dinwiddie “wants the bag,” according to Winfield, so money will certainly play a part in the proceedings. Beyond the money, however, Dinwiddie would also like to return home to Los Angeles, if possible.
Dinwiddie grew up in Los Angeles and spent the season there recovering from his partially torn ACL. He’s never played an NBA game for the Lakers or the Clippers, but you have to imagine that both teams would be interested. Three key Lakers guards – Dennis Schroder, Alex Caruso and Talen Horton-Tucker – are all free agents this offseason. The same goes for Reggie Jackson and Nicolas Batum, the Clippers’ main ball handlers.
The main obstacle to a deal would apparently be finances. The Lakers and Clippers plan to be well above the salary cap this offseason and likely also deep into the luxury tax. This means that they are unlikely to have the financial resources available to sign Dinwiddie directly. They might offer him a big deal through a sign-and-swap deal or try to convince him to take less than it’s worth through the mid-level exception for non-taxpayers, but the two maneuvers would impose a hard cap on their spending which would probably be untenable given the rest of their lists. Realistically, both teams are going to be confined with the exception of the mid-level taxpayer, which has peaked at three years and around $ 18.5 million this season. Dinwiddie is worth more than that.
The Lakers or the Clippers could pledge to stay below the hard cap like both have done this season. This would allow them to sign Dinwiddie with the mid-level non-taxpayer exception or acquire it through signature and exchange. But as it stands, the Lakers plan to only have around $ 20 million wiggle room below that line if Montrezl Harrell signs up. Signing Dinwiddie while keeping one of their own free agents and filling out the roster would be extremely difficult. The Clippers would have an even harder time doing it. If you assume that Kawhi Leonard re-signs for the maximum and Serge Ibaka accepts his player option, they’ve already passed the expected hard cap number. They should give up their paycheck just to give themselves the chance to trigger it. It would be much easier for both teams to focus on retaining their own players and adding outside talent on smaller free agent contracts and through deals.
But never say never in the NBA. If Dinwiddie wants to get to Los Angeles enough, there’s always a way to do it. He was almost an All-Star during the 2019-20 season, so the Lakers and Clippers would likely be interested if he’s willing to compromise.