There is no time like the offseason for player movement conjecture to run rampant through NBA fanbases. The games have stopped — and in this case, the games are on pause until further notice — so rumors, innuendo, and reports are precious breadcrumbs upon which hungry fans feast.
Plausibility only matters until it doesn’t. First you’re hemming and hawing over pick protection in made-up deals, and then the next thing you know, a paper-thin ‘Joel Embiid-to-the-Rockets-for-Russell Westbrook’ rumor sends Basketball Twitter into a tizzy.
Sixers fans, especially, have taken to the trade machine with great vigor recently. The Sixers are, of course, a team full of mismatched parts, albatross contracts, archaic positionality, and minimal optionality. A great deal of the trades wafting around Sixers internet circles come from fans hellbent on finding new zip codes for Al Horford and/or Tobias Harris.
It makes sense — those two players received two of the most crippling contracts in the NBA last year, and their departures would seem to alleviate both the team’s spacing and its cap space in one fell swoop.
After Horford and Harris, fans next turn their gaze towards guard Josh Richardson, who played a rather uninspiring first year in Philadelphia, punctuated by the team’s expeditious sweep in the Orlando bubble at the hands of the Boston Celtics.
Richardson is not without his supporters among the fanbase — I am one. It is my belief that Richardson was completely miscast on this year’s team. As the only guard in the starting lineup, the organization loaded up Richardson’s plate with more than he could handle. He can’t shoot like JJ Redick, and he can’t run the pick-and-roll like Jimmy Butler. He’s a good defender, but he’s a meh shooter on a team that needs good shooters and decisive playmakers. In my opinion, if the Sixers’ new brain trust was able to rebalance the starting lineup with the proper offensive players, the team’s fans would be able to appreciate the grittiness and intangibles that Richardson brings to the table.
Alas, as the Sixers are playing with a half-deck this offseason (make no mistake, it’s a deck they depleted, themselves), it’s unlikely they will be able to improve the roster and also retain Josh Richardson. Harris and Horford are seen as negative-value contracts throughout the league. Despite his uneven season, Richardson is a player sure to have suitors around the league whenever he inevitably hits the open market. Entering the last season on a good, equal-value $10 million contract, he is really the one guy who the Sixers could sell that could return a better-fitting player without the Sixers having to tie a first-round pick in the deal in order to make it worth the other team’s while. Even if Richardson stays, given the team’s current financial situation, Josh Harris and company are highly unlikely to go over the cap for a player of his caliber. In a trade for Richardson, the Sixers ought to search for a guard more adept at scoring and shooting, even if that means sacrificing something on the defensive end.
Enter Spencer Dinwiddie.
On the precipice of his seventh year in the league at age 27, the combo guard has solidified his position as a quality scoring option for the Brooklyn Nets. Since 2017, Dinwiddie has increased his scoring each year, eventually rising to 20 points per game last season. Poring over his Basketball Reference page, the negative that jumps out is his 3-point percentage. For someone who seems pretty well-regarded as a quality scorer and shooter, Dinwiddie shot only 30 percent on 3s last year and 33 percent the season before. Last season, the guard attempted a career-high six 3-pointers per game as the Nets played out the string in a transitional year without new acquisitions Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. The hope from a Sixers perspective would be that his 3-point numbers are due for some positive regression — for his career, he has shot 48 percent on twos and 80 percent at the free throw line. In his final season at Colorado before entering the NBA draft, he drained 41 percent of his long-range attempts.
Contractually, he has $11 million guaranteed next season, before a player option for $12 million the following year that he is very likely to turn down.
Dinwiddie’s game reads a bit redundant with that of Irving. Both players can score with the ball in their hands and off the catch, and neither player is an accomplished defender. The Nets are a team with championship aspirations from the moment Durant and Irving share the court together, although their roster currently consists of no one exceptionally willing or able to guard opposing scoring guards. Richardson could fill that role for them. As KD and Kyrie gobble up all the shots, they could enlist J-Rich to purely run in transition and dog opposing ball-handlers on a nightly basis.
The Sixers have the exact opposite need. Ben Simmons, Matisse Thybulle, and Joel Embiid currently stand as the defensive cornerstones for a team in desperate need of more shooting and ball-handling. On the Sixers, Dinwiddie would start alongside Simmons and Embiid (and whomever else remains) and be asked to take turns either running the show or catching-and-shooting, offensively. Regardless of his shooting improvement or stagnation, Simmons seems likely to continue to carry a good deal of ball-handling duties. A guard like Spencer Dinwiddie who can shoot, pass (6.8 assists per game last season), dribble, and get to the free-throw line (career-high seven attempts per game last season) could be just what the doctor ordered in acquiring an on-court liaison between Simmons and Embiid. Dinwiddie’s diversity of scoring profile — isolation, pick-and-roll, catch-and-shoot — would deeply behoove Doc Rivers’ new offense.
Time will tell if the Sixers’ revamped front office (including Spencer’s namesake Peter Dinwiddie) will complete the swap. But given their respective skillsets and nearly identical contract situations, Richardson and Dinwiddie seem destined to meet in the rumor mill this offseason.