Spencer Dinwiddie was recognized Wednesday night as one of three finalists for the NBA’s Most Improved Player. The other finalists are Victor Oladipo of the Indiana Pacers and Clint Capela of the Houston Rockets.
In his fourth season in the NBA and his second with the Brooklyn Nets, Dinwiddie set career highs in all of the following (but not limited to): points (12.6 per game), assists (6.5), rebounds (3.3), minutes (28.7) and player efficiency (16.0). His assist-to-turnover ratio (4.1) was second in the NBA behind only Daren Collison of the Pacers. Dinwiddie also won the Taco Bell Skills Challenge at All-Star weekend.
Most Improved Player is an award given to the player who has shown the most growth in the season. The specific meaning of the award is as arbitrary as any award in major sports (an accomplishment of its own), but voters typically choose a young player who unexpectedly broke out in a leading role. The five most recent winners of the award were Giannis Antetokounmpo, C.J. McCollum, Jimmy Butler, Goran Dragic and Paul George. All of whom were overlooked younger players who excelled in larger roles and became stars.
Dinwiddie then is a more unique case of a player being recognized for developing from a fringe NBA player into a quality starter. Dinwiddie spent time in the G League in his first three seasons and only this season did he find consistent minutes. That opportunity arose when the former Buffalo had to step in once injuries struck incumbent Nets starters D’Angelo Russell and Jeremy Lin. In that role, Dinwiddie was also named to Zach Lowe’s Luke Walton All-Stars, which is itself a wonderful honor.
Dinwiddie won’t win the award — Oladipo is the runaway favorite — but it is great to see that he was named finalist over Steven Adams and Dejounte Murray, among other key players on high-profile teams. This is also wonderful for Dinwiddie because it’s a public symbol that his tireless work is paying off as he makes a name for himself in the NBA.