The Detroit Pistons may believe they found a second-round gem in Spencer Dinwiddie, but it will be no easy task for him to crack the rotation as a rookie.
Dinwiddie, selected No. 38 with Detroit's lone pick in June's draft, is a 6'6" combo guard who can both run an offense and play off the ball. He has NBA three-point range and made 41.3 percent of his shots from beyond the arc in his final collegiate season.
He was considered by many to have the talent of a first-round pick, but a torn ACL during his junior season kept him from being taken higher. The injury has already kept him out of summer league, and the timetable for his return is very much up in the air.
Even when Dinwiddie is healthy enough to return, he'll be joining an already crowded backcourt. If he were healthy and had gone through summer league and training camp, it would be difficult enough for him to earn immediate playing time. But with those elements stacked against him, Dinwiddie's on-court appearances may be limited to garbage time or the D-League this season.
No Rush Back to the Court
Dinwiddie suffered his torn left ACL in a game against Washington and underwent surgery on Jan. 20, less than six months before the start of summer league. And though the recovery process is going well by all accounts, six months is typically not enough time for a player to be fully recovered from surgery—just ask Chicago Bulls fans.
"Obviously, they're not letting me play," Dinwiddie said to David Mayo of MLive.com at the Orlando summer league. "But there's nothing I can't do as far as running and jumping, all of that stuff. I can do anything."
There is now uncertainty that he will be ready for team training camp, which presents a real issue for a first-year player. Training camp represents the first opportunity for a rookie to play organized basketball with his new teammates.
It is especially important this season for the Pistons, as the team will be learning new systems under head coach Stan Van Gundy and has a half-dozen new players on the roster. Dinwiddie can minimize the negative effects by being present and learning the playbook and schemes, but that won't fully replicate playing and building chemistry with his new teammates.
A year ago, Pistons rookie Luigi Datome missed preseason with injuries, and he was never able to find a rhythm all season. While Dinwiddie's injury was more serious and Datome was also adapting to the U.S. game, there's no question that getting preseason reps helps players, especially those new to the league.
If Dinwiddie can get back on the court in time for training camp and preseason games, it will surely help his chances of playing meaningful minutes in the Pistons backcourt this season.
A Crowded Backcourt
Immediately after the draft, it appeared that Dinwiddie might have a serious shot at competing for a spot in the Pistons rotation. Though the team carried five players capable of running the point in 2013-14, Chauncey Billups and Rodney Stuckey were no longer under contract, and Peyton Siva seemed like a likely cut. And with Dinwiddie's positional flexibility, there seemed to be minutes available at shooting guard with only Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Singler on the roster.
But then, Van Gundy made a flurry of moves to upgrade the team's perimeter play.
On the first day of free agency, the Pistons agreed to terms with shooting guard Jodie Meeks, who averaged nearly 16 points per game last season, and Cartier Martin. Two weeks later, they signed point guard D.J. Augustin and small forward Caron Butler, each of whom averaged at least 9.7 points while playing for playoff teams in 2013-14.
Augustin makes the point guard position particularly crowded, as he will be one of the best backups in the league behind Brandon Jennings. Veteran Will Bynum will also expect his share of minutes. And Meeks and Caldwell-Pope will be a solid offense-defense combo taking most of the minutes at 2-guard. But the Butler and Martin additions will also push Singler to the 2 at times, further cutting into Dinwiddies' chances to play.
With a similarly deep frontcourt, the Pistons will likely have a 12-man roster which will not include Dinwiddie. Even without him, they have 10 players, including three point guards, who will expect playing time, and Dinwiddie has no NBA experience and a recovering knee.
Barring a trade packaging multiple pieces from the Pistons to another team or a rash of injuries, expect Dinwiddie to spend the season at the end of the bench or in the D-League. He looks like a talented player who can have an impact at two positions. But in 2014-15, there will be too many obstacles in his way for him to become an impact rookie for the Pistons.
Jakub Rudnik covers the Detroit Pistons as a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.
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