Though Spencer Dinwiddie lasted until well into the second round, the common talking point after the draft was that he would have gone far earlier had he not torn his ACL 17 games into the season, that he was a first-round talent.
The 21-year-old Dinwiddie spent three years at Colorado, the last two seasons as part of a point guard by committee. Thanks to the pair of point guards trotted out by the Buffaloes and his excellent size, his expected position at the NBA hasn't always been clear. But he managed to improve each year, becoming a fan favorite to the point that he earned the nickname The Mayor.
2013-14 Year in Review
In the midst of a breakout season on Jan. 12 in Washington, Dinwiddie landed wrong on a fast break, and just like that his season and college career was over.
Colorado entered the game at 14-2 and ranked 15th in the country but would finish the season just 9-10 without Dinwiddie.
Before his ACL injury, Dinwiddie had been playing fantastic basketball, averaging 15 points, 4 assists, and 1.5 steals in 30 minutes per game. His scoring efficiency in particular was absolutely off the charts. Averaging 41 percent on four three-point shots per game and 86 percent on seven free-throw attempts, his true shooting percentage was 67 percent.
Dinwiddie's three-point percentage in particular was encouraging after dipping to 34 percent his sophomore year. He showed the ability to knock shots down off the bounce and was deadly on the catch-and-shoot.
As a passer, he was unremarkable but still held his own with his peers in the draft. Lottery picks Dante Exum, Marcus Smart, and Elfrid Payton all averaged one or two more assists, but Dinwiddie racked them up with far fewer turnovers. His 3.8 assists per game is underwhelming, but last year his assist percentage was a respectable 26.3 percent -- a figure comparable to D.J. Augustin's career average.
The "first-round talent" cliché may actually fit with Dinwiddie. Earlier this season, DBB took a look at how he stacked up to his peer point guards in the class. While he may not have Exum's youth, Smart's aggression or Payton's flash, he holds his own with any them as a prospect thanks to his size and efficiency.
2014-15 Projected Production
Despite three years of college basketball, Dinwiddie enters his Pistons career as a man of mystery. Van Gundy has kept the lid tightly shut on Dinwiddie's recovery from his ACL injury and he's flown under the radar of the point guard competition.
Minutes at both backcourt positions are already divvied up in pencil, with Brandon Jennings and Augustin expected to fill the time at point guard and Jodie Meeks and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope slotted at shooting guard. Will Bynum, Cartier Martin, and Kyle Singler are all available to mop up any extra minutes.
And it's been difficult to get any specific updates on his health. From the moment he was drafted the team told Dinwiddie to keep quiet on updates, presumably to keep external expectations in check. The last word we've received from Van Gundy sounds strikingly similar to the updates we've heard all summer -- that Dinwiddie is practicing at full speed, but not taking part in full contact drills.
"He's been able to do a lot," Van Gundy said at media day. "He just hasn't been able to do anything live, so it's been hard to get an evaluation basketball-wise. But health-wise, his recovery has been great. Arnie Kander has done a tremendous, tremendous job on his rehab. He's joined in a lot of stuff conditioning-wise and everything else. The good part is he's been able to do things where we're teaching. So whenever he's able to go full speed and healthy, he's going to know what's going on.
"He can actually start getting to activity and start doing some live stuff, but he's not going to be in every drill every day and that's when he'll be back. When John and Arnie say he can go every day in everything you do, that's when you start considering him as part of your team fighting for a rotation. Now he's a guy rehabbing and trying to get back and learning."
That's a lot of words, but it doesn't really tell me much.
So this could go two ways. He could be physically ready to play in the preseason, working to earn minutes in the rotation from day one. Or it could mean that he's being held out of most important pieces of the preseason, misses out on the chance to hit the ground running, and is forced to start the season in the D-League.
I think preseason will be a time that we learn more, when there's more of an incentive to loosening the restrictions in order to get him some action in low-stakes games. If he's still held out of that, then we may see that second scenario play out.
If Dinwiddie does get back to health sooner rather than later, don't be surprised to see him work his way into the rotation early -- even though he's very much an underdog to earn a spot in it. He has the benefit of differentiation from his point guard peers thanks to his size, and he fits Van Gundy's priority of shooting with his 38.6 percent career mark from behind the arc.
Also, he showed tremendous ability to get to the line in college and was automatic at knocking them down. For the worst free-throw shooting team in the league last year, that is a mighty attractive ability. And while Van Gundy added plenty of three-point shooters this offseason, none are all that adept at drawing trips to the line.
Dinwiddie still has more growing to do as a point guard though, whether that development comes in practice, as a backup, or in the D-League. It's probably for the best that too much isn't heaped on his plate, especially looking at the failed development of similar combo guard prospects over the past several years for the Pistons in Brandon Knight and Rodney Stuckey.
This year, the ideal for Dinwiddie would probably be to earn relatively regular time on the court, get comfortable with the speed of the NBA, and develop his shot to get comfortable with the extended range.
50 games, 14 minutes per game, 5 points, 41% field goal, .65 3pt, 37%, 2.5 ft, 85%, 1.8 assists, .9 turnovers, 1 rebound, .5 steals