When Spencer Dinwiddie entered the game on Sunday to start the second quarter vs. the San Antonio Spurs, the Detroit Pistons were down by seven points. When he exited it with 4:36 to play before halftime, they trailed by 15.
During that stretch his teammates also struggled, but Dinwiddie was certainly ineffective. But it was a different player who entered wearing No. 8 late in the third quarter. The Pistons still trailed by 17 points, but Dinwiddie helped close the gap to give his team a fighting chance at the win.
This wasn't an anomaly. Throughout this preseason, Dinwiddie has looked lost and hesitant in his first time through the team's rotation then poised and confident in the second.
In first halves through the six preseason games so far, he is averaging just two points, has 11 turnovers and only eight assists with a plus/minus of a whopping minus-28. In second halves, the numbers are 4.5 points per game with a total of 16 assists and only 4 turnovers with a plus/minus of plus-34.
It'd be easy to dismiss the early results as a matter of small sample size, but the trend goes back to last season. Rather than turnovers, the primary cause of Dinwiddie's ineffectiveness last season was his scoring. He shot a miserable 32 percent true shooting percentage in first halves to help drive a total plus/minus of minus-98. His second halves weren't anything to write home about, but it was at least a respectable 45 percent true shooting percentage and plus-27.
Here's all that information in a couple of handy dandy tables:
So what does it all mean? Damned if I know. It could be a bunch of different things.
It might be that Dinwiddie, who started every game of his college career, is just adjusting to life as a backup. We've seen our share of veterans who perform differently off the bench. Just last year, D.J. Augustin struggled as a backup before thriving when taking over as the starter.
If this is the case, then it might be that spending time with the Grand Rapids Drive wouldn't necessarily help his development. It could be beneficial in some ways, such as developing more confidence, but it would be unlikely to teach him how to be a backup point guard. It could be better to ride out his first half struggles to open the season and give him coaching to help with his approach.
After all, unlike a majority of young players, Dinwiddie isn't being developed to be a starter. He's being groomed to assume the backup point guard job. If he's ever being considered for a starting job in Detroit, it likely means disaster for the $80 million investment the Pistons made this offseason in Reggie Jackson.
Or it might be that he plays looser and more aggressive later in the game. Maybe there's a correlation between the team facing a wide deficit and Dinwiddie's quality of play.
Or maybe it's play-calling. After all, the whole team has shown a tendency to play better in the second half during Stan Van Gundy's tenure.
But perhaps the most definite and significant conclusion is that Spencer Dinwiddie is a young player still figuring out the NBA, and that player development is a dramatically complicated thing.
It's been an incredibly up-and-down preseason for Dinwiddie, even on a day-to-day basis. But one positive note to take away is that if Dinwiddie can figure out how to bring the same approach during the whole game, he will look like a solid NBA player.