Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, we pose a question to a panel of ESPN fantasy basketball experts to gauge their thoughts on a hot topic.
Today's contributors are ESPN Fantasy's Jim McCormick, Joe Kaiser and Kyle Soppe, and ESPN NBA analyst Kevin Pelton.
Spencer Dinwiddie has been a fantasy revelation lately and currently ranks 11th in assists per game (6.5) in the Association. How do you think his production will change once D'Angelo Russell returns to action?
Kyle Soppe: I love me some Russell, but can I not have my cake and eat it too? Coach Kenny Atkinson sounds like he has no issue in playing both of these explosive guards at the same time, and given that Brooklyn ranked first in pace last season and currently sits at fifth, I'm very much of the belief that both can hold strong fantasy value.
That said, there is certainly some overlap of Dinwiddie's perimeter-oriented game (the majority of his shots this season have come from 24-plus feet away) with Russell's, and I think the dip in usage lowers his floor in a big way.
Look for Dinwiddie to be better than he was when Russell was healthy in the first month of the season, but asking him to average the 16.5 points and 6.1 dimes that he has over the last three weeks is simply too much. In my eyes, he is more likely to average something like 13 points and 4.5 assists when Russell is a full-go.
Kevin Pelton: Naturally, it's not going to be as good. Dinwiddie has averaged 15.0 points and 7.1 rebounds this season in the 28 games he's played and Russell has missed, as compared to 8.6 points and 4.8 assists with Russell in the lineup. A good chunk of that difference can be attributed to playing time. Dinwiddie has seen his minutes go up from 21.4 per game with Russell to 30.5 without him.
On a per-minute basis, Dinwiddie's assist rate isn't much different, suggesting that he's primarily served as point guard when both players have been on the court -- something I expect we'll see continue. But Dinwiddie's per-36 scoring has dropped from 18.2 points to 14.5. Intriguingly, that's been more because Dinwiddie has been more efficient without Russell than having a greater opportunity to score.
I do think Dinwiddie has played well enough that he'll probably see more action than he did before Russell's injury, maybe settling in the range of 25 minutes per game. There, I think about 10 points and 5 assists per night are reasonable expectations.
Joe Kaiser: If Russell can return to full health and play around 30 minutes a night for the rest of the season, Dinwiddie's fantasy value will almost certainly take a big hit. That's a big if, however, as Russell has been plagued by constant knee injuries throughout his short NBA career.
In the short term, the return of Russell will mean a lower usage and fewer shot attempts for guys like Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert, but you have to keep in mind that Russell may have a hard time staying healthy over the second half of the season. For that reason, I'd think twice before considering trading Dinwiddie.
Jim McCormick: It's safe to say Atkinson and the coaching staff gave Russell the keys to the offense earlier this season. Only James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Joel Embiid have a higher usage rate than Russell's robust 33.5 percent clip this season (min. 20 MPG). Russell was quietly enjoying career marks in both assist and rebound percentage, while also lofting a career-high 17.1 shots per game.
The plan in Brooklyn was always to pair Russell with Jeremy Lin in what I viewed as a somewhat bootleg approximation of Portland's duo of high-usage combo guards, so there should still be meaningful minutes for Dinwiddie to consume.
Dinwiddie has been quite productive since Russell went down; he's sixth in the NBA in passes per game and 18th in touches per game since November 14. My concern is that Dinwiddie appears dependent on workload and opportunity rates (like touches and passes made) rather than efficiency (hovering around 40 percent from the field) or defensive rates (sluggish steal clip).
Dinwiddie is 27th on the Player Rater over the past month, but 37 percent of his positive rating stems solely from assist production, which is the key category that could take a hit once Russell is on the floor. I think Dinwiddie can hover around top-100 value going forward, but the real fantasy fun might be over if Russell stays healthy.