Spencer Dinwiddie returned to the Brooklyn Nets as the team’s starting point guard following a midseason trade that sent Kyrie Irving to the Dallas Mavericks. Like his first stint in Brooklyn, Dinwiddie had his moments. He led the Nets to a thriller victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on March 10, scoring or assisting on all 10 of their points in overtime.

However, that late-game magic was few and far between in an otherwise forgettable close to the season that fizzled out in a first-round sweep against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Dinwiddie averaged 16.5 points on 40.4 percent shooting from the field in 26 regular season games with the Nets. After shooting a career-best 40.5 percent from deep in 53 games with Dallas this season, he converted on just 28.9 percent of his attempts following the trade. With Mikal Bridges taking the reins as Brooklyn’s lead scorer, Dinwiddie’s greatest impact came as a distributor, ranking fifth in the league in assists at 9.1 per game.

With the Nets short on ball-handling and shot creation, Dinwiddie shouldered a heavy burden as Brooklyn’s go-to option late in games. The 30-year-old did his best to carry the offense in crunch time (final five minutes within five points), shooting 10-of-22 (45.5 percent) while dishing out eight assists with six turnovers. Dinwiddie’s 22 crunch-time attempts were more than double any other Net following the trades of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson were the next closest with nine each.

While Dinwiddie proved effective in spurts as a late-game creator, Brooklyn’s clutch offense was well below average. The Nets ranked 28th in crunch-time offense after trading Durant and Irving, shooting just 40 percent from the field while posting a 4-7 record in those games.

The most disappointing part of Dinwiddie’s second stint with Brooklyn was his lackluster performance in the first-round sweep against Philadelphia. He disappeared in Games 1 and 2 and looked out of place while trying to carry the offense during crunch time of Games 3 and 4. If one thing was evident from the series, it’s that the Nets desperately need a high-level ball handler late in games.

Brooklyn ranked 15th out of 16 teams in the playoffs with a 90.0 fourth-quarter offensive rating. For reference, the league’s worst fourth-quarter offensive rating during the regular season was 106.1 (San Antonio). Dinwiddie shot 4-of-12 from the field and 1-of-4 from three with two assists and four turnovers in fourth quarters against the Sixers. Overall, he finished the series averaging 16.5 points and 6.5 assists on 43.1 percent shooting.

Live and breathe the NBA?

🚨 Get viral NBA graphics, memes, rumors and trending news delivered right to your inbox with the Clutch Newsletter.

“The story of this series is we couldn’t buy a bucket,” Dinwiddie said after Game 4. “We couldn’t make shots.”

The Nets reached an expected conclusion during the 30-game sample size with their pieced-together roster: Dinwiddie is not a lead option on a competitive playoff team. The nine-year veteran thrived with Dallas in a change-of-pace role alongside Luka Doncic, a position for which he was better suited compared to his heavy offensive burden in Brooklyn. In a perfect world, Dinwiddie returns to something resembling that Dallas role as a backup next season.

However, it remains to be seen where the elite ball-handling option that would allow him to do so is coming from. Could it come in the form of another jump from Mikal Bridges as an offensive creator? General manager Sean Marks indicated that’s a step he’d like to see Bridges take in his game next season:

“I think Mikal’s proven to a lot of people that his role can continue to get better and better and bigger and bigger. I think I would be pretty silly to be up here and limit him and say he cannot be something,” Marks said. “But now that when the ball’s in his hands in those key crucial moments of games, can he step up? Can he be that guy that we can rely on in big moments?”

Could it come in the form of a trade for a star guard like Damian Lillard? The Dame to Brooklyn rumors have been out in full force given Lillard’s close friendship with Bridges and his courtside appearance at Barclays Center for Game 3 of Nets-Sixers. With Dinwiddie on a $19 million expiring salary next season, his contract could be used as a salary filler in a trade for a star. He should also have some trade value to contending teams looking for a high-level bench piece.

Overall, Dinwiddie showed the kinds of flashes following the trade that made him a fan favorite during his early days with Brooklyn. However, nine years into his career, it’s clear who he is and how he is best set up for success. If the Nets plan on keeping Dinwiddie next season, they have some work to do this summer to get him there.

Spencer Dinwiddie’s 2022-23 Grade with Nets: C