After years of blowing off the draft and populating the roster with a rogue’s gallery of veteran free agents each season, Dorian Finney-Smith is a breath of fresh air for the Mavericks faithful. The front office rolled the dice on the undrafted rookie and ended up with a stellar defensive player that could be a part of their future.
Finney-Smith ended the season averaging 4.3 points, 0.8 assists and 2.7 rebounds. Not exactly a mind-blowing stat line, but that’s okay because DFS’s value is not as a highlight reel player. His calling card, and the reason he started 35 games for the Mavs as a rookie, is his defensive play. In his breakout game against the Bucks on November 6, he played big minutes thanks to his ability to absolutely blanket Giannis Antetokounmpo. DFS ended up holding Antetokounmpo to 11 points on 4-12 shooting in a thrilling overtime win.
(In case any Toronto Raptors are reading - you might want to look that game up on YouTube!)
One great defensive performance could be written off as a fluke, but as the season progressed DFS consistently took on the league’s best scorers and although he didn’t always win the duel, he punched way above his weight class. Rick Carlisle has been effusive in his praise and has called Finney-Smith a “unique young player with mind geared toward the technical challenges of defense.” Frankly, the fact that Carlisle went out of his way to publicly praise a rookie is a victory for DFS in itself.
Finney-Smith’s contract is another cause for celebration. The Mavs have team options that they can pick up for just $905,249 in 2017-18 and $1,050,262 the following year. While Seth Curry’s ridiculous two year $6m contract might be the best in recent Mavericks’ history, you’d struggle to find a young player with DFS’s combination of skill and price tag. As we prepare for a post-Dirk future, having productive players like Finney-Smith on favorable deals will be an incredible asset for the team.
While Finney-Smith showed that he can be a force on the defensive end, he needs to improve his offense considerably if he wants to be a regular rotation player in the NBA. He has solid mechanics and shot 36 percent from three in college, but this year he only managed to knock in 29 percent of his three-point shots. At a lanky 6’ 8”, DFS is the platonic ideal of a 3-and-D wing, but right now he’s a lot more D than three. Hopefully, some time in the gym, some work with the coaching staff and some Summer League experience will help Finney-Smith solidify his shooting. If he can add an reliable long-range jumper, it will be hard to keep him off the floor. With his favorable contract, the Mavs have a bit of time to let him figure it out.