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Dorian Finney-Smith‘s diminished role

Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle says that he wants to see what some of his other players have to offer—and that may be true—but there are also financial motivations behind Finney-Smith’s reduced role.

Dallas Mavericks v Washington Wizards Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Dorian Finney-Smith’s role is changing. On Monday night, he posted a modest stat line of nine points on four of eight shooting, knocking down one triple in just under 16 minutes of action. While it won’t land him on SportsCenter, it was his best scoring output since the middle of March. As the season ends, Finney-Smith’s stock no longer appears to be rising.

Listening to Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle tell it, the final weeks of the seasons are opportunities for other players on the roster to step up and play “realistic minutes.” The emphasis on seeing what some of the newer players like Justin Jackson and Trey Burke can do as well as deep bench players like Ryan Broekhoff leaves Finney-Smith’s role in a kind of limbo. However, Carlisle says he’ll continue to see minutes “where they show up.”

“Finney-Smith is obviously still in the mix,” Carlisle said recently. “He played 10 or 12 minutes in the Golden State game, which wasn’t huge minutes but he played very important minutes. He went in and guarded [DeMarcus] Cousins for a four- or five-minute stretch in the first half that was key because he was starting to accumulate fouls with [Dwight] Powell and [Maxi] Kleber and we didn’t have [Salah] Mejri available. He went out there and battled and did a very respectable job there.”

That may be true, but the Mavericks once considered Finney-Smith to be the defensive heart—the pit-bull—of the team. His energy level on the court for much of the season earned him extensive playing time as he totaled the second most minutes behind Luka Doncic. That all changed on March 20, though. Since that date, an away game in Portland, Finney-Smith watched his minutes per game plummet to 13.4. Prior to that, he averaged 25.5 minutes a night.

That shift, as Carlisle sees it is, in part, because of the number of starts and playing time Finney-Smith has seen in his three years in the league. With other players getting time, his role will be more situational, which will have him playing and defending multiple positions when and where needed. With Dallas staring down another long summer, relegating proven assets to the bench makes sense not just from a personnel standpoint, but also from a financial one.

At the time of this writing, Finney-Smith sits at 1,882 minutes, the most he’s played in one season. A few things happen if he hits the 2,000-minute mark, which the Mavs seem intent on stymieing, when he becomes a restricted free agent this summer. If he reaches the benchmark, the collective bargaining agreement considers him a starter. As such, he’s entitled to receive a qualifying offer equal to 100 percent of the amount applicable to the 21st overall pick in the draft whose rookie scale contracts are now finishing because he is an undrafted player.

That would mean he’s eligible for a qualifying offer of approximately $3.1 million this summer. However, since it’s unlikely that he’ll attain starter level status—he’d need to average 23.6 minutes over the final five games—he’s looking at a qualifying offer from the Mavericks worth $1.9 million. That’s a difference of $1.2 million.

Carlisle can talk about the benefits of getting other players minutes down the stretch, but there are ulterior motives keeping Finney-Smith off the court. Dallas is clearly doing what it can now to keep its future costs down as it eyes free agency and the prospect of offering Kristaps Porzingis a multiyear deal this summer. Even though he’s found himself with a diminished role as the result of the Mavericks’ money games, Finney-Smith is taking it in stride.

“I just try to go out there and play my minutes and play them hard,” Finney-Smith said. “That’s all I can control.”