I come not to bury Dorian Finney-Smith but to praise him. Finney-Smith is a useful NBA player and an absolute home run for player development. He is a remarkable story, considering he was undrafted. But he has achieved that success through a limited role and the team asking him to do more this season has set him up for failure.
One of the goals of coach Jason Kidd has been to diversify players’ roles. Finney-Smith has not benefitted from this. He is off to the worst start of the three seasons since he became a primary starter. He is shooting a career low 28.8 percent on three after improving his three point percentage each season of his career prior to this one, cresting at 39.4 percent last season.
He has roughly one third of the turnovers he committed all of last season despite only playing 12 games. His two point percentage has fallen from 61.6 percent to 48.7 percent. He is averaging a career high in steals and blocks. All of these things including the horrible offense and the improved defensive playmaking have the same root cause. The Mavericks are asking him to do more.
The defensive results of asking him to do more have been overwhelmingly positive. This is the best defense Finney-Smith has played. He continues to have a negative impact on opposing shooter’s field goal percentage (43.0 actual, 46.0 expected per NBA.com) in addition to he improved raw steals and blocks.
The offensive results have been as negative as the defensive results have been positive. Finney-Smith has been asked to initiate plays as a token ball handler in addition to being asked to shoot off of movement. Dorian being asked to initiate plays has mostly only served to slow the offense down. Dorian is not a threat to create his own shot and therefore the time he spends with the ball is simply filler before the real offense begins such as below.
Finney-Smith has also been asked to create for himself in transition and the results have been... mixed at best. Finney-Smith is likely the Maverick in the best physical shape and deserves to be commended for this. However, this also puts him in positions where he is attempting to score one on one in transition and he is simply not skilled at this. Finney-Smith is not a good enough ball handler to threaten NBA defenders, nor is he an overwhelming athlete by NBA standards. Because of these limitations, he often ends up trapped as he does below.(He is bailed out with a foul call, but this is not a good transition possession.)
Usage trend:— Iztok Franko (@iztok_franko) November 14, 2021
There was an unusual spike in DFS usage in the first games KP was out. Probably asked to do too much.
JB successfully picked up the slack. Boban as always low mins - high usage.
Smth to watch: KP/JB/THJ mins, shots & usage going fw. Esp if KP remains in high 30s. pic.twitter.com/AYgW0ElGdM
Finney-Smith was especially asked to do too much while Kristaps Porzingis was out. Finney-Smith is a good player and its understandable that the Mavericks want him to stretch his game. Mikal Bridges has similarly been asked to stretch his game with the Phoenix Suns and his ability to do so is a big reason why the Suns made the NBA finals. However, Bridges was a first round pick who just received a four year $90 million contract.
Finney-Smith will be paid more than he is now after this season but there is a reason he was undrafted and is now playing on a three year $12 million contract. The Mavericks should be thankful for how well he has developed. They should allow Finney-Smith to go back to doing what he does best and hope that his shooting returns with a more simplified role.