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Dorian Finney-Smith is playing the best basketball of his career

A line up stalwart

Minnesota Timberwolves v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

The Mavericks have asked for Dorian Finney-Smith to do more than he has at any other point in his career this season. Early in the season, these expectations resulted in dreadful results but recently, they have born fruit.

This article above was written after 12 games and in those 12 games, Finney-Smith struggled with his added responsibilities. He shot 28.8 percent from three and 36.7 percent from the field. He averaged only 8.2 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.3 assists. Fortunately, 12 games does not a season make. In the 19 games since, Finney Smith has shot 41.4 percent from three and 48.8 percent from the floor. He has averaged 11.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists.

The most notable improvements are in Finney-Smith’s playmaking and shooting. Finney-Smith is the Maverick that is most accurately described as a “three and d” player. Finney-Smith’s shooting has been questioned quite a bit but he has become arguably the team’s best shooter. Even with the slow start, Finney-Smith leads the team in three point percentage among players with at least 25 attempts for the season. Maxi Kleber has virtually the same percentage (36.7 percent for Finney-Smith, 36.6 percent for Kleber) but has played only 20 games to Finney-Smith’s 31.

Finney-Smith has become a solid shooter over the last three years so this shouldn’t be exactly shocking. The part that is shocking is his development as a passer. Finney-Smith has had at least four assists in four of the 12 games he’s played in December. This is 33.3 percent of these games. Prior to December, he had played in 333 games in his career and had registered at least four assists only 19 times. This was roughly 5.7 percent of those games. He had never had more than two four assist games in any calendar month.

This is one of the positive aspects of Kidd being the coach. For all his faults, Kidd was one of the best playmakers in the history of basketball. It stands to reason that his tutelage could be a large reason why Finney-Smith is showing such improved playmaking. Finney-Smith has even thrown several lobs which were Kidd’s specialty as a player. This below shows a couple of passes from Finney-Smith which lead to Dwight Powell buckets.

One of the most positive aspects of this playmaking boost is that Finney-Smith has returned to being an incredibly low turnover player after those initial 12 games. He is averaging only 0.9 turnovers per game against 2.9 assists per game in his last 14 games. During that stretch, he has 40 assists and only 12 total turnovers which is a 3.3 to 1 assist to turnover average.

Finney-Smith’s extra playmaking does not mean the Mavericks have found their secondary playmaker. He isn’t that. But coupled with Kristaps Porzingis improved passing this year, it means that the Mavericks have a few players other than Luka Doncic who can create a shot for a teammate. The Mavericks have been struggling lately, but once Luka returns, this enhanced playmaking can be a huge development against playoff defenses.

The last way that Finney-Smith has improved is in pure scoring production. Finney-Smith is now averaging double figure scoring for the first time in his career at 10.2 points per game. This is a miniscule increase from the 9.8 points per game he averaged last year, but it must be measured in the context of league wide offense. Last season was the best offensive season in NBA history by a mile. Many players enjoyed career seasons playing in open gyms and have regressed this season. Finney-Smith actually improving in this decreased offensive environment and in the Mavericks diminished offense is quite impressive.

Over the four game stretch from December 13th through December 21st, Finney Smith averaged 16.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists while shooting 52.0 percent from the floor, 40 percent from three and 83.3 percent from the free throw line. He did this while soaking up 38.3 minutes per game and maintaining an incredible defensive workload. He had a 63.6 percent true shooting percentage during this stretch. Perhaps most importantly he took 6.3 threes per game during this stretch.

Finney-Smith is a free agent at the end of this season and this will leave the Mavericks with some hard decisions. Many of the people who write for this staff believe that the Mavericks should trade Finney-Smith rather than risk losing him for nothing this offseason or overpaying. That may even be the prudent thing to do. But none of us have a voice in what the Mavericks actually do. We have no responsibility to be prudent. We can simply sit back and watch the most successful case of Mavericks player development in the last two decades continue to defy the odds and get better each and every season.