Season in Review
The slow, winding, steady rise of Dorian Finney-Smith with the Mavericks has been one of the most interesting quiet storylines of the last five years in Dallas. After solidifying a starting role in the 2019-20 season, Finney-Smith entered his fifth season looking to build on the regular season success of the previous year, having set a career-high from the three point line.
Like many Mavericks, the start to the season was bumpy. Entering Covid-19 protocol in early January was the major snag, but Covid aside Finney-Smith couldn’t find his outside shot early. Connecting on just 33-percent of his three point attempts in the 11 games he appeared in through the end of January, it appeared the outside rhythm he found in 2019 had evaporated.
But as the Mavericks roster began to make themselves whole, Finney-Smith returned to form. He shot 41-percent from three from February 1 on, and continued to carry the banner on defense for Rick Carlisle; though the Mavericks never turned a corner as a defensive team even after their attempts at improving.
The real turn in his season, however, came just after March 17 and the birth of his son Aysen. Upon returning to the team just three days later, Finney-Smith had Big Dad Energy and simply decided to no longer miss shots. In his final 31 games he posted averages of 11 points, 5.5 rebounds, two assists and a steal while shooting 44-percent from three.
The postseason was a roller coaster for Finney-Smith, where his play was all or nothing. In games one, six, and seven he averaged 16 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists and a steal while shooting 11-of-19 from three. In games two through five he averaged just six points, and shot 5-of-18 from three.
While he was massive in games one and seven in the playoffs (18 points in each game, 8-of-12 from three in total) his best game of the regular season showed how Finney-Smith could be the secret key against the NBA’s elite.
The Western Conference leading Utah Jazz visited Dallas back in April, and opted to place Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert on Finney-Smith. The Jazz felt confident they could let Gobert roam the interior and dare the Mavericks wing to shoot. And he did. Posting 23 points (5-of-12 from three) with six rebounds, four assists, one steal and one block, he not only made Utah pay for the space but also made excellent reads on aggressive closeouts — both scoring near the rim or finding opposite side shooters.
In some ways this game was foreshadowing for the demise of Utah as Rudy Gobert and the Jazz let Terrence Mann shoot fire on their heads in the playoff.
Dorian Finney-Smith enters next season finishing up a three year, $12 million deal. At 29 years old, Finney-Smith will be an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2022.
What does contract year Dorian Finney-Smith look like? He’s managed to blossom into a quality wing, building on two years of solid outside shooting. He still struggles with consistency, but it was nice to see that the 2019 season wasn’t just a mirage. Both his catch-and-shoot ability, and a growing confidence in attacking closeouts is an important development.
His defense is sound, though he is not the shutdown defender we’ve been told by the organization. Nevertheless, he can still be used in a variety of ways defensively and will give you full effort every night, and that can’t be discounted.
As with many of the support players in Dallas, this season affirmed that too many guys are being asked to play a role larger than their skillset. That isn’t to say that Dorian Finney-Smith wasn’t solid, and isn’t an asset for the Mavericks going forward. The combination of Rick Carlisle maximizing the roster, and Luka Doncic elevating those players with his gravity and playmaking has produced career seasons from Finney-Smith and others. In a perfect world he is your fifth best starter or a high-end wing off the bench. But that will require a lot of roster shuffling for him to return to a proper role.
The Mavericks reached the ceiling with this group, and in the midst of so much front office flux it’s hard to predict what role each player will have next season. But chances are Finney-Smith will play an important role in Dallas.