Dorian Finney-Smith isn’t flashy. In fact, there’s times he’s downright boring. But the Dallas Mavericks wouldn’t have it any other way. Fans love it when players are electric and fun, but most coaches would tell you they want someone reliable. That’s Finney-Smith.
He’s spent a half decade steadily improving, getting slightly better every season, until he reached a point last postseason where Jason Kidd could barely afford to have him off the court. He’s a great defender, a tough rebounder, and has turned himself into a good 3-point shooter. It’s quite a journey for a guy who went undrafted out of college.
Finney-Smith averaged 11 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game last season. An iron man, he played in 80 games starting all of them. He also averaged 1.1 steals per game, a career high. Finney-Smith shot 39% from deep, specifically .395, a career high (a tick better than his previous high, .394 in 2020-21), on 5.4 attempts per game, also a career high. He also had a game with 28 points last season, the most in his career.
Is there a regression year due for Finney-Smith? He’s incrementally improved every season of his career, never taking a step back. That’s unusual. It’s rare for a player to up their numbers year after year, but that’s exactly what Finney-Smith has done. It’s possible that teams give him a little attention in their game plans and it stifles him a bit. That’s honestly the most questionable thing about a player as dependable as Finney-Smith.
Best case scenario
The Mavericks need Finney-Smith to come into the season with his shot on fire. With the departure of Jalen Brunson, Dallas is short on perimeter scoring. They need every available shooter to absolutely burn up the nets. Finney-Smith will play defense, rebound, and shoot, like he always does. If he improves his game yet again, the Mavericks will have no worries on the wing.
Worst case scenario
This might be the season Finney-Smith has some injury issues. He’s only played in less than 70 games twice—in the 72 game season of 2020-21, and his 2017-18 campaign, when knee injuries limited him to 23 games. Maybe Finney-Smith can’t suit up for 70 or more games. Or it’s possible he has nagging injuries that hamper his performance all season. The Mavericks don’t have wing depth behind him. If Finney-Smith misses time, or his numbers drop due to minor injuries, the effects on the Mavericks’ season could be devastating.
I’ve criticized Finney-Smith in the past for only being a good shooter, not a great shooter. (I also floated trading him last year when the Mavericks’ season was falling apart. Wrong.) In the past, the amount of wide open shots he attempted made his 3-point shooting percentage look better than it actually was. Last season, that started to improve.
In 2020-21, Finney-Smith shot 29% on open 3-pointers (a defender within 4-6 feet) and 41% on wide open 3-pointers (a defender more than six feet away). 64% of his 3-point attempts were either open or wide open. In 2021-22, Finney-Smith improved those numbers to 35% on open and 42% on wide open 3-pointers. As a result, his number of open or wide open 3-pointers dipped slightly to 61%.
If Finney-Smith could get that shooting percentage up to 45%, for instance, it would put him in range of sharp shooting role players like Robert Covington, Seth Curry, and Evan Fournier. Players like that aren’t shooting open 3-pointers very often, typically around 40% of their attempts.
Finney-Smith knocking down shots at that rate would force defenses to know where he is at all times. This increased attention would open up the paint for Luka Doncic, making life easier on the Mavericks’ superstar. There’s reason to hope this might happen. Finney-Smith improved his shooting from deep to 42% in the postseason, up from 39% during the regular season.
The Mavericks have a lot of questions, but Finney-Smith isn’t one of them. As long as he’s on the court, Dallas will have suffocating defense on the perimeter and quality shooting on offense. Finney-Smith doesn’t create off the dribble or pass very well, but that doesn’t matter. The Mavericks need a 3-and-D role player to pair with Luka, and Finney-Smith is that guy.