I typically stay away from any sort of rankings or lists. They’re all subjective, really, and just built to draw engagement. They’re not exactly a real attempt to sort out the actual state of the NBA at present.
But ESPN recently released their list of the top 100 players in the NBA as ranked by their panel. I had some time to kill, so I decided to browse the list. It didn’t take too long for me to become baffled and annoyed by the exclusion of Dorian Finney-Smith.
I’m no blind homer here, either. I wrote that the Dallas Mavericks should trade Finney-Smith in JANUARY OF THIS YEAR. While I appreciate his defense and rebounding, I’ve been critical of his shooting for a while now. He misses too many wide open 3-pointers, failing to draw defenders out to the arc.
But these are minor criticisms of a player who does exactly what the Mavericks ask of him. Finney-Smith is a role player, but he’s an elite role player. And he’s definitely one of the 100 best players in the NBA. That’s not an opinion, that’s a fact.
Grant Williams of the Boston Celtics comes in at 99 on the list. Finney-Smith is a better defender than Williams, often tasked with guarding the Mavericks’ opponents’ best wing for 35-40 minutes per game. Williams comes off the bench for short spurts to play good defense, but he’s not asked to lock down some of the best scorers in the NBA for entire games.
Williams shot 41% from behind the arc last season, compared to Finney-Smith’s 40%, but on two less attempts per game. Finney-Smith is a crucial starter and piece of the Mavericks’ rotation. Williams is a crucial bench player for the Celtics.
Keegan Murray of the Sacramento Kings is ranked 93rd on ESPN’s list. A quick check of his stats shows that he shot 0% from deep on zero shots per game last season BECAUSE HE WASN’T EVEN IN THE NBA. Yet somehow he’s ranked on this list and Finney-Smith is not.
I could go on like this for a while, naming players like Mitchell Robinson, Kevin Love, and Mike Conley who are all on ESPN’s list while Finney-Smith is not. And this list isn’t based on past achievements or future potential. ESPN specifically says “ESPN’s NBA rank panel, composed of over 200 reporters, editors, producers and analysts, were asked to rank players based on their predicted contributions — quality and quantity — for the 2022-23 season only.” (Emphasis is mine)
Leaving Finney-Smith off this list entirely is so egregious that it cannot simply be for actual basketball reasons. I’m just assuming the good people at ESPN literally forgot that Dorian Finney-Smith exists. There’s no other explanation for the best wing on one of the Western Conference finalists to be completely left off a list of the 100 best players in the NBA.
With or without the recognition of his existence, Finney-Smith will continue to be an integral part of the Mavericks’ rotation and one of the best wing defenders in the Western Conference. Fans in Dallas will appreciate his game if no one else does.