About To Turn 30, Dorian Finney-Smith Enters The Back Nine Of His NBA Career In A Slump


In a round-up of pre-trade deadline rumours, Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that Dallas Mavericks forward Dorian Finney-Smith may be made available by the team in trade, but only if any trade involving him yields a star player in return. And on the surface, that seems like a pretty obvious thing to do.

On that surface, it can be seen that Finney-Smith is an undrafted 6’8 forward who averages only 8.8 points and 4.9 rebounds in 30.9 minutes per game on 40.9% field goal shooting. On that surface, Finney-Smith is the modern era George Lynch, a player any team would like to have, but not one they should overly strive to acquire. And just beneath that surface, there lies a cost that partially explains why – Finney-Smith signed an extension last February that will pay him $55,560,960 over four years, including $12,402,000 this season. It is a lot of money for limited production for a player that the casual fan may not have heard of.

However, there is a reason Finney-Smith commanded that kind of pay day as recently as last year. For the three-year stretch prior to that, he became very good in his role.

It is, even with context, a limited offensive role nevertheless. Between 2019 and 2022, Finney-Smith shot 1,040 regular season three-pointers and hit 405 of them, good for a healthy 38.9% mark, yet three-pointers made up a hefty 61.9% of his total field goal attempts in that span, and rarely if ever did he take a contested dribble in traffic. As can be seen in his annual shot charts, his role largely involves running to the corner, spotting up if neglected, cutting to the rim if heavily neglected, straight-line driving at most twice a week, and staying out of the way of the creators. He was efficient in this role, yet others could do it too.

What separated Finney-Smith from the pack was his defence, the calling card that made him an every-game starter and key big-minute contributor. In a league heavily focused on line-up flexibility, switching defences and length, his ability to guard four positions created options all over the court. It was not as flashy as the defence of some of his peers, perhaps, yet it was fundamentally sound, and Finney-Smith is a reliable nightly contributor on that end. Others could not do that.

With all that said, the past tense is used above to reflect the fact that, although he grew into being a star role player in the NBA in that three-season span, Finney-Smith has not had quite the same season in 2022/23 so far. Precisely because he is a finisher rather than a creator, Finney-Smith’s offensive efficacy is tied more than most to the overall function of the unit around him, rather than being a product of his own ability. Yet even then, given his limited usage, the margins are small.

Albeit getting out to a slow start with regards to their outside shooting, the Mavericks have been in the upper third in the NBA offensively overall this season, ninth overall in offensive rating. Buoyed by the permanent excellence of Luka Doncic, the uptick in shooting from the Reggie Bullock types, and the better incorporation of the mercurial Christian Wood, the Mavericks have been getting it done on that end this season in their slow-paced way, much more so than on defence (where they ranked 23rd).

However, Finney-Smith’s own scoring production has dwindled this season. His personal shooting uptick has yet to come, and, in hitting only 34.6% from three on a near-identical shot profile as before, his overall offensive production goes from decent to below-par. The shot, as seen above, represents the majority of it. If he does not hit in the high-30s, then he is a net negative offensive player. And the problem comes with trying to have a one-way player play big minutes in a deep playoff run, as the Mavericks are hoping to make.

Because of the fact that his game is not one built around burst, he should age well. Indeed, even if his lateral quickness fades away, there is perhaps scope for Finney-Smith to age into a three-and-D hybrid 4/5 man role, as did P.J. Tucker and Anthony Tolliver types before him. With this in mind, the contract may age more favourably than it first appears, particularly so if he and his Mavericks can get the offensive production back to where it was.

Nevertheless, age he will. Already perhaps over the summit of his prime and turning 30 in just a few weeks, Finney-Smith is not the upstart bargain he once was. He provides some of the better defence on a Dallas team not exactly replete with it, and, even with his declined production on the other end, his departure would still be felt. Yet the surface-level analysis had the right idea. The near-30 inefficient role player on a sizeable lengthy contract is not someone to be immune on the trade market. Far from it.

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