DALLAS — After displaying lockdown defense throughout his rookie campaign while playing in 81 of 82 games and starting 35 times during the 2016-17 season, 24-year-old forward Dorian Finney-Smith hopes to provide more at the offensive end of the floor for the Dallas Mavericks next year.
This season, the first-year forward averaged 4.3 points and 2.7 rebounds, clocking 20.3 minutes an outing while getting extended playing time when 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki was sidelined due to a right Achilles strain. In the process, Finney-Smith emerged as one of the Mavericks’ top perimeter defenders, guarding the likes of perennial All-Stars LeBron James, Kevin Durant and James Harden during his first year in the NBA. However, Finney-Smith also shot just 37.2 percent from the field and 29.3 percent from behind the three-point arc, struggling to match his defensive success at the offensive end of the floor. That said, the former Florida standout enters the summer well aware that he needs to improve his shooting in order to earn more playing time from Mavs coach Rick Carlisle in Year 2.
“It’s probably going to be the biggest summer of my life, knowing the expectations that come with it,” Finney-Smith admitted after the conclusion of the ’16-17 season. “You know, I played 81 games and I started almost 40, so coaches and everybody see the talent. Now, I’ve just got to get a little bit more consistent with my shot, start putting it down a little bit more and don’t forget what got me here, and that’s playing defense.
“I need to get my shot more consistent,” he added. “I feel like if I knock down the shot and I take a lot, it takes the pressure off guys like [Harrison Barnes] and when I’m on the court with Dirk. … I feel like I can grow a lot more on the court. I feel like I can get a lot better, and I’m going to work until I can’t.”
Finney-Smith showed signs of becoming a knockdown shooter early in his rookie season, connecting on 44.6 percent from the field and 36.8 percent from behind the arc while averaging 6.6 points during a season-high 17 games in the month of December. However, after playing the equivalent of three collegiate seasons during his first NBA campaign, Finney-Smith admittedly hit the proverbial rookie wall.
The 6-foot-8, 220-pounder averaged 10.7 points and 7.1 rebounds in 134 career collegiate games while leading Florida in rebounding during all three of his seasons there and in scoring in each of his final two campaigns. He also shot a stellar 47.2 percent from the field and 42.6 percent from behind the three-point arc during his junior season at Florida, showing that he can make an impact at both ends of the court. And after averaging 14.7 points and 8.3 rebounds while connecting on 43.7 percent from the field and 36.8 percent from beyond the arc during his senior season in college, Finney-Smith says he will have to work tirelessly this summer in order to improve his offensive repertoire.
“(Defense) was the reason why I got on the court. You know, the things I did on offense was just a plus,” he explained. “But as the season went on, the coaches believed I could do more on offense, so they wanted me to shoot the ball a little bit more. You know, it was an up-and-down year, but it was a great experience for me.”