Dorian Finney-Smith paid new Maverick Christian Wood the best compliment he could think of.
Based on Finney-Smith’s personal history, he believes the trade for the 6-10 center should be exactly what is needed for the Mavericks to continue their upward trend that has been going for a few years and took off last season.
“I feel like when I have to guard somebody, that’s a compliment to how good you are,” Finney-Smith said. “I had to guard him a lot, so that means he’s pretty good.”
Last season, only three teams in the Western Conference kept Wood to a lower scoring average than the 16 points he averaged against the Mavericks, so Finney-Smith obviously held his own. And he also knows a tough assignment when he sees one, which is why he carries respect for Wood.
Finney-Smith made the rounds to three different Mavs Academy camps this week and took time out to visit with mavs.com. He touched on a variety of subjects, but mostly it was looking back at last year and getting excited for an upcoming season that should be oozing with optimism.
He said Wood’s arrival gives them something that they need and a more athletic big man who can pair with Luka Dončić.
“I think he’s going to give us a low-post presence, something we ain’t had in a little while, even though KP (Kristaps Porzingis) posted up some,” Finney-Smith said. “I feel like he should be able to gel well with Luka because he catches a lot of lobs – and Luka’s going to throw the lobs.
“Over the past year, I’ve been seeing him shoot more threes and I already know what he can do with the ball in his hands by guarding him. He’s a tough guard because he’s so versatile and he’s long. He’s playing out of pick and pops. So it takes a guy like me to have to sw itch.”
Finney-Smith’s not the only Maverick with a history of going against Wood, for whom they gave up the No. 26 overall pick in last week’s draft and Boban Marjanović, Trey Burke, Marquese Chriss and Sterling Brown.
Wood, 26, grew up near Las Vegas and attended UNLV for two years. He also still trains there and over time got to know Jaden Hardy, the guard the Mavericks picked up via trade with the No. 37 overall draft pick.
“I’ve known Christian for a couple years with him having Vegas roots, playing at UNLV,” Hardy said. “We got a good relationship. I feel like he brings versatility, the ability to be an outside shooter, to be a pick-and-roll threat. And on the defensive side, he loves to compete.”
Which, of course, is music to the defensive-minded Finney-Smith’s ears.
Like his teammates, he is basking in the afterglow of the run to the Western Conference finals. The 6-7 forward also is ready to start his life in a new tax bracket as his new four-year, $55-million contract kicks in on July 1.
When Golden State, which eliminated the Mavericks in five games in the West finals, won the championship two weeks later over Boston, it hit Finney-Smith just how close the Mavericks were to the promised land.
He said he’s had enough time to think about that now to appreciate what the Mavericks did.
“Yes I have, especially with Golden State winning the championship,” he said. “And we don’t feel like they were that much better than us. We feel like we were just a couple made shots away from being in the finals. We got open looks, the same open looks we been making all year. We just didn’t make them a couple games in that series.
“But we got that taste in our mouths, and I want more. It was fun, man, the whole thing.”
Wanting more is something that is a team-wide feeling these days. And that’s why the acquisition of Wood appears to be such an important moment in franchise history. He’s a young player who has been very good as a modern-style center – that is, somebody who can shoot the 3-pointer but also defend and rebound.
“I think he’s going to be able to help us win and get to the next level,” Finney-Smith said. “I think he wants to win, too. It’s time for him to have a winning season. I was there before (on losing teams). And there wasn’t anything nice about it. So it’s time to turn that around for him.”