After tinkering with his shot over the summer, Dorian Finney-Smith has come to camp with a new and improved jumper.
Finney-Smith has connected on 3 of 5 attempts from beyond the arc in two appearances this preseason. It’s a small sample, to be sure, but just from watching him in games and during practice it’s clear his mechanics have improved dramatically since the end of his rookie season.
“He’s worked extremely hard on his shooting,” head coach Rick Carlisle said. “You can tell his shot’s different, much more efficient.”
Finney-Smith said at the end of last season he got together with Carlisle and a shooting coach to find a way to tweak his jumper. The solution was to eliminate a slight hitch at the top of the jump, during which the forward would bring the ball further behind his head, and instead create a smoother shot.
“I shoot it on the way up now,” Finney-Smith told Mavs.com. “It’s just easier to get the ball to the rim than it was last year. Last year, all my shots were short if I missed. Now, if I miss, it’s hitting the back rim, so that’s always a good thing.”
From a mechanic standpoint, removing that hitch solves two problem. First, it helps Finney-Smith get the shot off quicker, which makes it tougher for a defender to contest. More importantly, it takes pressure off his legs as he shoots. Previously, he’d have to jump higher to shoot so he could still be airborne when he released the shot. Now that he’s shooting on the way up, however, he doesn’t need as much lift.
That might not necessarily make much of a difference in October, but he’ll feel the benefits after the All-Star break. Finney-Smith shot a respectable 34.2 percent from beyond the arc in his first 45 games last season, but in his final 36 (from Jan. 29 through the end of the season) he shot just 22.1 percent from deep. NBA minutes take a toll on your body now matter how old you are, and during his rookie season he ranked fourth on the team in total minutes played. He never quite bounced back from hitting the proverbial “rookie wall” in 2017, but an easier, smoother jump shot should go a long way toward keeping him effective and consistent throughout the 2017-18 season.
The new shot has improved his stat line so far through two preseason games, but the adjustment didn’t pay off immediately when Finney-Smith played in the Las Vegas Summer League. He missed his first 13 3s in the tournament, but he understands that comes with the territory.
“I changed a shot that I’ve been shooting my whole life in one summer,” he said.
“It was discouraging, but it was part of the process,” he added. “The guys stayed on me. ‘Keep shooting.’ Coach told me it’s not gonna be overnight results.”
He kept trucking, making 5 of his final 13 attempts in the desert, good for a 38.5 percent clip during that time. Now he’s shooting 60 percent after two preseason games.
“When you make a significant change to your shot, it’s a lot of work,” Carlisle added. “You’ve got to go through a lot. During the summer league, he didn’t shoot the ball great, but he kept with it. The shot looked good even though it wasn’t going in.”
To give an idea of how much his shot has changed, take a look at the following slow-motion gifs. The first is from last season, while the second is from this preseason. Notice not only a shortened form, but also how much earlier in his jump he’s able to release the ball.
The next angle shows the new form even better. While the shot rims out, it’s a good miss, not one off the front of the rim.
Now that you’ve seen it in slow motion, it should stand out a little more at live speed. In the two examples below, you can not only tell how his form has changed, but you can see he’s able to put more arc on the ball, which gives it a much better chance of going in the basket. The first shot is from the last game of last season.
The second shot’s arc took the ball out of the frame, which is always a good thing. Last season, the ball rarely got more than a couple feet above the rim, which decreases the ball’s chance of finding the net.
Finney-Smith is one of just three traditional wing players on the roster as it stands now, joined only by Wesley Matthews and Harrison Barnes. Basically every other player is below 6-foot-3 or above 6-foot-10. That means each will be expected to produce from the 3 and 4 spots throughout the season, and a huge component of that production is the 3-point shot. We already know the Florida product can defend, but a consistent long-range jumper will do wonders for his game and for the offense. If defenders have to respect his shot, it would open up driving lanes for the guards and clear up traffic when roll men want to rumble downhill into the paint.
His performance against the Magic was a great start to that progress. He shot 3 of 4 from beyond the arc, with his one misfire barely rimming out. It’s not always about the outcome of the shot, of course, as much as it is about the improved form. Or at least that’s what everyone will focus on in the preseason. Once the meaningful games begin, the results are going to be all that matters to the bottom line. Finney-Smith has laid a nice foundation, though.
“I’m just trying to build on that,” he said. “It’s only one game, so hopefully we just keep getting better.”