Dorian Finney-Smith preps for ‘biggest summer’ of his life after productive rookie season

2016-17 Exit Interview: Dorian Finney-Smith

Mavs F Dorian Finney-Smith addresses the media for exit interviews.

DALLAS — Seeing of plenty of playing time during his rookie season after going untaken in last June’s NBA draft, Dallas Mavericks first-year forward Dorian Finney-Smith says he’s just beginning to scratch the surface of how effective he can be moving forward.

With 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki hobbled by a right Achilles strain early in the season, Finney-Smith was thrusted into the starting lineup quickly during his rookie campaign. Finney-Smith then started 35 times during his 81 appearances this season, making the most of his extra playing time with Nowitzki sidelined. But after admittedly hitting the proverbial rookie wall midway through the season, the former Florida standout vows to put in extra work this summer to return a better player in Year 2.

“I played 81 of 82 games, but kind of like right before the All-Star break I was banged up. I just needed a little break from the game, but a lot of my teammates told me it was normal, so they helped me through it,” Finney-Smith explained.

He added: “It’s probably going to be the biggest summer of my life, knowing the expectations that come with it. 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 defense.”

Defense was certainly the rookie forward’s calling card this season, guarding the likes of perennial All-Stars LeBron James, James Harden and Kevin Durant throughout the course of his first year in the league. But despite a sluggish start to the season at the offensive end, Finney-Smith slowly began to show glimpses of emerging as a knockdown shooter by the end of the grueling 82-game schedule.

All told, the 23-year-old averaged 4.3 points and 2.7 rebounds during his first season, clocking 20.3 minutes an outing. He also shot just 37.2 percent from the field and 29.3 percent from behind the three-point arc. But after shooting 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, Finney-Smith says he will work this summer to find consistency at the offensive end.

“I need to get my shot more consistent,” the 6-foot-8 rookie admitted. “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.

“(Defense) was the reason I got on the court. You know, the things I did on offense was just a plus. 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.”

Finney-Smith signed as a free agent with Dallas on July 8, joining the Mavericks’ summer-league squad as it competed in Las Vegas. He then showed throughout the season what made him a coveted player for the Dallas front office after playing his final three collegiate seasons at Florida following a transfer from Virginia Tech at the conclusion of his freshman year.

In 134 career collegiate games, the 220-pounder averaged 10.7 points and 7.1 rebounds while leading Florida in rebounding during all three of his seasons there and in scoring in each of his final two campaigns. But after earning the trust of Mavs coach Rick Carlisle and his veteran teammates, Finney-Smith says he’s eager to prove his worth next year with one professional season and a summer of training under his belt.

“It helped me,” Finney-Smith said of his rookie season. “You know, I got the chance to guard some great players, and coach (Carlisle) challenged me to guard a lot of great talent. I just went out there and tried to do my best.

“I’ve still got that chip on my shoulder, along with several guys in the locker room with me. But this is a great place for me. You know, it’s a great organization, and we’ve got great teammates. A lot of them really helped me out this year.”

With improved outside shooting, Dwight Powell closed ’16-17 strong

2016-17 Exit Interview: Dwight Powell

Mavs F Dwight Powell addresses the media for exit interviews.

DALLAS — Although it was a small sample size to close the 2016-17 schedule, the Dallas Mavericks were encouraged by 25-year-old big man Dwight Powell’s late-season offensive explosion and versatility along the front line entering the summer.

Last summer, Powell signed a reported four-year contract worth $37 million after showing glimpses of what he could do during the ’15-16 season. Powell then produced career-high numbers across the board during his third season in the NBA, averaging 6.7 points and 4.0 rebounds in 17.3 minutes an outing while making 77 appearances. But by averaging 13.8 points and 4.8 rebounds in 28.3 minutes during the Mavericks’ final four games of the season, Powell now admittedly heads into the summer with plenty of confidence after showcasing his overall ability to close the year.

“That was definitely one of the focuses, and it continues to be one of the focuses,” Powell explained. “Expanding my range and continuing to develop all facets of the game offensive and defensive is a long process, and I’m just going to keep working at it.

“Obviously, I had higher expectations for myself. I wanted to help this team more, and I wanted to win more. … Whatever it takes to help this team win and to put myself in a situation to be successful and help our team be successful, I’m willing to do whatever role [Mavs coach Rick Carlisle] wants me to do. That means continuing to develop really all facets of the game to be ready for those opportunities.”

Powell’s hard work definitely paid off to close the season, seeing a spike in his numbers while being gifted with more playing time by Carlisle. And according to Carlisle, one reason for that late explosion was Powell’s improved three-point shooting to close the season.

Powell finished the season shooting 51.5 percent from the field and 28.4 percent from behind the three-point arc. The 6-foot-11 big man also connected on 33.3 percent from long range during the final six games, taking advantage of his additional minutes at power forward after playing the bulk of his time this season as a backup center. Powell registered a career-high 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting and 4-of-8 from three-point range during a 124-111 loss in Phoenix on April 9, grabbing five rebounds, dishing two assists, collecting two steals and recording a block to boot in 32 minutes of action. That said, Carlisle will look for Powell to continue to develop his outside shot this summer while hoping the three-year pro can return more consistent from long range next season.

“I thought Powell continues to really do well with his three-point shooting, which is a really encouraging sign,” Carlisle said following the season.

He added: “He’s gotten a lot better with it. … Again, that’s a part of his game that needs to come around, and he knows that. He’s been busting his tail working on it, but we just haven’t been able to get him the reps in games. And so, again, now is a time we can look at that, and we can get him some of those shots. Young players in many cases are just so excitable that they get in the game for a short period of time and they’re just so hyped up, and it’s difficult to get into a rhythm. I want to see him play a little more extended minutes at the four, ’cause he’s played almost predominantly at five all year long.”

Powell averaged 5.8 points and 4.0 rebounds in 14.4 minutes per outing in 69 games with the Mavericks during the ’15-16 season before inking a new deal in restricted free agency last July. Prior to that, he was acquired by Dallas along with former point guard Rajon Rondo on Dec. 18, 2014, in a deal that sent Jae Crowder, Brandan Wright, Jameer Nelson, a 2015 first-round pick and a second-round pick to Boston. The Mavericks then viewed Powell as a multi-positional player when the front office signed the young big man last summer. And to the approval of Mavs owner Mark Cuban, Powell showed signs of filling that role throughout this season. But according to Cuban, Powell has to do more than simply show that he can consistently knock down outside shots in order to maximize his full potential next season.

“He’s got to be consistent like he has been (to close the season) to be a stretch four,” Cuban said while assessing Powell’s play. “The first 70 games, he wasn’t. We wanted him to be, but he wasn’t. But as a roll guy, he’s been amazing. And if he can shoot 35 or more percent from three, that changes his game dramatically. And then he’s just got to improve on the defensive end. You know, I think Dwight leads the league in (bad) calls against him. I mean, it’s not even close, and so we’ve got to talk to the league to find out why he’s the fall guy so often. And then Dwight’s got to improve his shot blocking, because he’s got the length and athletic ability to be able to block more shots and rebounding. But I think he’ll improve in all of those areas. Again, he played more minutes than he ever has, and I don’t think people really recognize that to mentally go from all of a sudden playing four minutes a game for 50-60 games to 20 minutes a game, by the time you get to the end of the season, that’s tough.”