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.”

Eric Griffin hopes to build on strong summer showing entering training camp

DALLAS — He seemingly flew in out of nowhere. But, when the highflying Eric Griffin finally landed, he had already made his presence felt last month with the Dallas Mavericks’ summer-league squad.

Introducing himself to the basketball world with a posterizing dunk over former Maverick Shane Larkin to tip off the Las Vegas Summer League, Griffin launched himself into consideration to fill a roster spot for the team this upcoming season. He then left Las Vegas on a high note following his best all-around game shortly after signing a non-guaranteed contract with the Mavs on July 18, scoring 20 points on 9-of-13 shooting, adding three rebounds and three blocked shots to boot as Dallas routed Phoenix with a blowout 88-62 win.

Now, Griffin will try to build on his impressive summer, looking to earn a spot on the Mavericks’ regular-season roster when training camp commences on Sept. 30.

“That brought a big smile to my face,” Griffin said while grinning from ear to ear after signing with the Mavs. “My mom was happy more than anything. She knows where I came from and how I started, and it’s a big day for me.”

The 6-foot-8, 194-pounder averaged 11.4 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.2 blocks and 1.2 steals in 20.8 minutes of work, coming off the bench in four of the Mavs’ five summer-league games. He also continuously showcased a flair for athletic and acrobatic finishes, tallying up a multitude of highlight reel dunks. 

But now Griffin is out to prove that he’s more than just a future Slam Dunk contestant, hoping to display all of his attributes this fall.

“You know, I’m not just a high flyer,” Griffin said. “I can defend well, I can block (shots) and get steals. I’m just really trying to show my ability and what I can do.”

Starring at Campbell University while playing 31 games his senior season, Griffin averaged 15.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 2.4 blocks for the Fighting Camels and was named to the All-Big South Conference First Team and NABC District 3 First Team. But, after seeing limited time with the Miami Heat in the preseason a year ago before spending all of last season playing internationally with Gauros de Lara in Venezuela and Leones de Ponce in Puerto Rico, Griffin knows that he still has a lot to prove in order to impress the Mavs’ brass while continuing his NBA dream.

Still, after the Mavs instilled confidence in the 24-year-old this summer, Griffin says that the sky is the limit for him this season and he’s not ready to come down off of Cloud Nine.

“I felt better in taking my shots,” Griffin said after his dream of playing in the league hit speed bumps previously. “The last couple of years I wasn’t comfortable shooting, and the Mavs just told me to just go out there and shoot, space the floor and let it come to you. And that’s what I did. … I’m just really happy to be here. I’m finally here. It’s definitely not over. I still have to prove myself to the team and the organization.”