The Dallas Mavericks signed Dorian Finney-Smith to a 3-year, $12 million contract in the summer of 2019. It’s clear the Mavs’ front office and Head Coach Rick Carlisle see something in Dorian.
Despite going undrafted in the 2016 NBA Draft, the Mavericks have kept him around, worked to develop his skills, and made him a regular part of the rotation.
Well, that’s what I’m wondering. There are other Mavericks fans who call for more Dorian Finney-Smith. And Rick Carlisle clearly has no hesitancy in playing him.
I’m no basketball genius. There has to be a good reason why the Mavericks keep Dorian around. They must see something in him.
I set out to find out what.
What Do the Mavs See In Dorian Finney-Smith?
In this Article
We’re going to break this down into two parts: Defense and Offense. We’ll look at advanced analytics since I’m sure the Mavericks take those into consideration. We’ll also look at game film.
I started here because it’s what Finney-Smith is best known for. After all, Rick Carlisle recently called him ‘one of the best 3-and-D guys in the league’.
I pulled data from the 2018-2019 season. This year’s sample size is too small and the years before that the Mavericks were awful. I wanted to give him the best chance to shine.
The advanced analytics paint a clear picture:
Dorian Finney-Smith is a very good defender.
There. I said it.
His Defensive Rating in the 2019 season was 108.7. That means the team allows 108.7 points per 100 possessions with him on the court.
How does that stack up among other NBA players?
Here’s a list of other players who had a similar Defensive Rating that season:
Clint Capela: 108.7
Patrick Beverley: 108.7
Klay Thompson: 108.5
Jimmy Butler: 108.3
Finney-Smith is also a good one-on-one defender. Opponents’ field goal percentage dropped 2.4 percent when he guarded them.
That’s on the same level as these well-known defenders:
Serge Ibaka: -2.4%
Klay Thompson: -2.5%
Joel Embiid: -3.1%
Again, he’s no Giannis, whose Differential Percentage was -6.5, but no one is saying Dorian is a Defensive Player of the Year candidate.
At least I hope not.
The analytics say he’s a great rebounder, too.
While on the court, he grabbed 9.2% of the total available rebounds. How does that stack up against other players his size?
Here are other players that are 6’7 or taller whose Total Rebound Percentage was in the same range:
Khris Middleton: 8.8%
Jaren Jackson Jr.: 9%
Otto Porter: 9.2%
Finney-Smith is even more impressive when you focus on offensive rebounds. He grabbed 6.4% of those available rebounds. That’s in the same range as Giannis Antetokounmpo, who grabbed 6% of available offensive rebounds, and Ben Simmons who grabbed 6.2%.
Defense and rebounding is a lot about effort and hustle. But it’s also about having the right physical tools, which Dorian has.
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It’s no wonder the Mavericks were intrigued by Dorian Finney-Smith, even as an undrafted prospect. He has all the physical tools to be a great defender.
Dorian Finney-Smith has a 6’11.75 wingspan and a 35.5” vertical.
He can reach up nearly 9 feet just by standing and raising his arms.
Here are his pre-draft measurements compared to three elite defenders that are the same height as Dorian.
Dorian Finney-Smith’s Pre-Draft Measurements
|Player (Pre-Draft)||Wingspan (ft./in.)||Hand Length (in.)||Hand Width (in.)||Standing Reach (ft./in.)||Lane Agility (sec.)||Standing Vertical Leap (in.)||Max Vertical Leap (in.)|
Here are some notable points:
- Dorian Finney-Smith has an incredible wingspan at almost 7 feet.
- His hands are the same size as or larger than other great defenders’. Kawhi Leonard’s giant hands are less than an inch longer.
- Dorian is quick and athletic. He had a faster Lane Agility time than Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, and Danny Green; he has a higher standing reach than all four guys on this list, and has a higher max vertical than all four accept Jimmy Butler.
It wouldn’t have been crazy for the Mavericks to see Dorian as a Kawhi Leonard/Jimmy Butler hybrid on defense.
Physically, he has the tools and talent to be that.
Ok, so in a vacuum, that all sounds great. Let’s look at the film to see what Dorian does on the court that helps his team.
Defensive Video Highlights
You’ll see in these video clips that Dorian uses his length effectively on defense.
He starts off guarding Mike Scott, but switches to Ben Simmons. When Justin Jackson gets (hilariously) juked by JJ Redick, Finney-Smith uses his long arms to effect the pass just enough to where Redick loses his handle and has to readjust his grip, which ultimately leads to a turnover.
Here is another example of good help defense.
Finney-Smith is guarding Monte Morris. Morris swings the ball to a teammate on the perimeter, who drives on Luka Doncic. Luka is pretty much beat, but Finney-Smith is able reach in and get a hand on the ball.
You normally don’t want to help off one pass away. But Dorian is so long, that even after helping off Morris, he’s still just a half-step away from contesting a shot, if needed.
Let’s take a look at one more example.
Dorian is expecting a pick from Joakim Noah and starts preparing for that. Avery Bradley sees this and cuts to the basket. Dorian is behind his man and not in a favorable position.
But again, his long arms mean the play isn’t lost. He can quickly reach back and deflect the pass, forcing a turnover.
These plays show the value of Dorian’s length, quickness, and agility. Those are three key qualities of good defenders.
What about Dorian’s rebounding?
The numbers are great, but I noticed something while watching the film.
Many of his offensive rebounds come because his defender isn’t paying attention to him, probably because he’s not a threat offensively. Often, he’s not boxed out.
Is that a problem? I don’t know. If it leads to rebounds, who cares?
If he becomes a threat on the perimeter, will the extra attention mean his defender actually boxes him out?
I would venture to say that his defensive rebounds are not very impressive either. Since he often guards perimeter players, his man usually sprints down the court after a missed shot – either for the fast break or to set up on defense. Finney-Smith hangs back and gets a rebound because he’s the only one who hasn’t been boxed out.
This is equivalent to thinking Russell Westbrook is an amazing rebounder because he gets so many, and then watching games and realizing that everyone is just conceding to him and letting him get the rebound. Different cause. Same effect.
Now, it’s not like all of Dorian’s rebounds come from those two situations. And again, does it matter? If his job is to get rebounds, I’d say ‘Mission accomplished’.
I’ll leave that one up to Rick Carlisle.
This is where I’ve always had a problem with Finney-Smith. I thought he hurt the team on offense.
But I set out to prove myself wrong and figure out what the Mavericks see in him.
Rick Carlisle is clearly grooming Dorian to be a 3-and-D player. I stated at the outset that Carlisle himself has declared that role for Finney-Smith.
So let’s look at Dorian’s 3-point shooting.
In the 2018-2019 season, Dorian Finney-Smith made 31.1% of his 3-point attempts.
That’s pretty low.
Dorian Finney-Smith’s shot chart for the 2018-2019 season (That’s a lot of red X’s on the perimeter.)
He made 35.2% of his 3-point attempts from the right corner and 27.5% of his attempts from the left corner.
(The corner three is supposed to be the easier 3-pointer.)
The gold standard here would be a player like Klay Thompson, who made 52.3% of his right corner 3-pointers, or JJ Redick, who made 57.1% of his left corner 3-pointers.
I’m not saying Dorian should be there. Those guys are all-time great shooters. But he should be somewhere close to that. Heck, even Gerald Green made almost 45% of his left corner 3-pointers and he’s always been an “ok” shooter from deep.
Even when left wide open, meaning there isn’t a defender within six feet, Dorian made only 34.2% of his 3-point attempts.
And if you’re wondering, nearly 40% of the 3-pointers Dorian shot were wide open. And he still only shot 31.1% overall.
This is a problem because nearly 50% of the shots Dorian takes are 3-pointers. And we know the Maverics have put an emphasis on getting more looks from 3-point range.
Because he struggles to contribute offensively, his Net Rating is negative. That’s despite his stellar defense and rebounding.
Dorian Finney-Smith’s Net Rating in the 2019 season was -1.9. That puts him in the same range as Wesley Matthews and Jeff Green, the latter of which you might have forgotten was still playing basketball.
As good as Dorian is on defense, he’s worse on offense. If he’s an 8 on defense, he’s a -10 on offense.
Let’s take a closer look at the film to see why.
Offensive Video Lowlights
We already talked about Dorian’s poor shooting. There’s no need to see film on that. After all, nearly 40% of those shots are wide open.
But it goes beyond that.
If Dorian is doing anything other than catching the ball and immediately shooting, it’s a problem.
First, Dorian should have immediately swung the ball to Jalen Brunson at the top of the arc. When he opted to not do that, the next obvious choice would be to pass it to Tim Hardaway, Jr. in the corner. He could have at least dumped the ball to Dwight Powell in the lane.
The multitude of options highlights Finney-Smith’s lack of any sort of play-making or decision-making ability.
Here’s another example of a bad decision.
A simple pump-fake would have sufficed. This play was dead the minute he dribbled.
And one more for good measure.
Basically, Dorian should never be the ball-handler in a pick-and-roll. (Well, he shouldn’t be a ball-handler at all, which by itself is limiting.)
Look at it this way:
- If Dorian catches and immediately shoots the ball, he’ll make the shot less than 33% of the time.
- If the defender closes out and Dorian has to dribble and make a decision, he’ll probably turn it over.
- But even if he’s wide open, he’s only going to make the shot 34% of the time.
You can see now why he’s a negative on offense, can’t you?
Dorian Finney-Smith’s Potential
So, I was right…sort of.
Although my now humbled basketball mind could not see Dorian’s impact on defense, the analytics show that it’s huge. And he has all the physical tools to be a great defender.
But his terrible 3-point shooting and decision-making negate anything he does on defense.
So, I ask again, What do the Mavericks see in Dorian Finney-Smith?
Here’s a theory.
The Mavs must know that Dorian is not currently one of the best 3-and-D guys in the league, despite what Rick Carlisle says.
But they’re hoping he can become that.
He’s already a great defender. All they’re asking him to do is get better at shooting threes.
It’s just one thing.
He doesn’t need to break ankles or shoot fadeaways. Just catch the ball, shoot it, and make it around 35-40 percent of the time.
When you look at it that way, I understand the Mavs’ decision to keep Dorian around. They gave him a team-friendly deal. It’s low risk, high reward.
And Carlisle continues to give him minutes because he is such a great defender. Honestly, it probably says more about his belief in Luka and Kristaps as offensive players. If they can dominate offensively the way we all believe they can, Dorian might not hurt you too much.
Obviously, the Mavericks would rather have Danny Green.
That didn’t happen.
Could Dorian Finney-Smith become Danny Green? Is that what the Mavericks see in him?
To the latter, probably. To the former….I’m still skeptical. But, hey, it’s worth a shot, right?