DALLAS - After going undrafted in the 2016 NBA Draft, Dorian Finney-Smith had work to do. His defensive impact was known but there was a real need for him to improve on the offensive end.
And now, as he celebrates his May 4 birthday - with his Dallas Mavericks visiting Miami - he's starting to give the Mavs offensive gifts.
Part of Finney-Smith's offensive success is the result of teaming with Luka Doncic.
"He sees you,'' DFS said, "without even seeing you.”
But it's also about Finney-Smith's dogged determination to be a two-way force.
Finney-Smith's improvement offensively has been years in the making. The early results he achieved displayed substantial room for improvement. He shot at or below 38% from the field and 30% from beyond the arc during his initial two seasons in the NBA.
There was noticeable growth in Finney-Smith's efficiency on two-point field goals during his third-season. This was primarily the result of him experiencing significantly greater involvement and fine-tuning his execution in transition situations.
To put it into perspective, Finney-Smith experienced a 6.3% increase in his output on two-point field goals going from his second to third NBA campaign. Overall, he went 54.4% from inside the arc in 2018-19 but was still converting at just a 31.1% clip from deep.
A lot of work has gone into Finney-Smith adjusting his shooting mechanics into a process that consistently works. He remained confident despite a 'down period' while he worked through it.
“He went through a down period as the re-built was happening, but never stopped believing,'' Carlisle said. "Now he’s one of our most important players. I’m really happy for him.”
The 2019-20 season featured a significant display of progress in Finney-Smith's efforts to improve his perimeter shooting. His percentage jumped by 6.5% up to 37.6% overall while raising his attempts per game from 3.1 up to 4.3.
Sometimes, having a significant season-to-season increase in a player's three-point percentage fails to sustain. This season, Finney-Smith has proven that his revamped jump shooting is here to stay. He's now taking 5.1 three-pointers per game and is teetering on the line of converting 40% as he sits at 39.5% currently.
Teammates have taken notice of Finney-Smith's progression offensively. In fact, his teammates want him to become even more aggressive to solidify himself as a potent threat when playing off-the-ball.
“We be on him about trying to be a little bit more aggressive on the offensive end so teams can really, really respect you on that end of the floor,” Tim Hardaway said. “He’s out there doing his thing now, and coming down and shooting pull-up threes – something you’ll never see (Finney-Smith) do.
“(He’s) pump-faking and shooting mid-ranges and dunking on people. He’s being the ultimate aggressive player that we want him to be right now and we’re loving it, and we need him to continue to do that if we’re going to be a great team.”
Regardless of who the Mavericks face off against in the NBA playoffs, it's clear that Dorian Finney-Smith will be an important part of the matchup. He will be tasked with guarding the opposition's best players all the while being needed as a consistent floor spacing option on offense to alleviate pressure from Luka Doncic.
Luka will see Dorian without seeing him ... and hopefully Finney-Smith will reward Dallas with more offensive gifts.