The Dallas Mavericks transitioned to a roster full of unproven young players this offseason, and Dorian Finney-Smith is evidence that the plan can work.
For numerous years the Dallas Mavericks front office has followed the same recipe for success: surround all-time great Dirk Nowitzki and head coach Rick Carlisle with capable, savvy veterans in order to make a playoff run. This plan has worked swimmingly in the past, resulting in a multitude of playoff appearances, winning seasons, and even one NBA Championship. However, the nucleus of this success has been the stellar play of Nowitzki, and eventually the Big German’s basketball journey will find its end and he will finally unload the weight of carrying his beloved franchise.
Mark Cuban and the Mavs’ front office have begun to take measures in order to prepare for Dirk’s departure, changing their roster-building strategy this offseason. Dallas let many veterans walk in free agency in order to make room for more youngsters. Names like Seth Curry, Quincy Acy, Justin Anderson, Dwight Powell, Jonathan Gibson, Nicolas Brussino, A.J. Hammons, and Dorian Finney-Smith filled the Mavs roster.
Fast-forward to the present, and Finney-Smith has emerged as a valuable contributor and legitimate talent for the Mavericks. Last night against the Kings DFS led all Mavs in scoring with a career high 17 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, and1 steal. In the past 9 games, Finney-Smith has averaged 9.3 points and 3.8 rebounds while playing some stifling defense.
The best part about Finney-Smith’s recent play is that its evident just how much and how quickly he has grown. He was already a solid defender, but after some work with Wes Matthews and the rest of the Mavs coaching staff, he has learned to utilize his wiry frame and long wingspan to terrorize opponents and make plays. Also, his shooting stroke has improved significantly as the season has progressed with his 3 point percentage rising to 34%, and it will only keep growing.
After not being drafted, nearly not making the Mavs roster, and finding himself buried at the end of the bench, DFS has made a name for himself and is a very positive aspect for Dallas during this poor season. More importantly, however, he is proof that the Mavs youth movement can work.
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While many fans had high hopes for each and every of the Mavericks young new pieces, it simply isn’t realistic to expect all of the projects that Dallas’ took on to grow into a success. Developing young players is a tricky and difficult process that frankly, often doesn’t quite work. Finding a player with great potential, giving them a shot, and that player growing into their potential is something that doesn’t happen often in the NBA.
Seth Curry has been inconsistent, Justin Anderson hasn’t make the jump many thought he would, Dwight Powell is horribly underwhelming at times, Quincy Acy is no longer on the roster, and A.J. Hammons only recently found a spot in the rotation thanks to injuries. And all of that is okay.
Dallas’ youth movement was never about making the best NBA roster or finding the next all-time great Maverick, it was about giving some youngsters the opportunity to grow. It was about planning for the future by finding the diamonds in the rough, even if that means doing some strenuous and pain-staking mining in the process. Finney-Smith is a prime example that the process can work. He is evidence that sometimes when you take a big gamble on a player, you win big.
So I beckon for all MFFLs to have patience. We must persevere through these trying times, as you never know what (or who) is around the corner. Young players can grow, projects can pay off, and that bench warmer that everyone is forgetting about just may surprise us one day. Lets hope the Dallas Mavericks find many more Dorian Finney-Smiths.