I usually stay away from any kind of labels or lists. They are all really subjective, and were just created to attract engagement. It’s not exactly a real attempt to sort out the actual state of the NBA at present.
But ESPN recently released its list of the 100 best players in the NBA according to their team’s ranking. I had some time to kill, so I decided to browse the list. It didn’t take long for me to be baffled and annoyed by Dorian Finney Smith’s dismissal.
I’m not a blind homer here either. I wrote that the Dallas Mavericks should trade with Finney-Smith in January of this year. While I appreciate his defense and rebound, I’ve been criticizing his shot for a while now. He missed a lot of wide open three-pointers, and failed to attract defenders to the arc.
But these are minor criticisms of the player doing exactly what the Mavericks ask of him. Vinnie Smith is a role player, but he plays the role of the elite. He is definitely one of the 100 best players in the NBA. This is not an opinion, this is a fact.
Boston Celtics’ Grant Williams is 99th on the list. Vinnie-Smith is a better defender than Williams, and is often tasked with guarding a Mavericks opponent’s best wing for 35-40 minutes per game. Williams comes off the bench at short intervals to play a good defense, but he hasn’t been asked to shut down some of the NBA’s top scorers in entire games.
Williams hit 41% behind the arc last season, compared to 40% for Vinnie Smith, but on two fewer attempts per game. Finney-Smith is an important starter and part of the Mavericks spin. Williams is a key player for the Celtics.
Keegan Murray of the Sacramento Kings ranked 93rd on ESPN’s list. A quick check of his stats shows that he shot 0% from depth with no shots in every game last season because he wasn’t even in the NBA. However, it somehow ranked on this list and Vinnie Smith wasn’t.
I could go on like this for a while, naming players like Mitchell Robinson, Kevin Love, and Mike Conley, all of whom are on the ESPN roster while Finney-Smith isn’t. This list is not based on past achievements or future potential. ESPN specifically says: “The ESPN NBA Rating Committee, made up of more than 200 reporters, editors, producers, and analysts, was asked to rate players based on their expected contributions – quality and quantity – For the 2022-23 season only.(emphasis mine)
Leaving Finney-Smith off this list entirely is too horrible to simply be due to actual basketball-related reasons. I just suppose the good folks at ESPN have literally forgotten that Dorian Finney Smith exists. There is no other explanation for the best winger in a Western Conference finalist to be completely excluded from the NBA Top 100 list.
With or without acknowledging his existence, Finney-Smith will continue to be an integral part of the Mavericks’ rotation and one of the best wing defenders in the Western Conference. Fans in Dallas would appreciate his game if no one else did.