After last season, Dorian Finney-Smith said this summer would be the biggest of his life. It’s no secret what part of his game needs to improve if he wants to see more time on the court.
The second-year forward must become more consistent in hitting jump shots, and that’s been his top priority this summer. He and the Dallas Mavericks will see any early strides made in that department in Las Vegas Summer League play, which starts play Saturday and goes through July 17.
“I’ve been working on my shot,” Finney-Smith said Thursday at the summer-league minicamp. “Trying to stop putting it so far behind my head — keep it in front.”
The Mavericks hope that adjustment cures what plagued Finney-Smith in his first professional season. Finney-Smith is such a talented defender that he started 35 games, but he can’t be a liability on offense.
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Finney-Smith shot 50 percent or better from the field in only 27 of his team-leading 81 games played. For the season, Finney-Smith shot 37.2 percent from the field and 29.3 percent from 3-point range.
Finney-Smith isn’t going to become a lights-out shooter overnight, but the sports cliché says most players take their biggest strides going into the second season.
Jamahl Mosley, an assistant coach who serves as head coach of the Las Vegas squad, agrees that Year 2 is where you should see the most improvement, particularly with players such as Finney-Smith and point guard Yogi Ferrell.
“You look at a guy like Dorian. You look at a guy like Yogi,” Mosley said. “You look at a guy in their second year where they’ve experienced the NBA level of basketball at the highest level and now you say, ‘OK, here’s what I need to do. Now I need to turn that over into another level.’ ”
For Finney-Smith, that other level must come on offense. He averaged 4.3 points and 2.7 rebounds in 20.3 minutes per game last season after going undrafted out of Florida.
But Finney-Smith doesn’t view himself as a player deserving of the undrafted label, and proved it. He became a lockdown defender under the guidance of the Mavericks’ best perimeter defender, Wesley Matthews.
It won’t be surprising to see Finney-Smith develop, either. He had an impressive college career at Florida. He was named to the second-team All-SEC as a junior and senior, and averaged 14.7 points and 8.3 rebounds a game as a senior.
That is in the past now.
Finney-Smith, 24, is part of a young contingent the Mavericks hope to build around that includes first-round pick Dennis Smith Jr. (19), Nerlens Noel (23), Nicolas Brussino (24) and Harrison Barnes (25).
Finney-Smith spent much of his time last season playing small forward, but is getting more time at power forward this off-season. The 6-foot-8, 220-pounder is familiar with that position from college.
As the Mavs player with the most NBA minutes on the Vegas roster, Finney-Smith knows several players will look to him for pointers and leadership.
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“I know I have to be a little bit more vocal, playing 81 games and playing a lot of NBA minutes,” Finney-Smith said. “I’m kind of destined to be designated to be the guy to be verbal and help this team get wins.”
Plus, like most within the organization, he’s ready to see how highly touted rookie Smith Jr. handles himself.
“Man, he’s explosive,” Finney-Smith said. “Great talent. I can’t wait to see some of the things that he’s going to do out there.”
Reports: Hammons to Heat for veteran
The Miami Heat were in the midst Thursday of completing a trade with the Mavericks, the Miami Herald reported.
Yahoo Sports! reported that Miami will send forward Josh McRoberts (on the final year of a $6 million deal) and a future second-round pick to Dallas for center A.J. Hammons, a 2016 second-rounder who could be released to free up salary cap space.
After landing former Celtics center Kelly Olynyk with a four-year, $50 million deal, the Heat need cap space to re-sign forward James Johnson and guard Wayne Ellington.
In a 10-year career, McRoberts, 30, has averaged 5.4 points and 3.9 rebounds.