I usually stay away from any sort of rankings or lists. They’re all subjective, really, and built just to attract engagement. They’re not exactly a real attempt to resolve the current state of the NBA right now.
But ESPN recently released its list of the Top 100 NBA Players, ranked by their panel. I had some time to kill so I decided to browse the list. It didn’t take long for me to be perplexed and irritated by the exclusion of Dorian Finney-Smith.
I’m not blind here either. I wrote that the Dallas Mavericks should trade Finney-Smith in JANUARY OF THIS YEAR. While I appreciate his defense and rebounds, I’ve been critical of his shots for some time now. He misses many open 3-point shots, failing to draw defenders into the arc.
But these are minor criticisms of a player who does exactly what the Mavericks ask of him. Finney-Smith is a role player, but he is an elite role player. And he is definitely one of the top 100 players in the NBA. This is not an opinion, this is a fact.
Grant Williams of the Boston Celtics comes at 99 on the list. Finney-Smith is a better defender than Williams, often tasked with defending the best wing of the Mavericks’ opponents for 35-40 minutes per game. Williams comes off the bench for short shots to make a good save, but he isn’t asked to block some of the best scorers in the NBA for entire games.
Williams hit 41% behind the arc last season, compared to Finney-Smith’s 40%, but with two fewer attempts per game. Finney-Smith is a crucial starter and part of the Mavericks rotation. Williams is a crucial bench player for the Celtics.
Keegan Murray of the Sacramento Kings is ranked 93rd on ESPN’s list. A quick check of his stats shows that he hit 0% depth on zero shots per game last season BECAUSE HE WAS NOT EVEN IN THE NBA. Yet somehow he is ranked on this list and Finney-Smith is not.
I could go on like this for a while, naming players like Mitchell Robinson, Kevin Love, and Mike Conley, who are all on the ESPN list, while Finney-Smith is not. And this list is not based on past achievements or future potential. ESPN specifically says that “ESPN’s NBA Ratings Panel, comprised of more than 200 reporters, editors, producers and analysts, was asked to rate players based on their predicted contributions – quality and quantity -” only for the 2022-23 season.” (Emphasis is mine)
Leaving Finney-Smith off this list is so egregious it can’t simply be for real basketball reasons. I’m just guessing that the good folks at ESPN have literally forgotten that Dorian Finney-Smith exists. There is no other explanation for why the best winger of one of the Western Conference finalists is completely off the list of the 100 best players in the NBA.
With or without recognition of his existence, Finney-Smith will continue to be an integral part of the Mavericks rotation and one of the best quarterbacks in the Western Conference. The fans in Dallas will like his game if no one else will.