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Update: Dorian Finney-Smith was not selected in the 2016 NBA Draft but has signed to play for the Dallas Mavericks in the Las Vegas Summer League.
The road to the 2016 NBA Draft has been a long one for Florida Gators forward Dorian Finney-Smith.
It started in Portsmouth, Virginia, continued at Virginia Tech and reached a peak at Florida when Finney-Smith decided to give up a year of eligibility in order to play for the Gators and then-head coach Billy Donovan. It was then that Finney-Smith made his first important decision, a string of which have provided him with an opportunity to either be drafted on Thursday or at least be a coveted free agent at the end of the process.
In his first year of action with the Gators, Finney-Smith was relegated to a reserve role. All he did was average 8.7 points and 6.7 rebounds while becoming the SEC Sixth Man of the Year for a team that went all the way to the Final Four.
Thrust into a leadership role for a young team the next season, Finney-Smith not only scored 13.1 points per game, he improved his shooting stroke and hit career-highs of 47.2 percent from the field and 42.6 percent from beyond the arch, up 10 and 13 percent respectively from the year prior.
When Donovan departed for the NBA, Finney-Smith was faced with his next difficult choice: try his hand at the NBA or stay for a rebuilding year with new head coach Mike White. He picked the latter option, a surprise to some, but only became more productive in his redshirt senior season with averages of 14.7 points and 8.3 boards.
After signing with an agent and beginning training for the NBA, Finney-Smith was sure he would be invited to the 2016 NBA Combine in Chicago. He was so sure, in fact, that he turned down an invitation to participate in the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, an annual postseason camp consisting of some of the top seniors in college basketball who will almost assuredly play professionally — either in the NBA or overseas. NBA coaches and scouts flock Portsmouth to watch these players and do evaluations that often result in combine invites, draft selections, summer league signings and more.
Finney-Smith initially chose not to return to his hometown. Then, he changed his mind.
“It was a great decision asking to get back into Portsmouth because he declined the invite initially, thinking he would get into Chicago. Thirteen to 19 guys every year choose not to go to Portsmouth and then don’t get invited to Chicago and don’t get drafted,” explained draft expert Ryan Blake, the NBA director of scouting and a longtime OnlyGators.com analyst. “When you get the chance to interview with teams, play more basketball, you do everything you can to give yourself that opportunity. … He asked to come back into Portsmouth, and luckily we had someone who pulled out the last minute due to injury, and he got in.”
The result? Well, you can take a guess.
“He played extremely well. He played the way every NBA team loves to see, played together with his new teammates, stepped up when he needed to score, showed his athleticism, showed the constraints of [accepting] being told what to do there and [then] being given the freedom to score, playing defense, all that stuff. That was great,” Blake continued.
“As a result, he got an invite to Chicago, which opened up more doors. Playing in Chicago, during individual workouts and so forth, he impressed.”
Finney-Smith is now believed to be on a number of draft boards as a potential second-round selection on Thursday night. But Blake insists, whether Finney-Smith gets drafted or not, his phone will ring at some point before Friday morning, perhaps a couple of times with a variety of different offers.
“[There will be] several teams wanting to get him on a Summer League team. And then that summer league is going to be another process for him to open up doors,” Blake said. “It may be training camp after that. If he continues to make the right decisions, he has the versatility and all the skills to make an NBA roster. The [general managers] and the decision makers have to decide they have the full confidence to bring him on for either a partial guarantee, fully guaranteed contract or a draft pick.”
At 6-foot-8 and 220 pounds, the 23-year-old projects as a small forward in the NBA. Many believe him to be one of the top 10 seniors in the draft and a possibility to be selected as early as the middle of the second round.
“I look at him as a three, but again, he should not be pigeonholed into one position. There are a dozen different NBA positions these days,” said Blake. “Can he be a Draymond Green, a guy who can defend some stretch fours and be a guy that can break down a small forward and can he defend a small forward? That’s important. Those are the things teams look at from guys his size. Can he do that consistently, not only from a physical standpoint but from a mental standpoint?”
If Finney-Smith’s basketball IQ is anything like his decision making, he should be in a great spot by the end of the week. And there may even be a team with a former coach of Finney-Smith’s and the ability to jump into the late half of the second round, that could use his skill set next season.