A season full of overachievement for the Dallas Mavericks ended in Game 5 against the Golden State Warriors on Thursday.
Many didn’t expect Dallas to reach the Western Conference finals. The roster lacked the star power. And for years, it has been known that stars are what win games in the NBA. However, Dorian Finney-Smith detailed during the West finals that Dallas doesn’t need stars because its roster fits. Between Jalen Brunson providing secondary ball-handler duties to Finney-Smith knocking down corner 3-point shots, Dallas won because everyone knew how to play off each other. And in the offseason, Finney-Smith wants the organization to build off what started in the 2021-22 NBA season.
“We’ve definitely got enough in this locker room to do something special,” Finney-Smith said. “We’re here. We’re a top-four team in the NBA. You can try to find another star, but you never know how that’s going to mesh with Luka or other personnel. It’s an adjustment to play with somebody like Luka [Doncic], too, and I feel like [Brunson] adjusted well and [Dinwiddie], too.
“The bunch of starts s— don’t work anymore. Fit matters.”
Chemistry was Dallas’ strength
Finney-Smith wasn’t the only player acknowledging how well Dallas’ role players played off Doncic and each other. Doncic himself believed that Dallas possessed special chemistry which lent the team to bouncing back during postseason difficulties.
“The teamwork, I hope someday it’s going to bring us a championship,” he said on Friday. “We improved a lot this year and took a huge step.”
He also added: “I love this team.”
Even those who weren’t playing as the year wore on — Tim Hardaway Jr. and Theo Pinson — took note of the chemistry present in Dallas’ locker room.
After the Game 5 loss, Pinson said there was “not one team that had more fun than we did.” And that was evident in Dallas’ willingness to make the extra pass, defend and play hard for each other.
In many games, Dallas’ opponent possessed more talent. But Dallas won because it possessed more heart.
“I think the best thing about this team is that we didn’t really care or focus on what people said about us,” Brunson, who is an unrestricted free agent said. “This was a great learning experience. It was really fun. That was the best thing about this. We had fun proving people wrong.
“We just kept getting better every single day.”
In whatever way you want to characterize Dallas’ run to the Western Conference finals, what was evident was Dallas’ willingness to play for one another — even when doubted. In the offseason, Nico Harrison and Mark Cuban will be tasked to build off what started in these NBA playoffs.
If they take Finney-Smith’s advice, Harrison and Cuban won’t merely look for a second star to pair with Doncic. They will examine how that star will fit in the bigger picture surrounding the team and the organization.
“I don’t think it’s about getting a bunch of All-Stars, it’s about getting people who fit together,” Harrison said on Friday. “There are teams with All-Stars (who were) sitting at home watching us play.”
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Feature image via Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports.