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USA Today Sports Media Group
Bryan Kalbrosky

Dorian Finney-Smith, not Kyrie Irving, was the most interesting player moved in Nets-Mavs trade

Welcome to Layup Lines, our basketball newsletter where we’ll prep you for the tip-off of tonight’s action, from what to watch to bets to make. Subscribe here to get it delivered to your inbox.

Kyrie Irving was traded in a blockbuster from the Nets to the Mavericks in exchange for Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith, and draft capital.

While everyone is talking about Irving, who is reportedly “ecstatic” to join Luka Doncic on the Mavericks, we should probably pay a bit more attention to the fact that Finney-Smith is now on the Nets.

Last week, when we wrote about trade rumors involving OG Anunoby, we highlighted the intersection of defensive positional versatility and defensive matchup difficulty. These are the types of players who are able to guard the best player on the opposing team regardless of the opposing position.

Finney-Smith and Anunoby are two of the only players who both rank in the top 10 (minimum: 1,000 minutes) across both metrics, via BBall-Index. The only others who are currently accomplishing as much are just Herbert Jones, Dillon Brooks, and Jrue Holiday.

When it comes to defensive positional versatility, Brooklyn’s Royce O’Neale also ranks in the top 10 so far this season. Ben Simmons, meanwhile, led the league in this metric during his first All-Star campaign with Philadelphia.

Finney-Smith, O’Neale, and Simmons give the Nets a versatile defense that will not struggle in a switch-heavy scheme. In the frontcourt, meanwhile, the Nets are led by sleeper Defensive Player of the Year candidate Nic Claxton.

Remember: Brooklyn’s defense ranked as the seventh-worst in the NBA during the era in which former head coach Steve Nash led the team. But the Nets’ ranked sixth-best in defensive rating during the impressive two-month stretch between when Jacque Vaughn took over on Nov. 9, 2022 and when Kevin Durant got hurt on Jan. 8, 2023.

Finney-Smith is only going to improve that defensive identity.

On the other side of the court, meanwhile, Finney-Smith will provide positive value as well. Over the course of their NBA careers thus far, Finney-Smith (36.0 percent on 4.1 attempts per game) and Anunoby (37.1 percent on 4.2 attempts per game) are also relatively comparable as 3-point shooters.

Last season, Finney-Smith was one of the league’s leaders in catch-and-shoot 3-pointers. He ranked in the 82nd percentile on these attempts, per Synergy.

Finney-Smith is an ideal win-now player for the Nets, and he may be gravely missed in Dallas if the experiment trading for Irving does not end up working out in their favor.

Brooklyn may not end up keeping Finney-Smith and could re-route him to a third team. That real possibility, as well as everything else about his value if he does stay on the team, makes him the most interesting player traded in this deal.

The Tip-Off

NBA content from around the USA TODAY Sports network.

(AP Photo/Abbie Parr)

My colleague, Mike Sykes, has all the details about what happened in the recent fight between Minnesota’s Austin Rivers and Orlando’s Mo Bamba:

“Late in the 3rd quarter of the Magic-Timberwolves game, tempers flared between the two.

Cameras were on the game, then players started going toward the Magic bench. And then the cameras just cut to Rivers and Bamba getting into it.

Multiple Magic players got into it, including Jalen Suggs who tossed Rivers to the ground.”

By the way, here is what Bamba supposedly said to Rivers that started the altercation.

One To Watch

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

(All odds via Tipico.)

Bucks (-180, -4.5) vs. Trail Blazers (+155), O/U 241.5, 10:00 PM ET

Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week. Portland’s Damian Lillard was named the Western Conference Player of the Week. Dame is averaging 40.0 points per game over his last seven games while Giannis is averaging 39.4 ppg.


For The Win

Everything we know so far about the Ja Morant – Pacers incident, which allegedly may have included a gun

LeBron James tweeted 3 words after the Kyrie Irving trade, and NBA fans roasted him

Four potential Kevin Durant trade destinations (if the Nets blow things up)

—Sixers are reportedly interested in acquiring Jazz big man Jarred Vanderbilt

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