DAR Sports Underrated Series: Michael Finley
By Jeff Axel
The shooting guard position became deeper in the mid 90’s mainly due to Michael Jordan’s influence. One of the most underrated and forgotten wings from that era is one of the first Jordan Brand athletes, Michael Finley. Drafted in 1995-96, Finley displayed a quick first step and athleticism finishing above the rim through and around defenders. Finley was great at moving without the ball and he balanced that with a consistent mid range game that included a post fadeaway. His 6’7 frame and high vertical made it extremely hard for smaller guards to contest. He also hit 1,454 three pointers throughout his career on 38% for his career, showing that he could score on all 3 levels. His 17,306 career points are 2nd in his draft class behind Kevin Garnett, which is an incredible feat. Coming into the league, Finley averaged a respectable 15 PPG in his rookie year for the Suns, which was good enough for a spot on the All-rookie team. During his 2nd season in the NBA, he was part of a package with Sam Cassell and AC Green and was traded to the Dallas Mavericks for Jason Kidd. He finished that season at a respectable 16 PPG but his 3rd season was when things started to click for Finley.
In 1997-98, Finley averaged 21.5 PPG, 5 RPG, 5 APG and 2 SPG and that started a string of 5 consecutive seasons averaging at least 20 PPG (including 20.2 PPG in 1998-99 and 20.6ppg in 2001-2002). Finley scored 30 or more points 65 times in his career and his career high is 42 points in 2002 against the Pistons. 1999-2000 was Finley’s best individual season and his first All Star appearance where he averaged 22.6 PPG, 6 RPG, 5 APG and shot 40% from the 3 point line, leading the Mavericks in scoring. Finley started building good chemistry with young players Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki and had his second consecutive All-Star season averaging 21.5 PPG, 5 RPG, 4 APG. Finley was still able to be efficient and impactful despite Dirk Nowitzki improving every season. In his first ever playoff series in 2001 against the Jazz Finley averaged 24ppg and 6rpg. The following season in 2002 in the first 2 rounds he averaged 25 PPG and 6 RPG.
Finley had 3 more seasons in Dallas averaging 19.3, 18.6 and 15.7 ppg before going to the San Antonio Spurs and winning a championship as a role player in 2007. Before Dirk evolved into one of the best scorers of all time, Finley had multiple games where he displayed his versatile offensive ability. Finley was top 20 in assists per game twice in his career, top 20 in points per game 5 times in his career and top 20 in steals per game twice in his career. Some of his standout games include a 36 point, 12 rebound game against the Bucks in 2002, a 38 point, 9 rebound and 8 assist game against the Sonics in 2000, a 39 point and 10 rebound game against the Cavaliers in 1998, as well an electric 27 points, 10 steals and 7 assists performance against the Sixers in 2001.
Shoutout to Michael Finley having an assistant GM position for the Mavericks now, one of the most underrated players AND underrated in game dunkers from the late 90s and 2000’s era. Despite the cartwheel failed dunk, he caught some bodies early on in his career before becoming strictly a shooter. He is definitely underrated.