When the 2021-22 NBA season began, people weren’t expecting the Dallas Mavericks to do much.
They have one of the game’s greatest players in Luka Doncic, but no second star, and they started the season a mediocre 16-18.
But they caught fire after that, and after finishing 52-30 and with the fourth-best record in the Western Conference, the Mavs produced a massive upset of the top-seeded Phoenix Suns in the second round of the playoffs before taking the eventual champion Golden State Warriors to six games.
Guard Jalen Brunson emerged in the postseason as a borderline star, but it was clear that Dallas needed much more to take the next step and become legitimate contenders.
Just a few days ago, it traded several marginal role players to the Houston Rockets for big man Christian Wood, who has emerged as a very good player over the last couple of years.
The #Rockets officially announce the trade of Christian Wood to the Mavericks, and the acquisition of the draft rights to TyTy Washington at #29.
The team also receives Sterling Brown, Trey Burke, Marquese Chriss, and Boban Marjanović (!!!) pic.twitter.com/d1uwG4RjXz
— Cayleigh Griffin (@cayleighgriffin) June 24, 2022
Wood averaged 17.9 points and 10.1 rebounds per game this season, a year after putting up 21.0 points and 9.6 boards a game.
But is he the second star the Mavs have needed to get to the next level?
Wood Should Help Offensively
The problem with the Mavs has been on the offensive end, as they ranked 15th in offensive rating and dead-last in pace this year.
Other than Brunson, who reportedly may be headed to the New York Knicks as a free agent, the team lacked any consistent offensive threats outside of Doncic.
In the Western Conference Finals versus the Warriors, Dallas had a poor offensive rating of 106.6.
Wood will give Doncic and company a legitimate scoring threat that other teams will have to account for on a regular basis.
He is not only efficient (he has a career shooting percentage of 51.9), but he is also a good 3-point shooter who made 39.0 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc this year.
Wood stands 6-foot-10 and plays primarily the center position, and he is unique in the sense that he can create his own shot and hit 3s off the dribble.
The Dallas Mavericks have added Christian Wood and Jaden Hardy to their roster so far this offseason. I analyzed both players for @MavericksSI:
Jaden Hardy: https://t.co/iR2XA0pdVj
— Grant Afseth (@GrantAfseth) June 26, 2022
He is also an effective player in the pick-and-roll, and he can finish strong heading to the basket.
Wood’s midrange game is pretty much non-existent, but his ability to hit from the perimeter and take it to the basket will help the Mavs become more efficient and productive.
In particular, Doncic could have a field day setting him up for open, easy shots.
What About Defense?
Some fans and journalists have criticized Wood’s defense or lack thereof.
He doesn’t block shots that often, and he is not a difference-maker on that end of the floor.
On the other hand, according to N.B. Lindberg of Space City Scoop, Wood only allowed 43.7 percent shooting on shots he contested, which is really solid.
On the surface, it may seem like Wood is a good rebounder, but Lindberg dug into the advanced stats and showed that the big man is actually somewhat lacking in that category.
“Wood’s 3.9 contested rebounds per game is 22nd in the league for players who have played in 15 plus games and average over 15 minutes a contest,” Lindberg wrote. “Among that same sample, his 37.5% contested rebounding percentage is 78th in the league. Wood isn’t necessarily a bad rebounder for a center, but he definitely doesn’t give the Rockets anything extra.”
There is always the chance that Wood will put extra effort into certain categories, especially on defense and on the boards, now that he’ll be playing on a good team, but one also cannot assume he will.
It looks like he could be a solid third option on a good or great team, but perhaps he isn’t cut out to be Doncic’s sidekick or second star.