If we’ve learned anything about Dallas Mavericks general manager Nico Harrison in his first year on the job, it’s that he pays close attention to the team situations certain players are in when considering trading for them or not.
The Mavs made a trade with the Houston Rockets on Wednesday to acquire Christian Wood, who automatically gives Dallas the upgrade at center it was seeking this offseason.
"When a team’s not playing up to their capabilities, then you start seeing that the players aren’t playing up to their capabilities as well,” said Harrison on our Mavs Step Back Podcast after Dallas traded Kristaps Porzingis to the Washington Wizards for Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans.
“It’s like, ‘hey, who’s a guy who maybe you value him more than his team does right now because they’re not winning?’ And then, can you put them on our team with J-Kidd and the players that we have surrounding them, and does that help them get back to the level that we expect them to play at? That’s kind of what we gambled in this case.”
That “gamble” paid off, as the Mavs not only won their first playoff series in 11 years, but they advanced all the way to the Western Conference Finals before running into a Golden State Warriors team that won their fourth championship in the last eight years on Thursday night.
Not only was the play of Dinwiddie criticized in Washington, but he was blamed for a lot of the Wizards’ locker room dysfunction as well — something Dinwiddie openly said he’s hurt by. However, Dinwiddie’s play on the court and character displayed with his Mavs teammates ended up being as good, if not better, than expected. He went from being in a losing situation with loose structure to a winning one with an upbeat, tight-knit culture spearheaded by Harrison and coach Jason Kidd.
Similar to what happened with Dinwiddie, though, there have been rumblings from critics over the last year about Wood's character – Ryen Russillo even went as far as saying he's a "tough teammate" and tough guy to have around in general. His defensive efforts have been questioned as well.
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"This is an incredible opportunity for him to also challenge himself to be a starting point guard in this league on an every night basis. I think he’s going to respond exceptionally well.”
Just like with the Mavs-Wizards trade, though, there needs to be more context added to Wood's situation. The likely reason he signed with Houston in the first place was because he thought he'd be competing for championships alongside James Harden. Instead, he's spent the last two years of his blossoming career on a Rockets team that traded Harden and has won a total of 37 games in that span.
In fact, if you go back to the 2019-20 season when Wood really started to make a name for himself in the league with the Detroit Pistons, his teams have won a total of 57 games in three years. How could a 26-year-old player in his prime, who clawed and fought his way into sticking in the league, not be upset with such consistent losing?
With all due respect to people like Russillo who do a fine job covering a wide variety of sports, we're more inclined to believe the opinions of those who have covered Wood extensively over the years.
"Couple things worth noting about the Christian Wood era: He was a stand-up guy in an unbelievably tough two-season stretch, and he should flourish with the Mavs," said Houston Chronicle beat writer Jonathan Feigen after Wood was traded to Dallas.
Wood was also known for doing kind things for his Rockets teammates as well, such as renting out an entire movie theater for them to watch "The Batman" in March, per his former coach Stephen Silas.
The culture that Harrison, Jason Kidd and the rest of the Mavs' coaching staff implemented this season is something that has staying power. Not only should Wood be an excellent fit with Dallas on the court – he'll be recipient of many passes from Luka Doncic in pick-and-rolls and pick-and-pops – but he should also be a fit in the locker room as well.
Winning cures all, and Wood could potentially win more games with the Mavs next season than he's won the last three seasons combined. We'll find out soon what other moves Dallas has in store with the NBA Draft coming up on June 23 and free agency beginning on July 1.