After getting beat up by Golden State Warriors big man Kevon Looney in the Western Conference Finals, the Dallas Mavericks knew they had to improve their frontcourt heading into the 2022-23 season. They did just that by signing JaVale McGee in free agency and trading for Christian Wood in mid-June.
Although coach Jason Kidd says McGee will be the team's starting center to begin the season, Wood's performance as a sixth man will likely be more vital to how successful the Mavs can be. And although Wood will be coming off the bench at the beginning of games, there's still a good chance he finishes games alongside his new pick-and-roll/pick-and-pop partner Luka Doncic.
The Ringer’s Kevin O’Conner compiled a list of seven players who could potentially shape this NBA season. Wood was one of the names listed, and for good reason.
"Porzingis was meant to be a reliable second option for Luka Doncic. But the Mavericks rightfully dumped him last season after he proved he couldn’t stay on the floor, and underwhelmed when he was on it. This summer, the Mavs added Christian Wood hoping he can be everything they wished Porzingis had been," writes O'Conner.
"At 6-foot-9 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan, Wood can shoot, create off the dribble, dunk, and block shots. Much like KP, Wood has never really put it all together. But he’s also never been in an environment as good as the one he’ll be in now in Dallas. And he’s trending up after a disastrous start to his career, which included his rookie season on the 10-win Process Sixers, a short stint in China, and time in the G League."
One of the reasons the Mavs think Wood will be a better fit than Porzingis was is the fact that Wood is more comfortable doing doing things Porzingis was not, like being in constant pick-and-roll actions and handling the ball on the perimeter. Like Porzingis, Wood still gets his isolation plays, but he's much more efficient.
"Last season, Wood was one of only 17 bigs to log 200 isolation plays, and he ranked sixth among them in scoring efficiency, according to Second Spectrum. Wood shot 50.4 percent on those chances, which isn’t on par with the league’s best guards, but is pretty solid and far exceeds the 36 percent posted last season by Porzingis," writes O'Conner.
"The Mavs swung and missed with Porzingis. But now they have a player who’s been waiting for the type of chance he’s about to receive. 'I want to become an All-Star and I want to win,' Wood told me two years ago. He won’t get a better opportunity than this one."
Given the negative narrative surrounding Wood's work ethic over the years, there are reasons to question whether or not he can put it all together in Dallas. However, this Mavs team is by far the best he's been on throughout his career, and he should have extra motivation to make it work given that he's in a contract year. If Wood lives up to his potential, not only will the Mavs' ceiling be higher, but bank account will be next summer as well.
"If you look at my past career, I've been on a lot of losing teams, so I have a huge opportunity to prove myself and prove that I can do well on a winning team," said Wood.
"I'm really excited. I don't compare Luka and James Harden together, but they have similar play styles together. I excelled when I played with a pass-first playmaking point guard. I think Luka is that and even better than he showed. I think he's a top-five player and me and him together should be fun."
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