When the Dallas Mavericks pulled off a trade for Christian Wood
— sending off a bundle of not-in-the-rotation pieces back to
Houston Rockets in return — my mind immediately went to three
1) That's all it took to get Wood, huh? The Rockets must've
really wanted to clear the runway for the younger guys.
2) Oh, Christ, the pick-and-roll tandem with him and Luka Doncic
is going to be unstoppable.
3) Man, Dallas better hope his defense holds up.
Yes, that's all it took to get Wood in a contract year. There
were just enough question marks, on and off the floor, for the
price for Wood to drop. And Wood is talented enough to make the
gamble worthwhile for a Dallas team that has to get a little
creative to build around Doncic.
On the talent front, Wood is showcasing it all. He's averaging
24.3 points (.625/.615/.633 shooting splits) and 8.7 rebounds in
26.3 bench minutes. To shoot that well from three on moderate
volume (4.3 attempts per game) while also living at the free throw
line (10.0 attempts per game) is absurd stuff.
It's no surprise that the Mavs have been typo-good in his
minutes offensively, boasting a 137.5 Offensive Rating. And by
the way, the Doncic-Wood ball screen pairing has been as
You can't play drop coverage against these two. You're allowing
Doncic to get a defender on his hip, freeze the help and have the
big at his mercy. Wood can slow-roll it and get passes in the
pocket, then either take a dribble and generate a shot at the rim
or sprinkle in push shots in the intermediate area. Or, Wood can
simply pop out and drain triples.
Turning a drop into a late switch, or just switching outright,
is equally devastating. Wood has the right mix of skill and power
to abuse smaller players. And again, asking a big to defend Doncic
on an island is cruel and unusual punishment. There is no mercy,
only hope for a missed shot.
Putting two on the ball against Doncic is the best of bad
worlds, but even that is putting your team in scramble mode. Wood
isn't an inventive passer, but he's shown he's capable of making
basic kick-outs. And if Doncic is able to string out your trap,
you're really in trouble.
The numbers back up this dichotomy. On trips featuring a
Doncic-Wood ball screen, the Mavericks are generating 1.38 points
per possession (PPP) — the best mark in the NBA among 42
high-volume pairings (min. 30 picks) per Second Spectrum.
They've been successful against drop (1.00 PPP), flat-out abused
switches (1.47 PPP) and have generated plenty of goodness when
Doncic has gotten two on the ball (1.11 PPP). Even when some of
Wood's shooting numbers drop, you can probably bank in Doncic
raising his three-point shooting (25% on 10.7 attempts right now).
Good luck to your favorite team.
The defense is still worth monitoring. The Mavs are sporting a
110.4 Defensive Rating in Wood's minutes, and it's only
slightly better when he's not on the floor. That's pretty
I ... would still feel queasy, though; the Mavs have had Wood in
a drop more than anything, almost copy-pasting what they did with Kristaps
Porzingis last season. In addition to that, pay attention to
the perimeter when Wood is involved in ball-screens. They're
peeling in early to provide Wood with extra relief,
You'll see successful reps from the Mavs in the video
compilation below, but keep tabs on what's opening up.
About those kick-outs: Opposing teams have increased their
three-point rate by over 15% in Wood's minutes so far, per Cleaning
The Glass. Now, that number absolutely won't hold — that would
easily be the worst mark among rotation players, probably
ever, if it did. And on the flip side, the opposing rim
rate has dropped 19% in those minutes — another number that won't
But the theme is clear: We don't want to get beat at the rim
when Wood is in. How they go about that accomplishing that — how
often teams indulge in three-point hunting and what kind of
shooting variance that produces — will all be worth keeping an eye
Though drop has been the primary coverage for Wood, they have
sprinkled in other things. Against the Phoenix Suns and Memphis
Grizzlies, there were instances of Wood playing at the level or
outright hedging. Let's just say there's room for growth,
especially in the retreat/recovery phase.
At some point, the Mavs will probably tinker with letting Wood
switch more. Per Second Spectrum, Wood has only switched four (4)
of the 38 picks he's faced as the screener defender. While he won't
be confused with Bam Adebayo, that's easily his most comfortable
coverage. We'll see if (or when) Jason Kidd will indulge.
For now, the Wood experiment is going as expected. He's helped
juice the Mavs' attack on offense, while his presence defensively
has opened up some things worth questioning within a playoff