Wood Joins Dončić in Dallas

Updated: June 16, 2022
Boston Celtics v Houston Rockets

An unexpected exchange has hit the airwaves from two franchises who both reside in the Lonestar state yet occupy very different frequencies in their intentions towards the upcoming 2022-23 season. The Dallas Mavericks have acquired 6’10” power forward Christian Wood for the collection of Boban Marjanovic, Sterling Brown, Trey Burke, Marquese Chriss, and the 26th pick in the upcoming draft. Stripped down though, considering Marjanovic is more of a mascot for a franchise and Burke, Chriss, and Brown all were given DNPs from Game 2 onward in their elimination series against the Warriors, Wood was essentially traded for a late first-rounder and 4 expiring contracts that come off the books after next season.

A Christian Wood trade is not the unexpected part of the exchange, in fact, Houston moving off the offense first big appeared inevitable after the turbulence with his off-court interactions in the locker room and his expectations for his upcoming extension. At only 14 million for the upcoming season and the offensive explosion the 3-point shooting near 7-foot scorer provides, the thought was that his value as an asset would be relatively high once placed on the block. Instead, the Rockets acquired 4 players who most likely will have little to no impact on their upcoming roster and the bare minimum for a headlined trade in a single late 1st.

With how early this exchange has come before the draft or even the conclusion of the Finals, it appears when the Rockets shopped Wood around the league at the deadline there were not many thirsty suitors for his services. With his affordable salary that would have been easily matched by non-pivotal pieces from their rosters, pretty much any contender could’ve had him back in February and opted to stand pat and not waste a first.

Next season’s playoffs will presumably host the Dallas Mavericks and the new duo of Luka Dončić and Christian Wood as yet another case study of what defensive liabilities in the front court look like under the bright lights. Although Wood is quick on his feet out on the perimeter, he undoubtedly will be hunted by the likes of Golden States’ Curry + Poole tandem, Ja’s relentless attack in Memphis, the CP3 + D-Book combo in the desert, the Murray/Joker pick n’ roll, and D-Mitchell if he decides to stay in Salt Lake.

Though the highlight reel of Christian can sport an array of shot-blocking abilities, his high center of gravity and slight frame make him an easily movable object on the block. The entire value of a stretch big becomes extremely diminished by this liability, especially in a conference that holds the reigns of back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic who will never be played off the floor and can abuse even the most grounded Footers in the West. Even the likes of Looney, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Towns should be salivating in a series where Dallas decides to play Wood as their sole center. The idea is likely that he will be paired in the front court with Maxi Kleber or Dwight Powell, two bigs that simply didn’t cut the mustard against the movement offensive in San Francisco.

For the price, Dallas’ new offensive toy, especially at only 26, is a nice pick-up for only a single 1st. The value moving forward though will be tied to what type of contract they agree upon for his looming extension. It is likely the primary reason Houston decided to move off him, as many players of his mold (offense first-bigs), expect bigger bags than their on-court impact actually provides when it comes to collecting W’s in the moments that matter most.

Although Houston didn’t get much back for him, it wasn’t a steep cost in acquiring him from Detroit in the first place (Ariza who has essentially not played since the trade, the rights to Isiah Stewart, a 2nd round pick, and cash consideration). In his debut as a Rocket on December 26th, 2020, Wood put up 31 and 13 and looked like a monstrous young pick-up for a rebuilding Rockets team. Unfortunately, this game and a player’s production are often defined by what’s between the ears not from the neck down. He was fined a game without pay back in January for “poor behavior” and has tended to be a no-show against the top-tier teams in the league. He did put up a ridiculous 39 points and 8 made 3’s back in March, but it was against the Washington Wizards who have no true banging bigs on the roster.

From a culture setting standpoint, it was unquestionably the right move for Houston. They currently are sitting nicely with the 3rd pick in this year which most mock drafts predicting 6’10” forward Paolo Banchero joining last year’s 2nd pick overall guard Jalen Green. Unlike Wood, Banchero at 19 already has a grown man’s body and looks like the most ready-made blue-chip weapon in this year’s class, with a high floor and still a high ceiling.

Considering Jalen Green is not a pure point guard and the Porter Jr. experiment on-ball was an utter failure, bringing in the Duke point-forward should be an ideal fit on the offensive end of the floor. The defensive end though could be a disaster for a while but at least getting the headcase of Charmin Soft Christian Wood out of the Houston locker room should at least give young Stephen Silas a puncher’s chance at coaching up a young explosive roster.

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