The Dallas Mavericks were extremely successful when they spread the floor and let Luka Doncic attack. Doncic is one of the most dominant offensive engines the league has ever seen and despite his proficiency throwing lobs, he is at his best when no one else is cluttering the lane.
Christian Wood is the best big man shooter that Doncic has ever played with. Despite his reputation as an oversized sniper, Kristaps Porzingis was more of a great shooter “for a big man” than a great shooter. He shot 34.5 percent from three in his time with the Mavericks. Wood will shoot better than that. Over the last 3 seasons, he has shot 38.4 percent from three. Offensively, he could be the best partner that Doncic has ever had.
Can he hold up defensively? The offensive fit between Doncic and Wood should be immaculate. There are very few players who are more perfectly suited to be Doncic’s pick and roll partner than Wood.
The issues will come on the other end. Wood has interesting defensive tools. He has a 7’4 wingspan and is one of the most mobile big men in the league. He has never been able to put those tools to use to have an effective defensive season though.
There is legitimate reason to hope that in a new environment things will change. Unless a player is physically incapable, defense boils down to effort and intelligence. Wood has enough skills that if he puts the right effort in, both learning the schemes and during games, that he will be fine.
Best Case Scenario
Wood makes the all star team. That may seem outlandish but the numbers he can put up with Doncic could be mind blowing. In a perfect world he realizes this is his last best chance to capitalize on his enormous talent. He works hard defensively and is the idealized small ball center. He plays the guys who could punish him through strength on the other end off the court by raining threes and blowing past them.
It is tempting to rationalize his numbers with the Houston Rockets as “good stats, bad team” but that is not the case offensively. Yes, the Rockets were bad. But, Wood’s numbers were incredibly efficient. He had a true shooting percentage over 59 percent each of the last two seasons, and he did so without anyone even close to as good as Doncic as a playmaker.
Worst Case Scenario
The Mavericks follow through with their stated plan to start Javale McGee. Wood is called upon to anchor second units offensively and used as more of a creator than a finisher. His defensive struggles continue and he is unhappy being relegated to the bench in a contract year. The vibes are no longer immaculate.
Find a home with the Mavericks. The Mavericks have been unable to find a partner for Doncic and Wood has been unable to find a long term home. His two season stay with the Rockets, represent the longest tenure with one team in his short career. He is simply too talented to continue to be an NBA vagabond.
It is hard to overstate the potential offensive pairing of Doncic and Wood. If one attempted to create a perfect offensive partner for Doncic in a lab, the result wouldn’t be too far from Wood. Wood can shoot to give Doncic the space he needs. He can attack tilted defenses off the dribble. He can use his “Go-Go Gadget” arms to finish lobs and he was legitimately good hands to finish around the rim on odd angle passes.
Perhaps most importantly, despite all of those skills, he is willing to defer. There are going to be nights playing with Doncic where his partner does not get the touches that they may prefer. They will likely still get shots, but getting to create their own shot is important to some. Wood has never really shown an issue with that.
Wood will likely start the season coming off the bench, but he is likely going to be the Mavericks barometer. If he is closer to his best case scenario than his worst case scenario, the Mavericks will likely have home court in the first round of the NBA playoffs. If he is closer to the worst case scenario, the Mavericks will likely be fighting to avoid the play-in. Either way, Christian Wood will make or break the Mavericks season.