Basketball is a pretty simple sport to watch. Within a few minutes, it’s easy to see who the best players are. They stand out, especially on the offensive end. When a player is getting buckets with ease, scoring at will as if he’s an adult playing against children, you know you’re watching someone talented.
That’s the case with Christian Wood. He’s not in the upper tier of NBA players, but he’s got upper tier talent when it comes to putting the ball in the basket. When the Dallas Mavericks traded for Wood, I was skeptical. There’s a reason he was available for such a low cost in assets. But he’s showing in limited time on the court that he can produce on the offensive end.
Wood is averaging 15.9 points and 7.5 rebounds per game this season. He’s shooting 57% from the floor, and 42% from deep, both career highs. This is all on 24.7 minutes per game, his lowest average since his breakout season with the Detroit Pistons.
Wood’s advanced stats are even more impressive. He’s averaging 23.2 points and 10.9 rebounds per 36 minutes. Per 100 possessions, Wood is putting up 32.5 points and 15.4 rebounds. His offensive rating is 119.2. How good is that? It’s just a tick worse than Nikola Jokic at 121, and better than Devin Booker, Steph Curry, and Damian Lillard. Obviously, Wood isn’t at their level, because with increased volume comes a decrease in efficiency. But it shows that he’s playing well enough in his limited minutes to justify an increase in volume.
Wood put up 21 points and 9.6 rebounds per game two seasons ago with a Houston Rockets team that was a mess. He averaged 32.3 minutes per game for that team. He had a indefinite greenlight to shoot on that tanking team, but didn’t get to play with a point guard like Luka Doncic. After watching Wood with the Mavericks, there’s no reason to think he couldn’t replicate those numbers.
There are concerns about Wood’s performance on defense, and they’re legitimate. He’s still picking up the Dallas defensive scheme. I’ve noticed times when teammates have had to shove Wood in the direction of rotations he’s needed to make, or yell at him that he’s out of position. But the Mavericks have room for errors on defense. They’re ninth in defensive rating.
The offense, on the other hand, has sputtered in the last week. In the last ten games, the Mavericks rank just 16th in offense. The offensive woes are especially evident in clutch minutes, when it feels like every basket is an effort. Giving Doncic the best players to create offense seems like it should be priority when the defense has remained intact despite playing JaVale McGee and Dwight Powell significant minutes.
Jason Kidd is already expressing concerns about Doncic’s heavy load on offense this season.
“There are possessions (the Mavs) have to help Luka on defense, because he’s doing so much on the offensive end,” Kidd said before Thursday’s game against the Washington Wizards. “We’ve got to be able to find that balance for him to participate defensively so that helps us win games. But the usage rate is so high, so sometimes there’s going to be some situations where he doesn’t participate. It happens. Been there done that.
Kidd has a relief valve waiting on the bench in Wood. Dorian Finney-Smith, Reggie Bullock, and Tim Hardaway Jr. can’t create their own offense. Spencer Dinwiddie is able to provide some playmaking, but not at the electric level that Wood can. It’s time to unleash him on the offensive end, and trust that he’ll learn to stay solid on defense as the season progresses. At some point, Kidd is going to have to put his five best players on the court for significant minutes. Wood is proving he’s one of them.