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Christian Wood is showing all of his gifts

Wood has always been a tantalizing collection of gifts, but he is putting it all together

New York Knicks v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

Luka Doncic is in the midst of one of the greatest individual stretches in the history of basketball. He is deservedly getting a ton of praise for that stretch. But Christian Wood is also playing some of the best basketball of his career since being elevated to a starting role. That success is helping Doncic to find even greater heights.

In Wood’s last game off the bench on December 16, he had 32 points and 12 rebounds. That was also the second game the Dallas Mavericks played without Maxi Kleber after he tore his hamstring. The Mavericks had attempted to play Kleber with Wood for as many minutes as possible in order to minimize Wood’s defensive role while still providing him space to operate offensively. The Mavericks were forced to get away from that pairing and doing so caused them to ask more from Wood defensively.

Wood has responded with some of the best defensive basketball of his career. He has at least two blocked shots in his last seven games. He has a total of 17 blocks over those 7 games, which is an average of 2.4 blocks per game. To put that number in context, Brook Lopez leads the NBA with 2.5 blocks per game for the season.

Wood’s variety of strengths is perhaps most evident when viewing his game highs in each category over this stretch. He has scored 32 points, collected 14 rebounds, dished seven assists, stolen the ball four times and blocked four shots in various games during this streak. He has also made five threes in a game though his three-point shooting has been in a bit of a slump. Overall, he has combined to average 20.3 points, 9.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.0 steals and 2.4 blocks per game while only averaging 2 turnovers per game.

Wood has a 64.2 true shooting percentage during this stretch. He has a 24.1 usage percentage and is averaging 34.4 minutes per game. Most importantly this production has come while amplifying Doncic rather than restricting him. Doncic is averaging 36.5 points, 9.8 rebounds and 9.2 assists per game during this stretch. He is shooting 55.5 percent from the floor and 44.2 percent from three during this stretch equating to a 68.4 true shooting percentage.

There are very few things Wood cannot do on a basketball court. Kristaps Porzingis was dubbed the unicorn for his rare collection of skills, but Wood is at least equally skilled. The most obvious similarity between the two is how much easier they make the game for Doncic. The fit between Porzingis and Doncic was always questioned, but Doncic was much better and more efficient with Porzingis on the floor. The same holds true with Wood.

Per, Doncic has played 544 minutes with Wood and 639 minutes without Wood. In the minutes with Wood, Doncic is averaging more than 5 more points per 100 possessions and doing so much more efficiently.

Luka Doncic Stats with/without Christian Wood

Luka Doncic stats Wood On Court Wood Off Court
Luka Doncic stats Wood On Court Wood Off Court
Points Per 100 48.7 43.3
2pt FG Percentage 63.8 55.6
3pt FG Percentage 38.2 33.6
True Shooting Percentage 66.1 57.7

Kleber had played 207 of the 357 minutes Doncic and Wood played together prior to Kleber getting injured. The Mavericks had a net rating of plus 9.5 with all three on the court together, but that net rating fell to plus 4.4 with Wood and Doncic sharing the court without Kleber due to the defense falling to horrific levels despite the truly elite offense.

As Wood’s defense has improved, the defense has begun to stabilize. The Mavericks are sporting a plus 7.1 net rating in 158 Wood and Doncic minutes over the last seven games. The defensive rating with both on the court during that time is 114.8 points per 100 possessions. That is still not a particularly good defense, but it is important to remember that Josh Green, Dorian Finney-Smith and Kleber have all missed most of this stretch. Wood is no longer part of the problem defensively, but has become part of the solution.

The Mavericks have some roster limitations. So many players require Doncic to make the game easier for them. He does so at a historic level, including making the game easier for Wood. But it helps to have someone who makes the game easier for Doncic, and Wood is becoming just that.

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