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The Christian Wood experiment failed but it was really over before it began

Wood was behind the eight ball from day one

Sacramento Kings v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

Season in review

When Christian Wood came to Dallas in a trade last June, there were many thoughts surrounding his arrival. Some thought he could replace Jalen Brunson’s production and others questioned whether he could even play winning basketball. For such a small cost, the move for him was a no-brainer and at the very least provided hope that Dallas could continue their upward trend. No one could have predicted what really happened this past year, starting with Mavericks coach Jason Kidd’s decision to bench him from day one.

After four seasons as a journeyman to begin his career, Wood blossomed in Houston, where he became an exciting stretch big. The expectation in Dallas was that he could stretch the floor for Luka Doncic as well as provide some creation of his own. In his 26 minutes per game, he did just that. He scored 16.6 points on nearly 52 percent shooting (and 38 percent from three) while grabbing 7.3 rebounds per game. Wood and Doncic played 955 minutes together and had an offensive rating north of 116 when they were on the floor. Of players that had at least 100 possessions as the pick-and-roll roll man, Wood ranked second in points per possession (1.44, second to Dwight Powell). Wood’s problem was never offense.

His biggest issues came on defense. He could not stay with people, rotated poorly, and had almost no awareness on that side of the ball. This put him in Kidd’s doghouse the entire year and is why he was on the bench during closing time more often than not. He objectively should have played more, but Kidd relented time and time again. The Mavericks big man options were so limited that there was no reason not to play Wood. His underwhelming season was partly his play and mostly the coaching, but the expectation for All-Star-level production put a damper on what was a fine year for a role player.

Best game

Wood’s best game came on Christmas Day when he has 30 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, four steals and two blocks in 37 minutes and a Mavericks win.

Statistically, this was by far his best outing and it came during a seven-game winning streak.

Contract status

Wood will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Looking ahead

Dallas most likely will not keep Wood. They are pressed for cap room and it wasn’t obvious they had any desire to keep him if they had the room. Seeing as he had a rough end to the year, Dallas could probably keep him for cheap, but it’s likely that he moves on and gets what will likely be his final large contract.

Grade: B

Wood had his ups and downs. When he was blocking two shots a game for two consecutive weeks (against bad teams) he seemed like he could really help Dallas. When he was missing shots and rotations, he seemed like he wasn’t even an NBA player. Most of the season was somewhere in the middle where he helped boost the Mavericks’ offense for spurts and then was benched for no reason to close the game. He played well considering the role Kidd assigned to him but, through no fault of his own, the Mavericks needed more. The expectation was that he could provide an All-Star-adjacent boost, but the reality was that he played like the $14 million he was getting paid.