NEW YORK – The Mavericks have had three players win sixth man of the year.
Jason Terry won it in 2009. Antawn Jamison did so in 2004. And the late Roy Tarpley took home the hardware in 1988.
It’s not too early to start the campaign for Christian Wood to be the fourth Maverick to win the NBA’s award for best off-the-bench player.
The only problem would be: should he be a sixth man at all?
Remember last year when Jalen Brunson was the hottest bench player in the league for the first six weeks of the season?
That narrative ended when Brunson got inserted in the starting lineup and never let go of that job, ending up starting the final 55 games and all of the 18 playoff games and earning a pile of money in free agency by proving his worth as a starting point guard in the NBA.
Through three games – an admittedly small sample size – the 6-9 Wood has averaged 24.3 points and 8.7 rebounds per game.
He’s been the Mavericks most consistent player outside of Luka Dončić. Clearly, Wood has adjusted just fine to his new team and new role, although he said after Tuesday’s 113-111 loss at New Orleans that he is still “trying to figure it out.”
“I believe, of course, I’m a starting-caliber player,” Wood said. “But at the same time it’s a new role, a new team. I’m trying to do everything right, do what I’m told, whether it’s playing 12 minutes or 20 minutes, I’m just trying to do my job.”
And so far, he’s done it quite well.
He’s hit 62 percent of his shots, including 8-of-13 (61.5 percent) from 3-point range. The social media universe has gone haywire with comments about how the Mavericks got Wood for a late first-round draft pick and Boban Marjanović.
But, the bottom line is that the Mavericks are 1-2 in the early going and feeling their way through a new look with Wood and JaVale McGee playing big roles and trying to mesh with their new teammates.
And the two games they have lost came down to a last-second shot that did not go in.
“I wouldn’t say worried, because it is early,” Wood said of the offensive efficiency late in games. “But it’s something we definitely need to fix. This is two games where it just got kind of stagnant. We’ll get in practice and figure it out.”
One thing that is gaining clarity is the rotational minutes for Wood and others. He comes in midway through the first quarter, which gives him a good amount of time with Luka. Wood then anchors the second unit to start the second quarter.
He closed out the New Orleans game, and that appears to be the role he will have going forward.
“They told me I’m the sixth man, but in terms of how many minutes I’m going to play, I really don’t know,” Wood said. “When I get in as the sixth man I try to do everything I can to help Luka because he plays the whole first quarter.”
That part of the job probably is the easiest, so far.
Briefly: The Mavericks used Wednesday as a day for travel and rest with the schedule about to get busy. They play three games in four days starting Thursday night at Brooklyn . . . Facu Campazzo got his first action as a Maverick and his first bucket on Tuesday. He swished a 3-pointer to start the fourth quarter. In fact, the 5-10 playmaker took four shots and never hit the rim. The other three were airballs that were shot under duress – with the shot clock about to expire and/or with multiple defenders draped over him. It likely will take some time to define Campazzo’s role, pending the return of Tim Hardaway Jr. from a sore right foot . . . The Mavericks are off to a sizzling start from 3-point range, hitting 38.1 percent through three games. That’s in spite of Dončić making just 8-of-32 so far (25 percent) . . . Spencer Dinwiddie will be returning to Brooklyn where he played for five seasons and also where he made a buzzer-beater for the win last March for the Mavericks. “I haven’t put too much thought into it,” he said. “But it’ll be cool – try to get a win.” . . . Thursday’s game will be on Bally’s Sports Southwest and NBA TV, tipping off at 6:30 p.m., Dallas time.
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