The Mavericks’ upgraded the starting lineup with their trade for Christian Wood, a center that almost certainly is better than anybody they could have unearthed with the 26th pick in Thursday night’s draft.
By sending their draft choice and a package of role players to the Houston Rockets for the 6-10 Wood, the Mavericks got the equivalent of a lottery pick, one that can rebound, score, shoot from the perimeter and block shots.
The deal, agreed to last week, was not allowed to become official until after the Mavericks’ picked Wendell Moore Jr. 26th and then were able to deal him to the Rockets along with Boban Marjanovic, Trey Burke, Marquese Chriss and Sterling Brown.
The Rockets then moved Moore along to Minnesota. The league’s rubber stamp of approval didn’t come until the wee hours Friday.
Because the Mavericks don’t own their 2023 first-round pick, they could not trade the pick this year until after they made a selection. Essentially, they were drafting for the Rockets.
In Wood, the Mavericks are getting a rising force who should fit well in the Mavericks’ offensive strategies of putting shooters around Luka Dončić. Wood was a 39 percent 3-point shooter last season. He’ll be 27 when the coming season begins.
“Christian gives us something that we don’t have,” general manager Nico Harrison said after the deal was OK’d by the NBA at about 2 a.m., Dallas time on Friday. “He’s a good rebounder. He’s super-athletic. He’ll be great with Luka in the pick-and-roll. He can play above the rim. He can also shoot. He’s an offensive guy at that position. So we’re excited about it.”
At the start of the 2020-21 season, the Mavericks played at Houston in the season’s fifth game. Wood had just joined the Rockets in a trade from Detroit. He started his first season in Houston with seven consecutive games of 20 points or more, including 23, along with seven rebounds, when the Mavericks visited on Jan. 4, 2021.
Like most everybody else in the NBA, the Mavericks had a fascination with Wood, who was a tantalizing combination of size, shooting, scoring and rebounding..
Have we mentioned he can rebound?
As the Mavericks found out in the playoffs, they need better rebounding and Wood clearly will help in that regard. If he is a double-figure rebounder, the Mavericks can live with anything he supplies in the scoring department.
Wood, like all the players the Mavericks sent to Houston, is entering the final year of his contract, worth about $14.3-million in 2022-23. He will be eligible for an extension six months after the trade is made official by the league.
Harrison said that Wood most certainly has the potential to be the Mavericks’ long-term center, although much remains to be proven.
“I think we both offer each other a lot,” he said. “I think we’ll have to do a little showing him and he’ll have to do a little of showing us, if that makes sense.
“We don’t have a guy who does what he does. We just don’t. There are several guys in the league who do that. But are you going to be able to get them or not. He was a guy we saw that we could get and it just made sense. He fits a piece that we don’t have on our roster.”
The Rockets are in a major rebuild and risked losing Wood next summer for nothing, or diminished value. This trade gave them another first-round asset to add to their stash, plus it did not clog up any future salary cap space.
For the Mavericks, they get a center that instantly slots into the starting lineup and who can stretch the floor, roll to the rim and play solid defense.
In other words, he checks a lot of boxes in their “need” department.
Last season in 68 games with the Rockets, Wood averaged 17.9 points and 10.1 rebounds, along with a block per game.
Two years ago, he averaged 21 points and 9.6 rebounds to go with 1.2 blocks.
Wood spent two years at Nevada-Las Vegas, but was not drafted in 2015 after his sophomore season. He bounced around the league on short-term contracts and even did a brief stint in the Chinese League.
He did not break through, however, until the 2019-20 season when he averaged 13.1 points and 6.3 rebounds for Detroit. Houston signed him to a three-year deal that summer.
Had the Mavericks held on to the 26th pick, they would have been looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. Past 26th picks in the NBA draft include Bones Hyland (2021, Denver), Landry Shamet (2018, Philadelphia), George Hill (2008, San Antonio), Kevin Martin (2004, Sacramento) and Vlade Divac (1989, LA Lakers).
The history of the 26th pick also includes Caleb Swanigan (2017), Nikola Milutinov (2015), Jordan Hamilton (2011), Ndudi Ebi (2003) and Mamadou N’diaye (2000). So a mixed bag, to say the least.