When the Dallas Mavericks hired Nico Harrison to take over as their new General Manager, many were skeptical. Here came a guy who had no NBA front office experience whatsoever. Mark Cuban entrusted the former Nike executive to utilize not only his business and analytical acumen, but his relationships with NBA players and agents alike to help construct a better roster around star Luka Dončić.
In an offseason where the only big signing was that of Reggie Bullock, many Mavericks fans and NBA pundits alike were concerned with what this roster is/could be. Halfway through the season, the Mavericks were a struggling team sitting in the lower rungs of the Western Conference. Then, one trade deadline later, Harrison shocked the collective Mavericks base as he swung a deal to ship out Kristaps Porzingis to the Washington Wizards for Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans. The move to get off of Porzingis’ contract was looked at as necessary, but getting in return two players that had struggled mightily since signing new deals in D.C. didn’t exactly have Mavericks fans cheering in the streets. We all know how that turned out. Dinwiddie turned out to be a fantastic third ball handler next to Luka and Jalen Brunson, and Bertans went from shooting 32% from three in Washington to 36% from three in Dallas. The trade itself was a surprise across the league.
Christian Wood Trade
Last Wednesday evening, Nico Harrison surprised the league again. The notifications began swirling that the Mavericks were sending the No. 26 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, Boban Marjanovic, Trey Burke, Marquese Chriss and Sterling Brown to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Christian Wood. I had written about Wood in an earlier piece as a potential option for the Mavericks to look at with respect to filling the void at the center position, but never thought a trade like this was possible. Nico Harrison essentially took four players that were taking up roster spots and a 26th pick that in all likelihood would not crack the rotation for a starting center whose fit next to Dončić seems fantastic. While losing the quintessential fan favorite in Boban hurts, Dallas understood that an opportunity like this was too good to pass up.
There are two key components to this deal: the fit and the roster flexibility that the Mavericks now have. Wood is an undrafted player who has played for multiple franchises during his six year career, including the 76ers, Bucks, Pelicans, Pistons and of course, the Rockets.
How Wood Fits in Dallas
Standing at 6’10, Wood is a solid offensive weapon that should fit fairly seamlessly with the way the Mavericks like to run their offense. He is a career 38% three point shooter which allows Dallas to continue to play their familiar five-out style without having to sacrifice floor spacing or risk clogging the paint for Luka. Wood’s athleticism is well documented, and he even has shown some skill with respect to ball handling. A big who is a threat offensively to put it on the floor and get to the rim is a plus for the Mavs. Wood provides efficient scoring and has the ability to make threes, averaging 17.9 points per game on 50.1% shooting and 39% beyond the arc. That gives Jason Kidd the ability to implement his new big man in multiple facets of the offense, on and off the ball. The Mavs ranked 24th in points per game and 19th in three-point percentage this season.
Even better, Wood’s rebounding numbers have increased every year, from 6.3 rpg to 9.6 rpg to a career high 10.1 rpg with Houston last year. The Mavs ranked 24th in rebounding this season. As we saw in the postseason (and has been discussed by the coaching staff, the front office and the owner), the Mavericks desperately needed someone who could come in and rebound the ball for them. Wood actually finished the season in the top 10% in defensive rebound percentage last year, which should help the Mavs tremendously. Wood has had some struggles defensively, but we’ve seen Jason Kidd and assistant coach Sean Sweeney (who coached Wood with the Pistons and who I would assume signed off on this move) elevate defensive skillsets with their coaching and philosophies. And let’s be clear – Wood doesn’t need to be a Rudy Gobert type defender for the Mavericks. Wood has the ability to switch when called for and he can clearly rebound the ball. The Mavericks won’t ask for too much more on the defensive end. By all accounts, the Mavericks attained a starting caliber Center that was in demand for simply the 26th pick in the draft.
The other component to this deal is the roster flexibility it gives the Mavericks. When the season ended, the Mavericks had 14 of their 15 roster spots accounted for, not counting the imminent re-signing of Jalen Brunson and the conversion of Theo Pinson from a two-way contract. Eventually, Dallas would’ve had to get rid of someone on their roster via trade or simply waiving that player. By making this trade, Dallas opens up an astounding four roster spots and acquired Wood without sending any key rotational players. Burke, Brown, Chriss and Marjanovic were all non-factors for the Mavericks in the playoffs. Depth was a key area of improvement for this team, and by opening up these slots, Dallas can now go out and sign another wing defender and back up guard (hello, Goran Dragic) without having to worry about trading or waiving someone who was taking up space. When Nico made the Porzingis trade back in February, he spoke of the ability for the Mavs to have flexibility to construct their roster going forward.
“It was about really giving ourselves the flexibility that we need to be the team that we want to be. I think that’s really the bottom line. We were able to give ourselves more flexibility and then add more depth.”
Not only do the Mavericks have the ability to add more depth to their roster, but Wood is on an expiring contract going into the 2022-2023 season. While he is eligible for a 4-year, $77 million extension, the Mavericks have some time to determine his fit with the rest of the roster. The Mavericks have a plethora of options with Wood, including flipping him at the deadline with other contracts on this team. Expiring contracts generally have a lot of value in the NBA, so this is another move made by Nico Harrison to position the Mavericks to add contracts together to make a move. A superstar may not be available, but if someone in the $20-$25 million salary range becomes available, the Mavericks have expiring contracts to combine in order to position themselves to be players in that market, something that couldn’t have been said just a few months ago.
Nico Harrison once again surprised the NBA by making another shrewd trade in order to give the Mavericks a chance to get back to the Finals for the first time in over a decade. The trade he made in February of this year got them within three games of the Finals. If the Christian Wood trade turns out to be even better, the Mavericks could emerge victorious in their quest to play for the Larry O’Brien trophy once again. In a situation where the fit doesn’t work out, he’s an expiring contract who was acquired without losing rotation players in the process.