Mavericks’ success starts with Luka Dončić, but ends with Christian Wood

The Dallas Mavericks roster was built for Christian Wood to finally produce big numbers next to Luka Dončić on a winning team, helping the team sustain success from last season’s Western Conference Finals run. The only problem with that happily ever after movie ending is, Wood hasn’t been put in a position to succeed and help the Mavs win games.

Wood has produced in the limited minutes given to him early this season, he is scoring 15.8 points per game (PPG) and grabbing 7.8 rebounds per game (RPG) in 24.7 minutes per game (MPG). Wood is shooting 56.7% from the floor and 46.2% beyond the arc.

Wood provides the Mavs a player who can post up smaller defenders with his low-post game, isolate bigger defenders off the dribble on the perimeter, shoot efficiently from three and be a lob threat in the pick-and-roll offense when executed with Luka Dončić and Spencer Dinwiddie.

“He’s the key for us reaching our full potential.” Jared Dudley said about Christian Wood right before the season started.

That has become evident after 11 games this season, as Mavs sit at 6-5 and the coaching staff has yet to insert Wood into the starting lineup, play over 30 minutes, or finish games.

The Mavs have missed Wood’s production the past two games as he did not make the road trip, due to a left knee sprain. In those two games, the Mavs were defeated by the Magic and Wizards. Two winnable games against teams who were without their best players.

Dončić is having the best start of his career this season by averaging 33.6 PPG, 8.3 RPG and 7.9 APG but the Mavs find themselves one game above .500 after 11 games into the season. Luka Dončić can’t continue this high usage long-term and the team must find a way to utilize Wood’s ability next to him, opposed to staggering their minutes. This will take the load off their superstar and make their offense less predictable, especially late in games when they struggle to score and rebound.

“We’ll get to talking about (Christian Wood) role as we go forward but I’ve never coached him. I want to see what he’s capable of… Then we’ll make a decision on where he’s going to play but right now he will not start. I think (Christian Wood) said it yesterday that he’s excited to win so if you are talking about winning you gotta sometimes sacrifice. The great players sacrifice… for him it’s just a matter of understanding what his role is and what we are asking him to do.” Jason Kidd said earlier this season about Christian Wood’s role.

Wood’s aggression has changed throughout the games he has played in. During the first three games, Wood averaged 24.3 PPG on 12.3 field goal attempts, 4.3 three-point attempts and 10 free throw attempts per game. He also grabbed 8.7 RPG in 26 MPG.

In the last six games, Wood averaged 11.2 PPG on 8.8 field goal attempts per game, 2.7 three-point attempts per game and 1.5 free throw attempts per game. He also grabbed 7.3 RPG in similar minutes, playing in 24 MPG.

Limited minutes in sixth man role

Wood has played in nine games this season for the Mavs and has started all nine games on the bench. JaVale McGee and Dwight Powell have started in those games in front of Wood.

Wood is averaging the sixth most MPG on the roster (24.7). Players ahead of him include Luka Dončić (36.8), Spencer Dinwiddie (33.2), Dorian Finney-Smith (32.4), Reggie Bullock (29.7) and Maxi Kleber (26.1). Wood hasn’t played over 30 minutes in a single game this season. In the limited minutes he has played, Wood still has the third-highest PPG and second-highest RPG on the team.

Wood has said and done everything right under the circumstances he is in. He is also playing in the final season remaining in his contract, so one must think that this upcoming free agency and the reputation he left in Houston also has to play a factor in the good PR he has voiced this season.

“I mean, it’s been great. He’s an amazing player, he listens to us, he accepts his role. He’s just doing amazing stuff out there.” Luka Dončić said on Christian Wood earlier this season.

Not in the closing lineup

The Mavs have had the most clutch games in the NBA (within 5 points in the last minutes of the game) and Wood hasn’t been in the closing lineup to end a game. The Mavs find themselves struggling to score in the crucial moments of the game and Christian Wood, the third leading scorer on the team, watches from the sideline.

For the Mavs to win games, they must play their best players in meaningful minutes of the game. Wood is one of those players and the chess-like strategy to his minutes, is not putting him or the team in a position to succeed.

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