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Has Luka Doncic found his dance partner?

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In some corner of the NBA, the Dallas Mavericks caught Christian Wood at first with a shrug. The cost of Dallas acquiring such an intriguing talent — after two seasons in Houston where he averaged 19.1 points and 9.9 rebounds with a 59.3 true shooting percentage — was reasonable (four players without rotation and a late first-round pick) but doubts about Wood’s suitability were tempered by any team excitement. who just made it to the Conference Finals by flanking Luka Doncic with his two-way shooting and versatility.

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On the one hand: add great experience with no comma experience and Little evidence of the ability to mount a defence It was a strange decision. On the other hand: The Mavs may have created one of the most intimidating and intimidating pick-and-roll duos in all of basketball. Doncic has had skilled, athletic, and very large dance partners before. Nobody (including Kristaps Porzingis!) expands their palette quite like Wood, though.

While acknowledging defensive concerns prevented Wood from finishing matches (he was off the bench at the last whistle In every competition except one This season), the early returns alongside Luca have been explosive. Dallas attack top ten Generates 120.4 points for every 100 possessions When Wood and Luka share the floor, he Ranked 26 out of 455 couples that played at least 150 minutes.

Production, such as his new direct teammates, was hard to ignore even as those aforementioned defensive issues prevented Wood from starting or ending games. According to Second Spectrum, 74 different tandems have fielded at least 75 draft picks this season. Doncic and Wood rank first in quantum shot probability (in other words, they are born very good-looking) and eighth in points per live game. (It’s also a glimpse of what the Rockets might have gotten if James Harden hadn’t asked for a trade two years ago, after Houston traded Wood in a last-ditch effort to appease the frustrated franchise player.)

Luka doesn’t need the best ingredients to cook in a three star Michelin restaurant. But give him about 7 feet he can shoot 3s, drive on the close, smaller defenders, split 4-on-3 situations, and the dish is peanut butter and jelly.

“It’s a little bit better than I expected,” Wood said earlier this month when asked about his partnership with Luka. “I guess you could say that, especially with me coming off the bench. It was great.” Overall, Wood has been the fifth most proficient checker this season with at least 100 plays, which is a testament to how his complementary skill set works with Luca, as well as Spencer Dinwiddie.

Doncic is pleased. “[Christian] He’s a great player,” Doncic he said earlier this season. “He’s showing what he can do…we just have to feed him the ball more.”

When Wood screens Doncic, there is a range of abuse that can be inflicted on the defence. Sometimes the two grind coverage into submission. torture before death. Sometimes they strike quickly. Slide, swipe, dip. Or switch, chop, dip. Or switch, step back, splash. “Luca enjoys playing with Sea Wood, and vice versa, Sea Wood enjoys playing with Luca,” Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said. “It’s early, but we like the way they play. Both guys play each other very well.”

Next to Luka, Wood’s touch can be utilized as an unused threat instead of a tangible weapon, depending on how the opponent wants to protect them. “Some defenses like to blitz, some defenses like to switch, and some defenses like to be on the down—which I don’t think is a good idea for me—but we just mix it up,” says Wood.

he is right. A soft landing isn’t really an option against Wood because he can only go out for a 3 or attack a lopsided close. Instead, teams are forced to switch, thus confusing themselves. “That’s what we want as a team,” says Wood. “It makes my job easier because when I roll, if I keep rolling every time he’ll find me at the end, and it puts a lot of pressure on the defence.”

There are dozens of plays already this season as Wood’s self-reliance and charisma highlight Doncic’s 1v1 brilliance when the opposition moves. Unlike other great players Luka has played with, Wood isn’t one to let you breathe out when he’s making a pass on defense. But when Luka gets the match he wants he then lets Wood go and work against him king Mismatched, the two Mavs become terrified.

Anything that undercuts Doncic’s play and still yields a bucket is a big win for Dallas. Wood’s ability to moonlight as Randy Moss doesn’t hurt:

The relationship is mutually beneficial. Wood eats for the same reasons everyone else does who put up a screen for Luka: life is a lot less complicated when the game’s most advanced playmaker is on the offensive. Wood’s ratio Shots taken at the edge are 22 percent higher With Luka on the field than when he was sitting.

The Mavericks are incredibly hard to slow down when they’re organizing and laying the ground around Wood’s diving. In this series of (and increasingly complex) unilateral actions against Portland, Damian Lillard, Nasser Little, and then Jerami Grant decided to stay home on the perimeter rather than mark Wood’s roll. This was not wise.

“[Luka] He sees all the options, and the options are options for him, because he can find guys his size,” says Mavs center Dwight Powell, who has drawn more picks for Doncic than any other teammate he has had since entering the NBA. By sorting properly a huge advantage just because they are so worried about step. They are very worried about his slow step to the basket, which causes him to make mistakes. So sometimes it’s kind of forgotten.”

The teams didn’t bother shooting the ball when Wood put up a screen after watching the Grizzlies set themselves on fire trying to pull off this strategy.

“I had to go on a short lap and then I had to play a 2-on-1 in the back,” says Wood, explaining this match-up. “So it was very good.”

Dorian Vinnie Smith, Reggie Bullock, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Josh Green are great complementary pieces around Luca, but Muff still ultimately needs a second star.

Wood is a dynamic exclamation point but not reliable shot creator Luka (maybe?) will need to win it all. But until they find him, Wood is a great, effective tool that makes life a little easier for a Dallas MVP candidate. And they’re still learning how to make each other better, even as Wood averages eight fewer minutes than he did two years ago as the best player on a bad Houston team. With few avenues to improve externally — haemorrhaging more drafts won’t be the answer now — the key to Dallas’ season may be a commitment to maximizing the minutes Doncic spends alongside Wood, defensive errors and growing pains be damned.

“We still didn’t really understand each other. Wood says, before being asked what he is Will do as a coach who had to slow down Luca Wood’s game. He laughs: “I couldn’t tell you.” “I couldn’t tell you.”

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