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The Mavericks’ Christian Wood checks every box as a starter, including doing more defensively

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In the last seconds of extra time during the match against Los Angeles Lakers Last week, Christian Wood hit a saving block on LeBron James to extend the contest to a second overtime, where he… Mavericks Get a win. Wood finished that game with five blocks to match with 24 points, 14 rebounds and six assists.

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Scoring is nothing new. This is the main reason why the Mavericks traded him. But the improved defense, well, that turns some heads.

“I definitely wanted to prove it [people wrong]And I had something to prove,” Wood told CBS Sports. I think I’ve had a couple of games where I was a little over two or three blocks a game and I definitely felt good about it, just proving people wrong. That was big for me.”

Wood, in his seventh season in the NBA, is now playing for his seventh NBA team — and the Mavs are the first winning team he’s been on as a pro. He credits his defensive improvements to this success and to the team’s culture.

“Everyone holds each other accountable,” said Wood, 27, “but it’s also about everyone just reaching out. When I came here, everyone hugged me.”

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Head shot player

Wood wouldn’t win any Defensive Player of the Year awards, but his commitment to being involved in that end, communicating and, as he puts it, “not caring about taking the plunge,” built trust between himself, his teammates, and the coaching staff.

Since being included in the starting lineup full-time on December 17, Wood has averaged 2.4 blocks a game, which ranked fifth in the league over that span. He’s ranked 10th in the league in field goal percentage defended, limiting opponents to just 44.5 percent (with a minimum of 15 defense shots per game) since becoming a starter, a marked improvement from last season with missiles.

22-23 (since December 17)

17.6

44.5%

48.6%

21-22

16.4

47.1%

47.1%

Essentially what Wood has done in the past month is keep opponents 4.1 percentage points below what they shoot on average. It’s not great, but it’s enough to make a difference for Dallas, something the team desperately needed due to an injury to its top three defensive players.

“I think the guys beat him, just being straight, man-to-man, and he took up the challenge,” Tim Hardaway Jr. said of Wood’s improved defense. “We challenge him to do a lot of things defensively, we know he can score the ball, an excellent talent on the offensive end, but what will separate him from him the most is how he impacts the game on the defensive end.”

Defense isn’t the only area where Wood has improved since being elevated to the starting lineup, his offensive production has increased as well.

Start

16

20.3

9.4

2.1

2.3

51.6%

36.7%

seat

25

17.0

7.8

1.3

0.6

55.1%

40%

The pairing of Wood and Doncic was seamless. Wood referred to his partnership with Doncic on court as a partnership Fudge ice creamClassic dessert always served. So far, that’s been a pretty decent comparison, as Wood has averaged 2.0 of Doncic’s passes converted into buckets per game, more than anyone else on the team. When the two share the floor together, Dallas has an offensive rating of 118.4 and a plus rating of 5.2, the latter being the fourth-highest mark of any two-setter on the team. For comparison, last season with Doncic paired with Kristaps Porzingis, who played a similar role to Wood right now, that duo had a net rating of zero and the Mavs only had an offensive rating of 103.7.

Wood became the perfect pick-and-roll partner for Doncic because of his versatility as a lead on the edge and his ability to be an exit threat and sink the jumper. So it’s no surprise that the former non-roller ranks first in the league in points per possession as a rolling man (at least 100 possessions), generating 1.5 points per possession. He takes full advantage of the double teams Doncic gets when they’re pick and roll, often resulting in baskets like this for the big guy:

Leave Wood open to the perimeter and it will make you pay from there too:

Wood’s success as a rolling man is due in large part to Doncic making his life easier by dropping a dime despite heavy defensive pressure. But Wood still has to finish off shots, and he does so at a high clip. Although Wood and Doncic have only started 12 games together so far, their chemistry mirrors that of teammates who have played together for years.

“He doesn’t get mad at me when I yell at him sometimes, which I appreciate,” said Doncic Wood recently after practicing. “Sometimes it’s hard to have him on the court with me, probably. I just want to win. But he appreciates that, he never gets angry. He listens to me, and I listen to him. It’s great work.”

But becoming a permanent starter for Dallas wasn’t a foregone conclusion when Wood was traded to the Mavericks last summer. He started the season coming off the bench and has said repeatedly that he’s willing to accept any role needed to help his team win – although he admits he was a bit stunned when he learned of his role on the bench.

“It surprised me because, you know, nobody told me,” Wood said. “I found out about it through Media Day. It was a reporter who told me, so it surprised me a little bit. But until then, you know, I told them I’d accept any role.”

Wood excelled in any role Dallas needed. And while his place in the starting lineup was essential as the Mavs deal with injuries, it made it difficult for Jason Kidd to justify putting him back on the bench when those players return.

As the second-highest scorer on the team, it would be surprising to see Wood forced to give up a starting spot, especially since he’s proven over this recent stint that he’s willing to improve his defense. It’s true that Wood was still getting rookie-like minutes as he came off the bench, but the chemistry he’s built with the rookies over the past month wasn’t what it would have been if he’d check in midway through the first quarter. If for no other reason, the powerful punch Wood formed with Doncic should be solitary evidence that he should be a mainstay in the starting line-up.

Although that would happen, Wood said he was completely fine no longer working with Unit One.

“Like I said at the start of the season, I will embrace any role and I will try to do my best to excel in that role,” said Wood. “I’m just here to win, and that’s all I care about. I don’t care about starting or coming off the bench, I just want to win games.”

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