The Dallas Mavericks entered the summer hoping to build on their momentous 2021-22 season. Superstar Luka Doncic led the Mavs to a second-round upset over the top-seeded Phoenix Suns to send Dallas to its first Western Conference Finals in a decade.
But it wasn’t long after the confetti cleared that a serious problem started rearing its ugly heads. Jalen Brunson was an impending free agent and was being lured to the Big Apple. Brunson was the Robin to Doncic’s Batman and a capable one at that. When Doncic was injured last season, Brunson took on the burden, averaging 20.4 points and 7.5 assists, per StatMuse.
Flash forward to the end of summer. Brunson is gone, having signed a contract with the Knicks this summer. And in his stead, the Mavericks signed. . . no one. At least not a one-for-one replacement.
Instead, the Mavs added Christian Wood via trade and Javale McGee in free agency. Both are talented additions, but both are also centers. And while Wood has a history of strong play, there’s apparently only room for one big man in the starting five, according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. Wood, who’s been an everyday starter over the last two seasons, is headed for a new role next season.
Mavs’ Christian Wood Likely to be a Sixth Man
Last season, Wood averaged a double-double on a young and developing Houston Rockets team, going for 17.9 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. He’s not quite the offensive dynamo that Mavs fans were hoping to pair with Doncic, but he was expected to soften the blow of losing Brunson.
But depending on how the Mavs stagger Doncic’s minutes, the Dallas superstar might not get as many opportunities with his new teammate as initially believed.
“The Mavs plan to feature Wood as a sixth man — a role that might not be easy for him to accept as he enters a contract year,” MacMahon wrote on September 20.
The report came amidst ESPN ranking Wood as the No. 92 player in the NBA heading into the new season. On one hand, it’s a luxury to have a top-100 player coming off a team’s bench. On the other, the Mavericks have just two others on ESPN’s top-100 list: Doncic and Spencer Dinwiddie.
So why bring Wood off the bench? After all, he’s capable of playing some time at the four. It likely comes down to experience. McGee is a seasoned NBA vet at center and a more traditional one at that. With Doncic able to space the floor as well as anyone, McGee might ultimately serve as a better starting partner with Doncic than Wood.
Nonetheless, the starting lineup remains full of holes, which is why the starting five was given a tough label by Bleacher Report recently.
Mavericks’ Starting Five Projects to be ‘Underwhelming’
The Dallas Mavericks project to trot out a starting five of Doncic, Dinwiddie, McGee, Tim Hardaway, Jr., and Dorian Finney-Smith. It’s a lackluster quintet outside of Doncic’s obvious brilliance.
But the decision to bring Wood off the bench is one that left Bleacher Report’s Greg Swartz scratching his head.
“This seems like a bizarre choice, especially given that Dallas needs another big-time offensive threat next to Dončić now with Jalen Brunson gone. With Wood being on the final year of his contract, he’d almost certainly pursue a starting job elsewhere if the Mavericks don’t give him one now,” Swartz wrote. “If Wood indeed ends up coming off the bench, this starting lineup seems very underwhelming.”
Could the Mavericks surprise people and start out red hot? No doubt. They showcased their status as ultimate sleepers last season after their Conference Finals run. But there’s also little question the roster is weaker after Brunson’s departure, with no obvious replacements.