Last night, after the citizens of Dallas had finished dinner and stretched out on the couch, ready to watch reruns of Cheaters, the Mavericks’ front office and The Athletic’s Shams Charania dropped a bomb out of nowhere. The Mavericks would trade the 26th overall pick in the 2022 draft, Boban Marjanovic, Sterling Brown, Trey Burke and Marquese Chriss, to The Rockets for Christian Wood.
Tellingly, most media outlets reporting on the trade mentioned the Mavs’ 26th draft pick as the introduction to what the Mavs would be giving up. The players leaving Dallas are all the ones who were terrible at everything for the team this season. None of the four sent players logged significant minutes in the playoffs. And the 26th pick the Mavs had would equate to another pine-riding player.
To put it bluntly, Mavs GM Nico Harrison fleeced the Rockets. Ever since they traded James Harden in 2021, Houston has been mired in mediocrity. They have held on to the veterans they brought in to play alongside James Harden, Wood, Eric Gordon and John Wall while trying to balance playing time for younger stallions in Jalen Green, Alperen Şengün, Kenyon Martin Jr. and Usman Garuba.
It’s a safe bet those vets will be moved out of town now. Wood should be the first domino for the Rockets to fully accept the rebuild. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Kevin Porter Jr. is also traded before next season. The Mavs might have thought it would be too dramatic to face Wood and Porter, though they could have used Porter’s touchdown touch on the perimeter.
There isn’t much for the Rockets to be excited about in his return. Especially since they already have the third, the 17th and now the 26th. Drafting after 20 won’t harvest much talent in a weak draft. This trade was mostly about freeing up roster space for Şengün at center and sending Wood, who was a cancer in Houston’s locker room last season. At one point, he and Porter nearly caused an insurrection.
Shams reported that Wood was benched last season after missing a mandatory COVID-19 testing window and refused to substitute for him in the game in the second half. The Mavericks have focused so much on creating fun people around Luka Dončić that they can afford to absorb a disgruntled person or two. It could be exactly what this list needs. They were soft and passive at times during the Western Conference finals, too delayed and afraid to step up to take big shots when Dončić was exhausted.
I have been hard about how the Mavericks organization has been built around Dončić so far. But this is precisely the kind of move the organization needed to make to show their young superstar that they are serious about winning and willing to take a chance on untapped potential. It has been less than two seasons since Wood scored 21 and 10 for the Rockets. He will now bring floor space as a small-ball center to a Mavs roster that desperately needs offensive creativity. Wood is a 38 percent career perimeter shooter for him over six seasons and six teams. He is one of the sure things that he will bring to the Mavs. This will allow Dallas to maintain its lethal small-ball lineup while improving rebounding and defense up front.
While this was Harrison’s first fleece as the Mavericks’ general manager, he can’t stop there. The Mavs didn’t just need to hit a home run move. They need several. Not being afraid to trade Boban, Dončić’s fellow beer drinker, was a bold move. But it is not supposed to have happened unless Dončić was willing to send off his fellow Slovenian to improve the team. To put it plainly, Marjanović sucked. His game back to the old school basket was a relic of the past. The Mavs needed athleticism and two-way play at center position. They got it with this swap.
While Wood won’t be enough to get Dallas to the Finals next year in what will be a reshaped West, he will improve the team in one of its weakest areas: rebounding. Wood has never been considered a viable second or third option on a championship team. But he can be a very good starter on this Mavs team and will give them someone to match up with Draymond Green, Deandre Ayton and Rudy Gobert in the West.
Now is the time for Harrison to move on. Simply getting rid of terrible players and getting Wood back isn’t enough. They are still one or two star players away from being able to win it all. Harrison has to figure out what he’s going to do with his best trade chip, unrestricted free agent Jalen Brunson. He should also try to move the contracts of Tim Hardaway Jr. and Davis Bertans to reduce salary to sign future free agents. And above all, he needs to find a real Robin for Dončić’s Batman.
Harrison wasted no time going out and improving his team. He ended up fleecing a team in the process. Not a bad move after the failed era of Kristaps Porziņģis. The question that remains is… what next?