NBA Sixth Man of the Year hiding in plain sight with the Dallas Mavericks?

NBA Head Coach Jason Kidd, Dallas Mavericks (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
NBA Head Coach Jason Kidd, Dallas Mavericks (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic receives tons of praise from NBA analysts, experts, and fans, and rightfully so. He’s unquestionably a candidate for NBA MVP after putting together some truly impressive performances early in the season.

However, there’s another player on the Mavericks who’s been flying under the radar from most of the talk at the national level and that’s the team’s big offseason acquisition, Christian Wood.

The undrafted sixth-year pro out of UNLV is putting up starter-level numbers in the first few games of the regular season for the Dallas Mavericks, despite coming off the bench.

Is Dallas Mavericks forward Christian Wood an early candidate for NBA Sixth Man of the Year?

Kidd shocked NBA fans when he revealed he intended to bring Wood off the bench for the Dallas Mavericks this season during the team’s media day, including Wood himself. Christian Wood apparently didn’t realize he would be coming off the bench when the Mavericks unloaded a slew of bench players and a first-round draft pick to get him out of Houston and into a Mavericks jersey.

Whether he’s using the bench as a motivator or if this is a chess-not-checkers move from Kidd, it seems to be working out for both the player and the team.

Wood has been outstanding off the bench, putting up similar numbers to what Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis is doing this season. For the Lakers, Davis is averaging 24 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 2 assists in 35.1 minutes per game. He’s sitting at -8.8 in plus/minus, too.

For the Mavericks, Wood is averaging 24.3 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 1.7 assists in 26.3 minutes per game. He’s been a huge boost for Dallas as a +13 in plus/minus. This is particularly impressive when you consider Wood has been a starter for the past two seasons and is adjusting to a new role with a new team.

His performance, even though it’s a small sample size, should catapult him to the top of the NBA Sixth Man of the Year award discussions once we get a little further along in the season. Not to mention, the league will likely have a fresh race for the award this year as previous winners Tyler Herro and Jordan Clarkson have transitioned into starting roles for their respective teams, the Miami Heat and the Utah Jazz.

No one in the NBA is putting up numbers like Wood is doing while coming off the bench right now. The closest a player comes to achieving similar results as Christian Wood is Bennedict Mathurin of the Indiana Pacers.

The rookie guard is putting up huge numbers for the rebuilding Pacers, averaging nearly 21 points and 5 rebounds per game in 27.6 minutes per game. Seeing Mathurin, the No. 6 overall pick from the 2022 NBA Draft, in the NBA Sixth Man of the Year conversation would be rare. There’s only been one rookie to win the league-wide award for most outstanding bench player, and that was Chicago’s Ben Gordon, who accomplished the feat in the 2004-05 season. Gordon averaged 15.1 points per game while shooting 41% from the field as a rookie out of UConn.

But there’s still a fairly wide gap between Mathurin and Wood. Either way, we’re in uncharted waters as no Dallas Mavericks player has ever averaged more than 20 points per game off the bench in a season.

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The race for NBA Sixth Man of the Year is already heating up, giving fans yet another interesting storyline to keep an eye on as the 2022-23 season moves forward.