Dallas Mavericks: Is Christian Wood being underutilized by Jason Kidd?

Christian Wood, Dallas Mavericks (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)
Christian Wood, Dallas Mavericks (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images) /

When I drafted Christian Wood in my fantasy league this year, I envisioned him becoming the Robin to Doncic’s Batman with double-double stat lines padded with three-pointers. Unfortunately, Wood has been inconsistent this year for the Dallas Mavericks, mainly due to a lack of playing time. Jason Kidd has come under the microscope for his management of Christian Wood, and it’s left many scratching their heads and wondering: Why isn’t Christian Wood playing more?

There are several layers to the mystery of Wood’s playing time with the Dallas Mavericks.

The first layer is the depth of the Mavericks’ frontcourt. They have a ton of options at PF/C, like JaVale McGee, Maxi Kleber, and Dwight Powell. None of them are dynamic, definitive starting centers, but McGee is a shot-blocker who can jam home lobs.

Kleber can drain threes and play serviceable defense, and Powell is an energetic spark anytime he checks into a game. With four viable centers, it’s not unreasonable that Wood’s minutes fluctuate, and even if he is the best option, one could argue Kidd is choosing whoever fits best for specific matchups.

The second layer is Christian Wood’s reputation. Wood had played for six teams prior to joining the Mavericks, and many forget that he previously displayed some DeMarcus Cousins-type moments. Before Wood landed on the Rockets he was traded from the Pistons for a draft pick and many fans questioned this decision by Detroit’s GM Troy Weaver. Weaver seemed validated when Wood’s attitude issues flared with the Rockets after he skipped a mandatory covid test.

That same day, he refused to check into a game. Not exactly boy scout behavior.

Wood is a talented but flawed player.

The final layer is Wood’s talent. Is Christian Wood overrated? He’s bounced from team to team so is every GM crazy and not seeing Christian Wood’s amazing talent or are fans and fantasy managers missing the obvious? While Wood can drain threes and pick and roll with the best of them his real downfall seems to be defense.

"“Wood was the worst post defender among all centers over the last two seasons and seventh-worst among opponent field goal percentage at the rim. He fared better as a pick-and-roll and isolation defender, especially when defending smaller players and he could use his lack of bulk and agility to his advantage,” according to Iztok Franko."

In other words, Wood can chase smaller players on the perimeter quite well for a big man, but he’s not an interior force. Granted, he has backup with the deep Mavericks roster and it’s not like defending Joel Embiid is a walk in the park for anyone. Either way, Wood’s issues seem to be subtly continuing in Dallas. He was benched in the Dallas Mavericks’ season opener despite getting off to a hot start and more recently after a loss to the Nuggets.

Kidd has reasons not to play Wood more, and Wood has to continue to work to earn minutes.

Arguably not the best answer as he tries to develop chemistry with Kidd, but they don’t seem to be meshing perfectly just yet. Either way, watching Luka Doncic sometimes is a part masterclass, part pain. One can only shoulder so much, and it’s not consistently coming from Hardaway, Finney-Smith, Bullock, or Kleber.

If Christian Wood is to be the new Porzingis, he has to be given a chance to flourish, but he also needs to prove to defensive-minded Kidd that he cares. Six teams have already abandoned Christian Wood, so is Kidd crazy for limiting his playing time, or could Wood be an overrated problem child that needs to learn Kidd’s way or the highway?

The season is young and anything can happen, but with the Dallas Mavericks poised to miss the playoffs, I understand Kidd’s perspective, but I can’t help but wonder if he needs to free Wood. So, that leaves one major question: if Wood is freed, can he step up to the plate?

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Honestly, as much as I hope the answer is yes considering I drafted him this year, I’m not sure I trust Wood’s ability to be the all-star many thinks he can be. In that regard, maybe Kidd knows what he’s doing after all.