Late last night, after Dallas citizens 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 be trading the No. 26 overall pick of the 2022 draft, Boban Marjanovic, Sterling Brown, Trey Burke, and Marquese Chriss, to The Rockets in for Christian Wood.
It’s telling that most media outlets reporting on the trade listed the Mavs’ 26th draft pick as the lead-in for what the Mavs would be giving up. The players leaving Dallas are everyone who was terrible at everything for the team this season. None of the four players shipped out logged meaningful minutes in the playoffs. And the 26th pick the Mavs were holding was going to amount to another pine-riding player.
To put it plainly, Mavs GM Nico Harrison fleeced the hell out of the Rockets. Ever since they traded away James Harden in 2021, Houston has muddled about 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 the younger studs in Jalen Green, Alperen Şengün, Kenyon Martin Jr., and Usman Garuba.
It’s a sure bet those vets will be shuttled out of town now. Wood should be the first domino toward the Rockets fully embracing 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 much drama to take on Wood and Porter, although they could have used Porter’s scoring touch on the perimeter.
There’s not much for the Rockets to be excited about with their return. Especially since they already have the third, 17th, and now 26th pick. Drafting after 20 won’t reap much return in the way of talent in a weak draft. This trade was mainly about freeing up roster space for Şengün at the center and shipping out Wood, who was a cancer in Houston’s locker room last season. At one point, he and Porter almost caused an insurrection.
Shams reported that Wood was benched last season after missing a mandatory COVID-19 testing window and refused to substitute into the game in the second half. The Mavericks have focused so much on building fun culture guys around Luka Dončić that they can afford to absorb one or two malcontents. It might be exactly what this roster needs. They were sometimes soft and passive during the Western Conference finals, overly deferring and scared to step up to take big shots when Dončić was exhausted.
I’ve been harsh on how the Mavericks organization has built around Dončić thus 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 are willing to take chances on untapped potential. It’s been less than two seasons since Wood put up 21 and 10 for the Rockets. Now he will bring floor spacing as a small-ball center to a Mavs roster in desperate need of offensive creativity. Wood is a career 38 percent perimeter shooter over six seasons and six teams. It’s one of the sure things he will bring to the Mavs. This will allow Dallas to maintain their deadly small-ball lineup while improving on rebounding and defense up front.
While this was Harrison’s first fleece as Mavericks GM, it can’t stop here. The Mavs didn’t just need to make one home-run move. They need several. Not being afraid to trade away Boban, Dončić’s beer-drinking buddy was a bold move. But, it’s assumed it would not have happened unless Dončić was willing to send off his pal to improve the team. To put it plainly, Marjanović sucked. His old-school, back-to-the-basket game was a relic of the past. The Mavs needed athleticism and two-way play at the center position. They got it with this trade.
While Wood isn’t going to be enough for Dallas to make the Finals next year in what will be a retooled West, he will improve the team in one of their 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 against Draymond Green, Deandre Ayton, and Rudy Gobert in the West.
Now it’s time for Harrison to keep going. Simply dumping terrible players and getting back Wood 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 will do with his best trade chip, unrestricted free agent Jalen Brunson. He’s also got to try to move the contracts of Tim Hardaway Jr. and Davis Bertans to shed salary to sign future free agents. And most of all, he needs to find a real Robin for Dončić’s Batman.
Harrison wasted no time in going out and making his team better. He ended up fleecing a team in the process. Not a bad move after the failed Kristaps Porziņģis era. The question that remains is… what’s next?
Correction: An earlier version of this story listed Boban Marjanović as Slovenian. He is Serbian.