Film Study: Christian Wood’s skills should fit in well in Dallas

Dallas adds Christian Wood to a deep front-row rotation as it looks to make another deep playoff run.

Christian Wood was employed only once by a good team. And that team — the 2018-19 Milwaukee Bucks — waived Wood in March after playing just 62 total minutes in its first 70 games.

Wood was picked up by the New Orleans Pelicans two days later and since then his teams have finished 13th, 13th, 15th and 15th in their respective conferences. Of the players currently on the rosters, Wood ranks *eighth in most regular season games played (222) without reaching the playoffs. And only two guys above him — Josh Jackson and David Nwaba — have worse records in games they’ve played than Wood (69-153, .311).

*He would be 11th if you counted three players – Lonzo Ball, Mitchell Robinson and Mo Bamba – who have been on playoff teams, but have yet to play in a playoff game. The leader among active players is Buddy Hield with 468 games without a playoff appearance.

Now, Wood has joined a team that reached the Western Conference Finals a few months ago. His move to Dallas is an opportunity to finally win some games and partner with one of the best pick-and-roll ball handlers in the league. But it’s also the first time Wood will be under the microscope that comes with playing for a competitor.

Here are some notes, numbers and movies from Wood’s time in Detroit and Houston, as well as how he could help the Mavs…


1. Roll or pop, empty wedge weapon

Wood is generally an off-ball player. The percentage of his field goals that were assisted last season (67.7%) was the lowest of his last four seasons, but was still high for a guy who averaged 17.9 points per game. In fact, only three players – Kristaps Porzingis (20.2, 75.0%), Desmond Bane (18.2, 70.3%) and Bojan Bogdanovic (18.1, 71.8%) – have averaged more points per game and were assisted on a higher percentage of their buckets.

He’s a capable jump shooter and not the most physical of the big guys, but Wood can handle himself inside. In fact, he’s shot 289 for 387 (74.7%) in the restricted area* on the road the past three seasons, the 11th highest mark among 162 players with at least 300 restricted area attempts on the road in the past three seasons. this period.

* Watching only road games for shots in restricted areas helps solve the problem of plan mapping inconsistency from arena to arena.

Wood was one of 29 players who screened for the ball more than 1,500 last season and he rolled to the rim 57% of the time. That rate ranked 48th among the 80 players who established at least 750 ball screens, according to Second Spectrum tracking.

Wood has good hands, which allows him to catch in a crowd…

Christian Wood roll against New Orleans

As a big who can both finish to the edge or shoot from the perimeter, Wood is apparently an ideal screen for ’empty-corner’ pick-and-rolls, where there’s no immediate help behind his defender. .

If her man helps with the paint, he can cleanly roll to the basket…

Christian Wood rolls against Orlando

If the defense ices the ball carrier (with Wood’s defender in position to defend a rejection shot), Wood can appear in open space…

Christian Wood 3 points against Washington

And if the defense changes screen, he can skillfully take advantage of a shift…

Christian Wood post-up against Orlando

Although the Mavs ranked third in total ball screens per 100 possessions (87.1) last season, they were only 25th in empty-corner pick-and-rolls per 100 (19 ,4), according to Second Spectrum. It will be interesting to see if they make that a bigger part of their offense this season.

The Rockets, at times, had Wood shot on the move. And he shot 3s on the dribble (38 for 80, 37.5%) almost as well as he did on the catch (96 for 242, 39.7%) last season. So he can dodge a fence and shoot the rebound. But with a slow release, it needs a bit more time and space than some other shooters.

Another problem is his free throw shot. Wood ranks 22nd in free throw rate (34.9 attempts per 100 shots from the field) among 151 players with at least 1,000 field goal attempts over the past two seasons, but his 62.6% at the line at the in those two years are the eighth-worst among 132 players with at least 250 free throw attempts. (Before his two seasons in Houston, he had shot 73.4% from the line.)


2. Make games

Wood isn’t exactly Nikola Jokic when it comes to dropping dime. He averaged just 2.3 assists per game and 11.9 assists per 100 possessions used last season. The latter was the 22nd lowest rating among 109 players with a usage rate of at least 20% and lower than those of Dwight Powell (15.1) and Maxi Kleber (13.6).

But both of Wood’s ratings (assists per game and per 100 possessions used) were career highs. He can push things a bit, but he could do it less with a more capable team around him, and he’s shown he can do the right readings…

Assist by Christian Wood against Portland

The Mavs lost a point guard when Jalen Brunson left for New York. Wood can’t replace Brunson and obviously won’t lead the attack. But if the defense takes the ball out of Luka Doncic’s hands, Wood should be able to take advantage of it himself or keep it moving.


3. Defense?

Wood’s teams have ranked 22nd, 27th and 30th defensively the past three seasons, and he’s certainly been one of them.

The 21-22 30th-ranked Rockets usually had him in “drop” coverage to protect the rim. But he wasn’t a particularly good rim protector, with opponents shooting 63.1% to the basket when he was around. That mark ranked 51st among 90 players who defended at least 200 rim shots and was worse than each of Wood’s new frontline teammates: JaVale McGee (51.0%), Kleber (58.2%) and Powell (62.7%).

Wood certainly has the length to block a few shots (65 in 68 games last season). But he will often defend with his hands down at his sides and he can get intimidated under the basket, both by guards with the ball…

Jalen Brunson drives against Christian Wood

… and by big by the glass…

Offensive rebound by Wendell Carter Jr. against Christian Wood

Wood isn’t necessarily going to put that lean body at risk. He was one of 21 players (a list that includes very good defenders) who played at least 2,000 minutes last season without firing a single charge.

When asked to defend guards on the perimeter, Wood generally did so conservatively, giving them space to shoot rather than risk a hit. And with its length, it can do that and still challenge…

Donovan Mitchell isolation against Christian Wood

Still, he doesn’t rank particularly well in isolation, with his opponents scoring 0.97 points by chance when they isolated against Wood over the past three seasons. This ranks 164th among 269 players who have defended at least 200 isolations during this period.


4. Four or five

The extent to which Wood defends the perimeter from the paint may depend on who is on the floor with him. As noted, the Mavs have plenty of big playable players and it looks like McGee will be the starting center. Dorian Finney-Smith, meanwhile, played most of his four-man minutes last season. Depth is a nice issue to have, but it will be interesting to see how the frontline rotation shakes out when everyone is healthy.

Wood played 669 (32%) of his 2,094 minutes alongside another great (Alperen Sengun or Daniel Theis) last season. The Rockets had the worst record (and second-worst point differential per 100 possessions) in the league. But they were particularly bad, scoring an incredible 16.9 points per 100 possessions, in those 669 minutes that Wood was the rated power forward.

Offense was the bigger issue, with Houston scoring just 95.8 points per 100 possessions in those minutes. Their defense was actually better in those minutes than when Wood was playing all five, but there was such a big difference on the offensive side that those Wood-at-the-five minutes were much better overall.

Rockets with Christian Wood on the ground, 2021-22

Wood on the ground MIN OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
with another big 669 95.8 112.6 -16.9 -233
As the only big 1,424 110.6 116.1 -5.4 -173

OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point difference per 100 possessions

Now, most of those Wood-at-the-four minutes (especially the ones he played with Theis) came at the start of the season, when offensive numbers were below league-wide and before. that Rockets rookie Jalen Green is really starting to improve. If they were evenly dispersed from October to April, there probably wouldn’t be such a drastic spread. But it was clear (and not too surprising) that the offense went better when Houston was able to really space the floor with Wood at five, allowing him to play outside or inside (unobstructed).

Whatever position he is in, Wood should be a good addition to Luka Doncic in the Mavs attack. Dallas already had a big (Kleber) who could both finish well inside and shoot 3s, but Wood is an upgrade offensively, especially when it comes to his hands and mobility. And the Mavs gave very little for it.

Still, to win important minutes in a crowded front line (and for a team that ranked seventh defensively last season), Wood will likely need to be stronger at the other end of the field.

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John Schuhmann is a senior statistics analyst for NBA.com. You can email him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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