DALLAS – The preseason is an imperfect metric for success. Yet, if you ask Christian Wood – Dallas’ critical offseason addition – it’s a proving ground for those fighting for playing time.
Through two preseason games, Wood is averaging 19 points per game in 22.5 minutes of action. And his per 48 minutes stats are eye-popping as well: 41.6 points per game. He’s looked comfortable on the floor, playing as though he’s been in the Mavericks’ system for years. And his versatility on the offensive end – and his ability to post up smaller defenders — has opened new pages to Dallas’ offensive playbook.
“It looks like he has been here for a while,” Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd said after a 110-105 loss to the Orlando Magic. “He can score the ball, and he has given us something we haven’t had.”
Christian Wood has 14 points on 6 shots… he’s only played 10 minutes🤭 pic.twitter.com/Y3byVs88k3
— Spooky Vengeance Wood 👻 🪵 🐴 (@Vengeancewood) October 8, 2022
Wood’s offensive play in the preseason
When Dallas played the Oklahoma City Thunder, Wood felt like he started slow, he said. That quickly changed as he finished the game with 16 points and two made 3-pointers.
“The first game, I think I struggled to find my rhythm early on,” Wood said.
That wasn’t the case against Orlando, when he scored a team-high 23 points on three made 3-pointers and 66% field goal shooting. He attributes the near-instant success to embracing his role while fighting for more responsibilities throughout the preseason, he said.
“I’m just embracing it [coming off the bench],” Wood added. “I could pout about it, I could do a whole bunch of different things and pout, and do all the extra stuff, but I’m just here to try to win games, and that’s what I care about the most. So, I’m just coming into the game and playing 110%.”
Initially worried about his role on the Mavericks, it seems – at least on the surface – that Wood wants to play his best, regardless of where exactly he lines up – as a starter or off the bench. In the preseason, he’s proving that when he plays, he can be a microwave scorer with a knack for stretching the floor and hitting timely threes. It’s to be decided if that means Kidd will increase Wood’s minutes. Both are coy on the subject now, which is to be expected. But Wood is already making roster battles interesting by outperforming early preseason expectations and legitimately doing what he does with a smile.
Other notes and preseason observations
1.) Wood on the defensive end
Where Kidd discussed Wood’s growth at length was on the defensive end of the floor. Yes, it is still far from perfect. But it’s apparent that Wood is learning, and Kidd is excited about his eagerness to throw himself into the less desirable side of the floor.
“Defensively, he’s learning the system, and I think he is doing a great job just in the short time that he’s been here,” Kidd said. “He’s talking and trying to get used to the defensive schemes that we have taught guys before him, and he’s catching on.”
Wood agreed with Kidd’s assessment of his defensive efforts. He admitted that Dallas plays defense differently than anywhere else he’s ever played. And he also said that learning such a complex defensive scheme will take time, but it’s not a challenge he aims to shy away from.
“I am still learning,” Wood said. “Here they encourage a lot of floaters and a lot of mid-range shots, and that is not something I am used to. But overall, I am learning pretty well.”
2.) Luka Doncic is already in MVP form
Luka Doncic played in his first preseason game on Friday. He looked like he was in mid-season form. Doncic scored 16 points in 17 minutes, and he didn’t play in the second half of the contest.
“He looked great,” Kidd said. “You know, being able to go the full quarter there in the first, being able to control the game, he can get to the basket, he can shoot the three. I thought he did great on both ends of the floor.”
It may be safe to say that Doncic isn’t planning on starting slow for the second season in a row.
3.) Jaden Hardy is talented but volatile
Jaden Hardy started Friday’s game after his impressive performance against Oklahoma City, where he scored 21 points on 50% field goal shooting.
In his second preseason game, he looked like the development project that he still is. If Oklahoma City showcased Hardy’s ceiling as an NBA player, Friday showed everyone his floor. He scored six points while shooting 2-for-10 from the field in 19 minutes.
Kidd started him to see how he plays alongside Doncic. And the only clear message was that, despite how talented Hardy is as a prospect, he still has an extremely long way to go before he’s an everyday NBA player.
“We wanted to see how he handled it,” Kidd said. “He’s young. I think he has a chip on his shoulder. If you look at what he’s done since the summer league, he’s put in the time. He’s working really hard. He wants to learn and wants to be good.”
Only time will tell whether all of Hardy’s work will pay off.
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