The popular opinion on social media is that the Mavericks are the clear winners of this trade, as it puts them in a low risk, high reward situation. Understandably, some of Houston’s fanbase has expressed disappointment with their compensation for Wood.
Wood has been Houston’s most valuable player over the last two seasons, averaging 19.1 points and 9.9 rebounds per game. Prior to his ankle injury in 2021, there was a legitimate chance of the center earning an NBA All-Star selection.
In contrast, the Rockets’ newest additions occupied Dallas’ bench for the majority of this past season. It’s questionable whether this trade package is a competitive offer for a team’s leading scorer and rebounder.
The reality is that a trade of this magnitude can accelerate or extend a franchise’s rebuilding process by years. Let’s see why there is concern behind the surprising move.
Each player involved in this trade has a contract expiring in 2023, including Wood. With that being said, will acquiring Dallas’ expendable players benefit Houston’s lineup for the lone season they are committed to? Likely not.
It’ll be surprising if Marjanovic, Chriss, Burke, and Brown are on Houston’s roster in 2023. The value of their contracts adds up to $2 million less than Wood’s. For that reason, the only true benefit of this trade is the 26th pick in the upcoming 2022 NBA Draft.
The Rockets now hold the numbers 3, 17, and 26 picks in the draft. It’s likely Houston’s front office will utilize their later selections for executing another trade on draft night.
However, a misconception of the draft is that acquiring various draft picks will lead to acquiring various talented players. In reality, even with early selections, franchises are gambling on their youth to develop into stars.
The last time Houston drafted a future NBA All-Star was back in 2002, using their number one pick on Yao Ming. It’s not to say solid role players haven’t been drafted since then, such as Clint Capella, only that it’s rare for the Rockets to greatly benefit from picks outside of the lottery.
Sources claim the main purpose of this trade is to create more playing time for Alperen Sengun and Houston’s upcoming draft selections. One concern is that the Turkish native and the Rockets’ future draft acquisitions are barely 20 years of age. It may take several seasons to develop a young core, who aren’t guaranteed to reach full potential.
At 26 years old, Wood is in the prime of his career and solidified himself as a top option as a player. It’s important to provide opportunities to promising prospects, such as whoever Houston selects third, but to also recognize the worth of impactful veterans who’ve already established themselves in the league.
One alternative could’ve been to sit out Wood next season, in order to maintain his trade value while searching for a solid offer. This method didn’t work with John Wall, but that was due to his hefty $40 million annual contract.
There is no issue with trading Christian Wood, but the current evaluation of this trade is dissatisfactory.
It may have been more sensible to prolong trading Wood, with the intent of swapping him for a key rotation player at minimum. Years later, the Oklahoma City Thunder are still ridiculed for trading James Harden to Houston for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, two future first-round picks (Steven Adams and Mitch McGary), and a future second-round pick (Alex Abrines).
Overall, time will tell if Wood’s move to the Mavericks is a good decision. For now, Dallas wins this trade.