Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Maverick’s big man JaVale McGee admits confusion over bench demotion

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At the start of the season, the Dallas Mavericks faced an important decision at center. Luckily, the Mavs had two decent options: former Warriors champion JaVale McGee, Mavs veteran Dwight Powell, and talented youngster Christian Wood, brought over in an in-state trade with the Houston Rockets. Head trainer Jason Kidd initially nodded to McGee and promised the vet a place in the starting blocks.

But 15 games later, the Mavericks seem to have seen enough. For the past six games, Kidd’s line-up has featured Powell in the fives in place of McGee. And with good reason: the Mavericks are with him on the floor at a horrible minus 20.

But while benching McGee might have been painful for us at home, the center himself expressed confusion about the move Friday night after the Mavericks defeated the Denver Nuggets 127-99.

“I don’t really know when my minutes will come but I’m a pro so we have to win whatever my team thinks it takes.”

While Powell has received the nod as a starter five of late, data suggests another candidate could be the ideal starter: Christian Wood. Wood has developed a fruitful partnership with pick-and-roll superstar Luka Doncic. Lineups featuring Wood and Doncic score 128.0 points per 100 possessions, a remarkable number that suggests Dallas’ best lineups may not be the ones it starts with. And despite coming off the bank, Wood was pleasantly surprised by his new digs when speaking to reporters in early November.

“It was a bit better than I expected. I guess you could say that, especially coming off the bench. It was great.”

Is Wood the ideal teammate alongside Doncic? Not necessarily. But as The Ringer’s Michael Pina noted, Wood is an intriguing fit alongside Doncic.

“Wood is a dynamic exclamation mark, but not the dependable shot creator that Luka will (probably) need to win it all. But until they find him, Wood is an intriguing and effective tool that makes life just that little bit easier for the Dallas MVP nominee.”

If McGee continues to slide down the Mavericks’ pecking order, it might make sense for the team to start looking for a trading partner. Given that McGee signed with Dallas over the summer, he is untradeable until Dec. 15, according to the league’s CBA.

This schedule should work perfectly for the Mavericks. It’s giving Dallas another month to decide whether McGee will factor into the team’s long-term plans. If Dallas is happy with Powell starting and Wood delivering crucial minutes off the bench, McGee needs to be bought in.

Luckily, there’s no shortage of teams that could use McGee’s veteran presence. He’s just a season away from 6.7 rebounds per game, a number consistent with the 6.4 he’s averaged since 2018.

Would a rebound-needy team like the Brooklyn Nets or Phoenix Suns have an interest in McGee? Or maybe the Golden State Warriors are taking a chance on their former center given the team’s current disaster at the Five. It’s hard to imagine what McGee could bring back in return, but it’s possible its value will rise over the next few weeks as the trading season heats up.

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