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Basketball

The Mavericks Traded Boban, Are Heartless Monsters

(They sort of had to. It’s a good trade.)
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Boban Marjanovic was the Chewbacca to Luka Doncic's Han Solo. Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Mavericks made a big ‘ol basketball trade last night, acquiring Rockets center Christian Wood for four players and the 26th overall pick in next week’s NBA Draft. We’ll have plenty more on the deal itself in the coming days, but for now, just know that this can only go badly. Wood is a 26-year-old big who has averaged 19 points and 10 boards over the past two seasons on high-end shooting (51 percent from the field, 38 percent from three). Just five other players averaged 19 points and nine rebounds on 50 percent shooting in the same timeframe; all five are All-Stars, and two are MVPs.

There’s a reason Dallas could snag this one and not Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, Karl-Anthony Towns or Domantas Sabonis—the rest of that esteemed cohort. Wood hasn’t played much “winning basketball” in his day, which is code for someone who is fond of touching the ball, is often allergic to playing defense, and has had attitude questions hover over him throughout his NBA career. So, there are risks here.

But Wood also on an expiring deal, which means he can be jettisoned if this goes pear-shaped. And, well, look at how little the Mavericks gave up. The pick is in no man’s land: prior to the deal, our Iztok Franko was working up a study on just what the Mavericks could expect from a player drafted around No. 26, and the average was something in the neighborhood of a Mike Muscala or Stanley Johnson. Whether or not you know those names: enough said.

Meanwhile, Sterling Brown had his paltry minutes hijacked by Josh Green and Frank Ntilikina, Marquese Chriss is a limited player who just underwent knee surgery, and the only shots Trey Burke didn’t like were the ones that dramatically lower his chances of bad COVID-19-related outcomes. The Mavericks will not lose a wink of sleep without any of them.

So we’d be done here, nonchalantly chalking this up as a W before hopping down the rabbit hole of Christian Wood analysis, were it not the fourth player.

Boban Marjanovic.

Sweet Boban.

Purveyor of smiles. Patron saint of good vibes. The Chewbacca to Luka Doncic’s Han Solo. A man so lovable he made getting bludgeoned to death by a book seem endearing.

Who has so many friends across these shores that I once edited a 3,400-word oral history from my former Athletic colleague/current podcast co-host Tim Cato titled, “‘The nicest human I’ve ever met’: Boban Marjanovic, the NBA’s best teammate.” I’m not kidding—that’s the actual title. Has your faith in humanity been shaken lately? Because lemme tell you, reading 30 people group-hug Boban with their words over the length of a half-dozen Tim Rogers blogs on DMN editorials is quite the elixir.

Here’s an actual quote from that story: “Man, I cried when that dude got traded. He just changes you, man. He really does.”

Has anyone cried when you’ve changed places of employment? Probably not!

How about another? “I’m gonna text him right now and tell him I was thinking about him, and it made me happy.”

I have lived 35 years on this planet, and I’m pretty sure no one has ever done this for me. Then again, I am not the nicest man I’ve ever met, nor the NBA’s best teammate. Only Boban is, and now he’s gone.

Which is why I am compelled to grade this deal an F-minus-minus-minus. Wood provides a lot of things this team needs on the basketball court, and if he buys in to Dallas’ culture, he could, as Action Network’s Matt Moore astutely pointed out, deliver John Collins traits at a fraction of the cost it would take to acquire the unsettled Atlanta forward. That would be an enormous success.

But he is not, nor will he ever be, a 7-foot-4 karma refinery who fumigates the atmosphere in every locker room just by being his brilliant, goofy self. The Mavericks only had one of those, and they shipped him to Houston, of all wretched places. That’s an emotional war crime that no amount of Christian Wood pick-and-pops can make up for. Even if he’s about to make a whole lot of them playing with Luka Doncic.

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Mike Piellucci

Mike Piellucci

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Mike Piellucci is D Magazine's sports editor. He is a former staffer at The Athletic and VICE, and his freelance…