After bouncing around the NBA and G League for a number of seasons, Christian Wood finally had his breakout campaign with the Detroit Pistons.
Prior to landing in Detroit, Wood had made stops in Philadelphia, Charlotte, Milwaukee and New Orleans since going undrafted in 2015. Remarkably, Wood is still just 25 years old, making him one of the more intriguing free agents on the market in 2020.
Making just 51 NBA appearances prior to the 2019-20 season, the former UNLV big man saw 21.1 minutes of action across 62 games, averaging 13.1 points and 6.3 rebounds while also knocking down 38.6 percent of his tries from 3-point land.
With an ability to finish inside, shoot from the perimeter, run out in transition and protect the rim on the defensive end, Wood in many respects boasts the modern day skillset teams covet.
Given the nature of Wood's career path thus far, it would make considerable sense to lock in the security of a longer term deal, so let's look at some of the potential destinations this offseason.
Why would we start anywhere else?
After trading away longtime franchise big man Andre Drummond, the Pistons find themselves with a spot to fill in the middle.
The three centres that ended the season in Detroit are all free agents, with John Henson and Thon Maker joining Wood in that category. (Oddly enough, all three began the 2018-19 season together in Milwaukee ... but the Detroit-Milwaukee connection is a story for another day).
Out of that trio, Wood was clearly the first option for Dwane Casey, with 11 of his 12 starts coming after the calendar ticked over into February. While the raw numbers were already mentioned for Wood on the season, it's worth noting he averaged an impressive 21.9 points, 9.4 rebounds and 2.0 assists on .560/.408/.734 shooting splits as a starter.
The Pistons did hold a terrible 1-11 record in those 12 starts, but before you accuse Wood of being a good stats, bad team guy, let's check the lineup data from the 2020 season:
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Despite the fact Detroit finished with a 20-46 record and an overall NET rating of -3.5 - good for 23rd worst in the league - they were a positive team with Wood on the floor in his 1,325 minutes of court time.
Holding the No. 7 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, NBA.com's Kyle Irving has the Pistons taking Killian Hayes with that selection. If they do indeed go down the path of drafting a guard with their top pick, keeping Wood in Detroit would make a whole lot of sense.
New York Knicks
It's free agency and the Knicks have money, so of course they have to be a possible destination for Wood.
For so long, New York have chased marquee names and established stars to no avail, and perhaps it's time for them to secure an emerging player in the league.
While the Knicks have a glut of options at the four spot with Taj Gibson, Julius Randle and Bobby Portis (team option), Mitchell Robinson is the only true centre on the roster as it currently stands. Carrying just a $1.6 million dollar deal into the 2020-21 season, perhaps the Knicks will look to secure the centre position by bringing in Wood.
Robinson started in just seven of his 61 appearances last season, as the combination of Randle and Gibson filled the frontcourt. With Gibson now 35 years old, injecting the enthusiasm of Wood into the starting group would at the very least return some electricity to the Garden with his penchant for throwing down highlight reel jams.
The Knicks are absolutely a team to watch here. It will likely come down to whether or not they believe they can land a marquee All-Star this offseason or next.
As mentioned earlier, Wood has spent some time with the Hornets, suiting up in 13 games during the 2016-17 season.
Not expected to contend any time in the near future, Charlotte's interest in Wood could be determined by how it decides to use the pick No. 3 in the upcoming draft -- Kyle Irving has LaMelo Ball heading to the Hornets in our latest mock.
As it currently stands, Cody Zeller would start for the Hornets, with Bismack Biyombo and Willy Hernangomez hitting free agency.
The Hornets had the 25th ranked defence in the league last season, sitting 23rd for opposition points in the paint at 50.5 per game. Rim protection was largely non-existent in Charlotte, with the above mentioned trio averaging 2.3 blocks per game combined.
While not an elite shot blocker, Wood did average 1.5 swats per 36 and could provide an upgrade in that department, while also not being prone to fouling, as he sits in 95th percentile at his position for foul percentage, according to Cleaning The Glass.
Much like the Pistons themselves, a decision to go down this path could be decided by their choice on draft night. Time will tell.
To this point, all the teams we have mentioned have one thing in common: They are not expected to make the postseason in 2021.
This would make sense if you make the assumption that Wood is in line to sign a longer term deal and lock in his future income. While seemingly unlikely, Wood could go down the route of taking a shorter term deal on a contender. Yet to make an appearance in the postseason, the lure of winning basketball could be an attractive one for the 25-year-old.
The Miami Heat are one of the rare teams that possess cap space, though, with Bam Adebayo locking up the centre position and their long term plans around Giannis Antetokounmpo, it would be a shock if Wood landed in South Beach.
The Boston Celtics are screaming out for a big man, although Wood probably doesn't fit the description of inside bruiser the Celtics lacked against Miami in the Conference Finals and in a potential matchup against Joel Embiid.
The New Orleans Pelicans would be an ironic option given they decided to walk away from bringing Wood back for the 2020 season. The thought of him and Zion throwing down Lonzo Ball lobs is certainly an attractive image.
With uncertainty surrounding Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee's future with the Los Angeles Lakers, you simply cannot count out Wood playing alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis at the Staples Center.
Ultimately, Wood deserves some security with his NBA career. After multiple setbacks, he found a comfortable spot in an NBA rotation for the first time last season and looks set to cash in on that opportunity.
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