Every season before the trade deadline, teams struggling to enter the playoff picture routinely tear down their team; sending out expiring players or stars with large contracts who don’t fit the team. The Pistons shipping Andre Drummond across Lake Erie to Cleveland signifies the star of a welcome rebuild for a team that has been miring in mediocrity for the past decade.
Drummond’s exit leaves an empty spot in the starting lineup; Enter Christian Wood.
I’ve been following Wood’s career since he came out of UNLV in the 2015 draft, and to see him finally get this opportunity with Detroit has been incredible. Wood went undrafted and bounced around on a few teams, always flashing his potential, but never securing a long term contract. He signed a one-year deal with the Pistons in the offseason and has finally gotten steady minutes. While Detroit’s season has been disappointing, Wood’s development has been one of the few bright spots.
Wood is posting 10.9 pts/5.6 rbds while shooting 56.2% from the field and 39% from three in about 19 minutes per game, pretty solid numbes and efficiency off the bench. However, in the month of February, Wood has played nearly 30 minutes per game and is averaging 17.2pts and 8 rbds while shooting 52% from the field and a scorching 45.8% from three on 4 attempts per game. Wood’s efficiency cannot be understated; he’s currently 8th in the NBA in True Shooting Percentage as well as Effective Field Goal Percentage (both are much more realistic measures of efficiency than traditional FG%).
And Wood is not just putting up empty stats. He makes an extremely positive impact on the Pistons; According to Cleaning The Glass, the Pistons are 6.4 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court, and allow 4.6 fewer Pp/100 possessions when he’s on the court. So essentially, Detroit is 11 points better per 100 possessions when Wood is on the court. This stat may seem confusing if you’ve never used it before, but it’s simply a metric that gauges how well a team plays when a player is/isn’t on the court. An 11 point differential is massive (Top 5% of players in the NBA). Granted Wood has spent a lot of the season playing against bench lineups, but given how underwhelming his surrounding cast is, the numbers speak volumes about his impact.
While the numbers are great for supporting Wood’s play, Wood’s ability is clear when watching Detroit play.
Wood’s stroke from 3 is legit and is indicative of the work he’s put into his craft. Wood had shown glimpses of ability to stretch the floor, but he’s taken nearly 100 threes this season, more than he had all of his career prior. He’s pulled shots out of his bag like the one above on more than one occasion.
Wood has also shown some really ability to handle the ball, especially as a driver. He’s probably not going to turn into a point forward, as his passing isn’t quite there yet, but he has a good handle when he decides to attack the rim.
He has an incredible feel when he gets inside the paint, with a soft and accurate touch on the ball. He sort of glides through the lane and drifts the ball into the net rather than powering it through (although he has some incredible power dunks).
Wood is great at protecting the ball with his body and arms while driving in/finishing at the rim. It’s subtle, but it’s a major aspect of his interior game that has allowed him to finish at the rim at a 77% clip (top 11% of all bigs in the league).
Wood still has plenty to improve on as a passer and defender. He’s greatly improved his defensive IQ and his grasp of that end has really come along, but he’s 6’11 and about 215, so he can struggle defend more stout bigs in the paint, however his physical skills and drive have me convinced that he will become an above average defender.
I’ve always enjoyed watching the development of players, people, that’s one of my favorite things about the NBA. You get to watch someone grow up right before your eyes over stretches. Watching Christian develop as a player and finally get a real shot and excel has been a privilege, as he’s not much older than me. It’s an odd feeling, but I’m proud of the guy, I’ve never met him or seen him play in person, but seeing what he’s doing now after he scrapped just to get a 10-day is pretty damn special.
Christian Wood is going to garner significant interest as an unrestricted free agent this summer. Regardless of where he ends up, I’ll be following his career. Christian Wood is here to stay in the NBA.