Christian Wood should be top priority for San Antonio Spurs in free agency
By Dylan Carter
In the upcoming 2020 offseason, the San Antonio Spurs need to keep their eyes on free agent big man Christian Wood of the Detroit Pistons.
Prior to the 2019-20 NBA season, big man Christian Wood was not a very widely admired commodity. He had played 51 total NBA games across three seasons in a very minor role. He’s on an expiring $1.6 million deal with the Detroit Pistons and could be a feasible target for the San Antonio Spurs in free agency.
Wood is a complete modern player standing at 6-foot-10. He has started in 12 games for the Detroit Pistons this year and is averaging All-Star-level numbers in that short span. Wood is putting up 21.9 points and 9.4 boards per game as a starter while hitting 56 percent of his shots and an astounding 40.8 percent of his threes.
Once the Pistons decided to move on from rebounding extraordinaire Andre Drummond at the trade deadline, it was easy for Pistons coach Dwane Casey to see that Wood was the next man up. He spent the season as a highly-productive player off the bench who would step up for extended periods of time with Drummond resting.
For the Spurs, the 24-year-old big provides some of the most important tools of a young big man for a team trending younger: Rebounding, defensive chops, athleticism and versatility. He’s a coachable player whose been with some excellent leaders in Milwaukee, New Orleans and Detroit. Wood has worked extremely hard to get to where he is since going undrafted in 2015.
The former UNLV Runnin’ Rebel is going to be one of the most talked-about free agents in this upcoming class. Detroit is going to do everything they can to keep him there as their starting big man of the future, but his unrestricted status is going to make him a hot commodity at just 24.
Larger dominoes are going to fall first, but Wood is a great fit for San Antonio and they should do everything in their power to bring him along.
Next: Why is Christian Wood such a big deal?
Playmaker on both ends of the floor
Being a dynamic two-way threat with the ability to play multiple positions makes Wood one of the more interesting up-and-coming players in the sport. He’s a solid ball-handler for a big man of his size, but he does most of his work from the interior off of post shots, drives, layups and dunks.
Wood is an excellent pick-and-roll partner because he’s skilled at reading the defender’s coverage and reacting by either stepping out for a jumper or rolling to the rim.
Simply put, Christian Wood makes things happen on both sides of the floor. He’s been with multiple teams in-and-out of the G League and continues to adapt to new systems without hiccups. Now that he’s established himself as a full-time NBA player whose spot in the league is solidified, Wood deserves to have a team that will cater to him.
That’s something San Antonio can offer him as he transitions into free agency. The Spurs are a team that takes what players are best at and puts them to use. If Wood were to sign with San Antonio, his shooting, inside prowess and physicality would play a major part in their long-term outlook.
Wood doesn’t need to have plays run for him to be an effective player. He can play away from the ball and make things happen with putbacks near the rim or catch-and-shoot opportunities when a play breaks down. With a team like San Antonio, he wouldn’t be asked to do more than he’s comfortable with, so he could flourish and continue developing.
Fearlessness is an important trait to have if you want to be great in the NBA and Wood fits the bill. He never backs down from a challenge and thrives under pressure. With the tutelage and guidance that the Spurs led by coaches Gregg Popovich, Tim Duncan and Becky Hammon can provide him, Wood will assuredly fulfill his potential.
Next: Wood's importance to the free-agent market
Wood’s importance to the free-agent market
The 2020 free agency period is comprised of a lot of players with options to pick up the next season of their contract—most of which will accept because of cap spikes in previous years. This includes players the aforementioned Drummond as well as Gordon Hayward, Otto Porter Jr. and Nicolas Batum.
There’s also not all that much money to be floated around with the salary cap projected to go down this year. Many teams won’t have the means to give the players they want the deals they desire, and Mid-Level Exceptions are going to play a big part in the long line of dominoes.
Even with that being the case, the Spurs should have a bit of money to play with considering the expiring deals of Marco Belinelli, Bryn Forbes and DeMar DeRozan‘s player option. There’s a good chance DeRozan enters the market knowing that he’d be the No. 1 player in the group with a shot at earning some big money.
The annual payout of Wood’s contract this offseason will depend on the players at the top of the free agency lists. If there are more big-name players opting out of their contracts then it’s less likely for his agents, the Pensack brothers, to create a bidding war for their best player. His agents represent Brandon Paul, a former Spurs player, and other young prospects, but don’t represent anyone making big money in the NBA.
San Antonio has already worked with these agents and gave their client a chance. Hopefully, that rapport would be enough to snag a multi-year deal worth somewhere between $6-12 million per year to join a young core with a proven coaching staff on board.
Next: Fitting with the Spurs' projected lineup
Fitting with the Spurs’ projected lineup
Having Wood in the lineup affords the Spurs’ 2020-21 lineup a lot of flexibility that it wouldn’t have otherwise. With the risk posed by center Jakob Poeltl’s restricted free agency, Wood is a great fail-safe to keep in place if the fourth-year big gets a contract greater than how San Antonio values him. Wood can play both four and five for San Antonio as it returns LaMarcus Aldridge, who can do the same.
Aldridge is better suited to play the five nowadays considering he’ll be slowing down as he gets older. LaMarcus is deceptively strong and stout for a natural power forward, as is Wood. Even though Wood is playing the five for Detroit, he can slot in at the power forward whenever the Spurs need him to.
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Having that athletic, versatile counterpart to place next to Aldridge in the frontcourt gives San Antonio an edge when it comes to defending the rim and scoring from anywhere on the floor. It’s scary enough having one big who can space the floor, especially with deadly slashers like DeRozan, Dejounte Murray and Lonnie Walker IV.
The same applies with backup forward Trey Lyles, who’s extremely skilled but doesn’t bring much athleticism to the table. Wood, in theory, brings the team some much-needed verticality in the frontcourt that they’ll need to keep up with the rest of the league.
A frontcourt comprised of Wood, Lyles, Aldridge, Poeltl and developing forward Luka Samanic brings the Spurs into the modern era by having floor spacing, defensive versatility and consistent rebounding for 48 minutes per game. Wood can get out in transition with the guards and divert attention away from the rest of his team.
There’s really no risk in signing Wood, it’s just a matter of making the money work and competing with other teams thinking the same thing.