Christian Wood deserves to be the San Antonio Spurs number one target
It’s hard to overstate how important this offseason is going to be for the San Antonio Spurs. With their highest draft pick in decades, a few key free-agent decisions, and a young core that’s hungry for more opportunity, the San Antonio Spurs are going to have to nail these next few months if they want to start another run of success.
Not to diminish the importance of the NBA draft but the Spurs track record over the past five years is a strong indicator of the organization’s ability to identify talent wherever they are in the draft. If they can grab players like Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, and Keldon Johnson at pick 29 just imagine what they can do with the 11th pick.
No, the San Antonio Spurs are going to have to make some crucial decisions in free agency and the trade market if they want to come out of 2020 offseason as winners. That means figuring out what to do with DeMar DeRozan should he pick up his player option, as well as addressing the impending unrestricted free agencies of Marco Belinelli and Bryn Forbes. But it could also include bringing in some talent to help the Spurs prepare for the future.
There isn’t a ton of star talent out on the free-agent market this offseason but Christian Wood could be approaching that tier. He’s coming off of a breakout season and deserves to be the San Antonio Spurs number one free agent target this offseason.
Next: What Wood did this season
Christian Wood pops onto the San Antonio Spurs radar with a breakout season
In the four years since he left UNLV, Christian Wood had bounced around the league before finally settling into a role with the Detroit Pistons. He contributed in a bench capacity for much of the season but finally started to turn things on in mid-January. By the time February rolled around, he was establishing himself as a force to be reckoned with.
After the Pistons dealt Andre Drummond to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Wood really took off. Over his final 15 games of the season, he was averaging 22.3 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and nearly a block and a steal per game while shooting 56 percent from the floor and 41 percent from behind the arc. Those are star numbers, plain and simple.
Frankly, Wood was just about the only thing keeping the Pistons afloat towards the end of the season. Without Blake Griffin, Reggie Jackson, or Luke Kennard, Detroit had no other choice to lean heavily on Wood, and he responded by carrying them night after night.
The Pistons didn’t win many games while Wood was showing out, the only recorded three wins from February 1st until the season was first suspended, but don’t lay that blame at Woods’ feet. He carried the load and it showed up in the advanced stats. The Pistons were getting outscored by 30 points per 100 possessions when he wasn’t on the floor, that’s insane. He really was one of the only things keeping them in games.
Even though his breakout only spanned the last stretch of the season, Wood still received consideration for the Most Improved Player of the Year. Although, probably not as much as he should have.
There are different views on the Most Improved Player trophy but it’s a fair argument to say that it should be given to a player on the fringe of a roster who becomes a star more often than it’s awarded to a high lottery pick like Luka Doncic or Brandon Ingram. Those guys are expected to be stars and their seasons, while impressive, should be viewed through that lens.
Wood battled his way from the G-League to become one of the most impressive players in the league this year. Yes, he didn’t do it for long, but he did it for long enough that he deserved to receive more recognition than he did. And he did it all while playing for the Detroit Pistons who, if we’re being honest, surrounded him with G-League level talent. Imagine what he could do with the San Antonio Spurs.
Next: Christian Wood's fit with the San Antonio Spurs
Christian Wood would fit perfectly with the San Antonio Spurs young core
It’s harder to find a player in the 2020 free-agent marketplace who would fit better than Christian Wood with the young core that the San Antonio Spurs have already put together. His offensive skills, defensive versatility, and age all make him a perfect fit for San Antonio.
Starting on offense, Wood can give the Spurs a similar offensive threat to what they have in LaMarcus Aldridge right now, albeit with a few key differences. He’s not the low post scorer that Aldridge is, at least not yet, but he’s still a dangerous player.
I don’t want to diminish what Wood’s able to do in the post. This year 63 percent of his field-goal attempts came within ten feet of the rim and he was pretty efficient within that range as well. He’s got a great combination of size and speed that allows him to bully through smaller players and scoot past bigger ones. Regardless of who he is matched up against he’s going to find a way to use his physical tools to get an advantage.https://videos.nba.com/nba/pbp/media/2020/02/05/0021900755/158/e7a74c4d-33cc-a3c9-751e-605be431eaab_1280x720.mp4
He doesn’t have a go-to move like LaMarcus’s fadeaway that he can break out whenever his team needs a clutch bucket but given the other potential closers that the Spurs have on their roster that shouldn’t dissuade San Antonio from trying to bring him in.
Wood is also a threat from behind the arc. He hit on 40 percent of his shots from deep this year and there aren’t many spots from behind the arc that he’s not comfortable taking shots from. We saw what LaMarcus adding a three-point shot did for the Spurs offense earlier this year, Wood can have a similar if not greater impact.
Another thing that should be considered on the offensive end is the potential impact that Wood could have if he was able to play with a team that pushed the pace as much as the Spurs did over their final eight games of the season.
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Once they got to Orlando, the Spurs put the pedal down and played at the fourth-fastest pace in the league. Meanwhile, the Pistons were playing at one of the slowest paces in the NBA before the season was suspended. Flip the script and let’s see what he can do when he’s given the freedom to run wild. Wood’s got a long stride and looks very comfortable running the floor. It’s hard not to get excited thinking about what kind of trouble him, Keldon Johnson, Lonnie Walker, Derrick White, and Dejounte Murray could get into if they were flying up and down the court together.
On defense we again see Wood’s physical talents come into play. He’s able to stay with smaller, more athletic forwards out on the wing, but also has the strength to hang with full-time centers. Outside of the Joel Embiid’s and Jusuf Nukric’s of the world there aren’t too many players who should be able to physically overpower him down low.
That versatility would allow San Antonio to deploy him as a power forward next to Jakob Poeltl or Aldridge, giving themselves a supersized frontcourt that could dominate the boards, or use him as their center with someone like Luka Samanic or KJ out there manning the other frontcourt spot. Either way, you know Wood will be there to help hold down the fort.
Freeing up the cap space necessary to go after Wood could be difficult and could require the Spurs to move off one or both of Aldridge and DeRozan but, if we’re being honest, that’s something they should be considering anyway. And if it can lead to bringing in a young talent like Wood who better fits the timeline the Spurs are looking at then the franchise will be all the better for it.
Making the money work might be difficult but the San Antonio Spurs should be looking into ways to bring Chrisitan Wood onto their team. He’s far too good of a fit for them to completely ignore this offseason.