Christian Wood is finally off the free agent market. It took longer than anyone expected, but he found the perfect landing spot.
The Lakers had been looking to add one last big man to their roster, and they came to terms with Wood on a two-year deal worth $5.7 million. The contract includes a player option in the second year, as reported by ESPN’s Bobby Marks.
This is a great talent add for Los Angeles and a good chance for Wood to rebuild his value for next summer.
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Why Christian Wood was a free agent for so long
Wood is coming off a season for the Mavericks in which his playing time was up and down. He still managed to put up 16.6 points and 7.3 rebounds in his 25.9 minutes per game.
That offensive production should have garnered significant interest, but the reason why Wood has played on seven teams in seven seasons is because of his lackluster defense.
ESPN’s Tim MacMahon relayed on the Locked on Mavericks podcast that one high-ranking Mavericks official told him, “The problem is not that he’s a bad defender. The problem is that he’s a f—ing terrible defender.”
Anthony Davis can hide Christian Wood’s defensive issues
Wood’s inability to fit into any defensive scheme has certainly been problematic. But if there is any team where it can work for him, it’s this Lakers squad. He’s been on some awful defensive teams where he’s been overtaxed in his role. In Los Angeles, he will be asked to do a lot less.
Wood has played the vast majority of his minutes at center over the past three seasons. He’s a good shot blocker, ranking in the 91st percentile in rim defense per Crafted NBA and averaging 1.1 blocks per game last season. But he gambles too much and is oftentimes out of position, leaving teammates vulnerable. The poor perimeter defenders that he’s played with in Detroit, Houston and Dallas have exposed his warts even more.
In Los Angeles, Wood will have more help. Gabe Vincent and Austin Reaves are both solid point-of-attack defenders who should lessen the pressure on Wood. More importantly, Anthony Davis is one of the best defenders in the league at cleaning up mistakes from teammates. He can anchor the paint in ways that Wood has shown himself incapable of doing while those two share the court together.
Davis and Wood were on the same Pelicans roster for the 2018-19 season, but Wood was a deep bench player on that team. They didn’t play together for any of Wood’s 189 minutes that year. Those two should work together on paper, giving the Lakers great shot blocking and size.
Christian Wood can relieve pressure off Anthony Davis and LeBron James
Most teams going against the Lakers had a straightforward game plan on how to defend them — load up on Davis and LeBron James, forcing the role players to beat them.
Wood throws a lot of problems into that scheme because defenders can’t help off him like they do on other lesser shooters. He’s a knockdown career 37.9 percent 3-point shooter who can stretch the floor for those two. He’s also a great lob threat. He had a team-leading 86 dunks for the Mavericks last season.
Wood had great offensive synergy playing alongside Luka Doncic. He is one of the better play finishers in the league. He should have that same level of offensive production playing with LeBron, who can set him up for easy baskets whenever he’s on the floor.
It’s fair to be skeptical of how well this can work for Wood given that he will have played for over a quarter of the teams in the league at this point. But he has a coach he’s familiar with in Darvin Ham, who was a Bucks assistant back on that 2018-19 team. He’s joining by far the best team that he’s ever been a contributor on. And unlike the defensively-starved teams that he’s been on before, this Lakers team was No. 4 in defense after the All-Star break.
Wood is undeniably an offensive talent. He should be extra motivated this year too, given that success could mean a big payday. This is the perfect fit for him and a low-risk signing for the Lakers if it doesn’t work out.