After a turbulent offseason which has seen the team’s two star players request trades, the Rockets got some good news on Friday night at the start of free agency after agreeing to terms with center Christian Wood. The deal is reportedly worth $41 million over three years and will be completed through a sign-and-trade.
The 24-year-old has averaged just 9.5 points and 4.8 rebounds per game in his career. But the optimism stems from what Wood has shown when given an opportunity to display his talents. Overall, last season, in 62 games with the Detroit Pistons, Wood averaged 13.1 points and 6.3 rebounds and shot 39% on 3s. However, starting from February 3 last season, Wood averaged 22.3 points and 9.5 rebounds in 34.1 minutes per game over fifteen games. During that stretch, which represented a major increase in minutes following the trade of starting center Andre Drummond, Wood shot 56% from the field and 41% on 3s.
The 6’10 foward/center has a skillset that looks like it was manufactured in a lab for the Rockets’ offensive system. He can stretch the floor with his shooting, put the ball on the floor and attack closeouts on the perimeter, and is athletic enough to roll to the rim for lobs. Wood also can protect the rim. He instantly becomes the most versatile frontcourt partner James Harden has had during his tenure with the team.
The Rockets’ starting lineup for opening day now projects to be Harden, Russell Westbrook, Danuel House, P.J. Tucker, and Christian Wood. Tucker slides over to the power forward spot in place of Robert Covington who was traded to Portland to provide the flexibility to acquire Wood.
Harden, one of the game’s most dangerous pick and roll scorers and passers over the last decade, has requested a trade from the team, seeking to land with Brooklyn. The Rockets have insisted that they are not willing to deal Harden for a lowball offer and are “willing to get uncomfortable.” The key question for Houston is whether Harden is willing to give the team a chance with this reconstructed roster, especially under new head coach Stephen Silas. In theory, Wood would be the perfect frontcourt pairing for Harden. If the team bursts out of the gates to start the season, would Harden be willing to back off his trade demands?
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The other important question pertains to Westbrook who is also seeking to be dealt. Wood is unique not just because of his fit with Harden but also Westbrook given his ability to stretch the floor. Houston traded center Clint Capela last season to open up driving lanes for Westbrook. However, the move left the Rockets without a center and that lack of size was exploited by the Los Angelos Lakers in the second round of the playoffs last season. Wood allows the Rockets to maintain size on the floor without sacrificing spacing. Thus, it begs the question whether Houston would now look to keep Westbrook too. Wood is really the piece that has the promise to mitigate most of the Rockets’ most glaring fit issues from last season.
The sample size on Wood is small. If he lives up to his potential, this deal will look like a bargain.
Source: Forbes – Business