Charlotte Hornets: The Potential Of Christian Wood In The NBA

Jul 12, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Philadelphia 76ers forward Christian Wood (35) defends former UNLV team mate Golden State Warriors guard Patrick McCaw during an NBA Summer League game at Thomas & Mack Center. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 12, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Philadelphia 76ers forward Christian Wood (35) defends former UNLV team mate Golden State Warriors guard Patrick McCaw during an NBA Summer League game at Thomas & Mack Center. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports /

Ever since being bypassed in the 2015 NBA Draft, Christian Wood has had a chip on his shoulder to prove that he belongs in the league. He will get his shot with the Charlotte Hornets this season.

Coming out of UNLV after his sophomore year, the then 19 year-old Wood had plenty of potential and solid stats with the Runnin’ Rebels to suggest that he would be taken late in the 1st round.  But then as fate would have it, his name was never announced and Wood was absolutely devastated. However, he still believed that this is what he was born to do and signed a Summer League contract with the Houston Rockets before parlaying that into a deal with the Philadelphia 76ers.

With the youngest team in the NBA, Wood found himself towards the bottom of the bench and only came into games sparingly. His best game of the season came against the Oklahoma City Thunder in which he scored 15 points and recorded 8 rebounds. Wood only found spare minutes in 17 games, but eventually found himself with the Delaware 87ers where he would average 17.3 points and lead the team with 9.4 rebounds a game. He would later be called up by the 76ers again before going through a cycle of being waived and signed a few more times. He eventually signed with the team for the rest of the season.

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Wood basically found out what it was like to live the life of a struggling “potential” player trying to make it in the NBA.  Physically, Christian has all the makings to become a great NBA player. Standing 6’11 tall with a 7’3 wingspan, Wood already has the length of a quality NBA player and will already have the advantage over the average power forward in the NBA. However, considering he only weighs 220 pounds, he will need to gain more mass in order to guard bigger guys and to prevent opponents from boxing him out on a regular basis. Considering that he is only 20 years old, there should be no worry of him filling out his slender frame over the next few years.

Offensively, Wood is pretty well-rounded. He’s not a great 3 point shooter, but he is not a liability either and should have enough respect to not be left alone at the wing by opposing teams. Like Frank Kaminsky, Wood likes to use the threat of the three-point shot to his advantage, as he will commonly fake out defenders closing in on him at the perimeter and then make a drive towards the basket. This in turn leads to probably Wood’s biggest strength on offense: his ability to finish at the rim. Wood is very good in-transition when making a run towards the rim either with the ball in his hands or whenever a teammate throws a dime or an alley-oop in his direction.

Wood’s post game could use some polishing for a man of his size. When he gets the ball in the post or paint, he usually dribbles a few times and then makes a spin move towards the basket. He can sometimes over rely on his length to get over his opponent and to the basket.  This has served him well in the D-League and Summer League, but in the NBA I could see him struggling against the bigger defenders. Christian is still very young and is still developing so in due time I could see him becoming a more formidable presence in the post.  I will admit that I have been spoiled by watching Al Jefferson play for the Hornets the past three years so my expectations may currently be a tad high.

Defensively, Wood is already a mismatch for most players.  He has decent enough lateral quickness to stay on his man on the perimeter and that 7’3 wingspan of his automatically gives him an advantage over players that attempt to make an ill-advised jump shot over him. He is also pretty decent at guarding the players at the 3, 4 and 5 positions and has shown an adeptness at the pick-and-roll defense. However, like most young players, he needs to show that he can be more consistent and has had trouble just simply playing fundamental basketball. Sometimes he can rely on his length a tad too much and gives his opponent too much space to maneuver around him for an easy bucket.

I personally believe that Wood’s best asset is his rebounding. Offensively and defensively, he can crash the boards and is pretty good at creating second chance points for himself and for his teammates.  Wood is a headache for teams that can’t rebound well. Whenever a shot is taken, Christian is good at positioning himself under the basket and contesting the other team for the rebound. Nevertheless, he will need to bulk up if he wants to contest for those rebounds with more frequency on the NBA level (Did I mention that Wood needs to bulk up?).

I would personally consider Wood as the unofficial draft pick for the Charlotte Hornets. He could potentially be better than any player the Hornets could’ve picked at #22 in the 2016 draft. But like most young, undeveloped players he will need some time to grow into his body and learn how to adapt to the quickness and high-level of the NBA. He already has a fascinating skill-set and his improvement in the Summer League is a good sign that his development is on track.

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This past season Wood already showed that he can dominate at the D-League level, and I believe playing behind guys like Marvin Williams and Frank Kaminsky (guys who have a similar skill-set) will only help him get better. Having a defensive-minded coach like Steve Clifford doesn’t hurt either. Even if Wood doesn’t get any playing time with the Charlotte Hornets, the Greensboro Swarm are ready and waiting with open arms.