Finding A Home For Free Agent Christian Wood

Arguably the best NBA free agent currently left on the market is Christian Wood, the 6’10 forward who spent last season as the second-best, and later third-best, player on the Dallas Mavericks.

Wood is unquestionably the most productive player still unsigned, having netted 18.1 points, and 8.9 rebounds over the past three seasons, spanning 176 games, which makes it a fairly large sample size.

Wood, who saw his minutes fluctuate greatly during his lone season in Dallas, is one of the most agile scoring forwards in the league, having the ability to roll to the rim – hitting 74.4% from within three feet of the basket over the aforementioned time span – as well as the ability to pop out off the catch, where he’s knocked down 38.1% of his nightly 4.7 three-point attempts.

With money drying up, it seems more and more likely that Wood will have to settle for a modest contract – presumably one lasting just one season – that will allow him to rehab his value.

As such, situation and fit suddenly become crucial elements for the upcoming season, and some specific teams do stand out as options, assuming Wood and his agent are willing to sign for the minimum.

The Denver Nuggets might have a Nikola Jokić and Aaron Gordon in place, but they don’t have much more up front. With Bruce Brown leaving for the Indiana Pacers, it wouldn’t be inconceivable to see Gordon slide down to the three a bit more often, allowing Wood to play some minutes at the four next to Jokić, and embracing the role of play finisher.

During non-Jokić minutes, Wood could helm the center position. Head coach Mike Malone prefers to not tax Jokić too much, particularly due to his usage rate and overall offensive responsibilities, so being able to insert Wood at that slot for roughly 15-17 minutes per night could help Denver keep Jokić fresher for the postseason.

All in all, it isn’t unrealistic for the Nuggets to carve out in the area of 24-27 minutes for Wood, backing up both the four and the five positions. It’d also solve a long-running issue in Denver of the offense falling off a cliff whenever Jokić sits. This time around, the Nuggets would have a high-caliber scorer to help keep production up, as Jokić takes a breather.

Ironically, the team Denver beat in the NBA Finals, the Miami Heat, could also carve out minutes for Wood. And they most certainly could also use his inside/outside offense.

The Heat are known as a high-intensity defensive group, which often come up a bit short on offense. An insertion of Wood to their bench rotation – or maybe even into their starting lineup next to Bam Adebayo – would drastically alter their slow-paced and often predictable offense.

Jimmy Butler in particular would get a lot out of running pick and rolls with a flexible big man, who can also step outside to hit three-pointers. More than likely, Wood steps right into a situation where his talent makes him the third-best player on the team, and if he buys into what head coach Erik Spoelstra is selling, there’s a good chance the Heat could find themselves back in the Finals in 2024.

Finally, Wood could seek a situation where the team hasn’t already made it far without him, thus underlining his potential importance to a franchise that might make it further in some part due to his presence.

The Chicago Bulls makes some sense, given how they disappointed last season, and failed to make the postseason. While the Bulls have a re-signed Nikola Vučević, and Andre Drummond, at center, Wood gives them an alternative look when they wish to opt for more spacing.

Furthermore, the power forward situation has been a bit wonky for the Bulls in recent years, and a Wood acquisition would allow both them and him to try something else. Wood might even end up starting over Patrick Williams and Torrey Craig, thus allowing the Bulls to field a balanced starting lineup, where high-volume scoring and outside shooting would finally be embraced.

The Bulls even have some flexibility in the $10.2 million DPE (Disabled Player Exception) they were granted by the league due to Lonzo Ball’s injury. Chicago likely wouldn’t need to use all of it, but they very likely would have to pay the luxury tax, something they’ve actively prevented for years.

Is Wood a good enough addition to make him worth a minor deep in luxury tax waters for the Bulls? Given their aspirations of trying to win, and considering the production of Wood, it’d be pretty difficult to argue against.

Unless noted otherwise, all stats via, PBPStats, Cleaning the Glass or Basketball-Reference. All salary information via Spotrac. All odds courtesy of FanDuel Sportsbook.

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