POP 2019-2020 Season Preview: Can Christian Wood Prove He Belongs?

Image: Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY Sports

Take these stats with more than just a grain of salt: 16.9 points, 7.9 rebounds, 1.3 blocks, 23.6 minutes.

Those are the averages Christian Wood put up in eight games with the New Orleans Pelicans at the end of last season.

Yes, it was only eight games, hence why you need to take those stats not too seriously.

But at the same time, those numbers certainly do draw interest. That’s why the Pistons decided to claim him off of waivers when the Pelicans waived him in July. With Detroit thin up front behind Andre Drummond, they need to figure out who can back him up this season. They have Thon Maker, but Maker struggled when forced away from playing his natural position of power forward last season. Bigger centers had their way against him, as Maker’s slim frame was exposed as a serious issue.

Wood is just as frail as Maker, however, and is only 6’10”. But Wood knows how to use his body, whereas Maker is uncoordinated in that regard.

As Maker is young, so is Wood. He just turned 24 years old last week. Ed Stefanski and the new minds behind Detroit’s front office have seemingly been in favor of adding youth when possible, and that idea looks to be reinforced with the addition of Wood, even if he doesn’t make it past training camp.

The battle for Wood isn’t just for a spot in Detroit’s rotation. He’s battling to make the roster. The Pistons added multiple players on non-guaranteed contracts after they claimed Wood, who is on a non-guaranteed contract of his own. Detroit signed Michael Beasley, only to later waive him so they could sign Joe Johnson, fresh off a Big-3 Championship. Johnson has a lot of steam in his favor heading into training camp, and he’ll provide a real challenge for Wood. There’s something to be said about having a veteran like Johnson in the locker room, and he showed he can still contribute on the floor as well.

But what is in Wood’s favor is the Pistons’ desperate need for another big man and their abundance of role player wings already on the roster.

Wood spent a lot of last season in the G League, where he absolutely shredded his competition. In 35.3 minutes per game, he averaged 29.3 points, 14 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 2.1 blocks, and one steal. Those are grown man stats.

If Wood makes the roster, and that is a big if given how highly Detroit has spoken about Joe Johnson, there is a chance he plays a meaningful role off the bench. Outside of Maker, the only other players that could absorb center minutes when Drummond is on the bench are Blake Griffin and Markieff Morris. The Pistons shouldn’t play Griffin at center though. That’s asking for trouble. Morris playing center isn’t a terrible idea, but he is in actuality a power forward so bulkier backup bigs will be a tougher cover for him.

The Pistons need Wood. They’re going to have to find a way to keep him on their roster. It’s what the team has alluded to in the early days of training camp. Joe Johnson will be a Piston, it’s practically a foregone conclusion at this point. That leaves Wood as the odd man out. Except, no.

What Ed Stefanski is saying in the tweet above, in case you don’t understand, is that he and the front office are exploring options that could keep both Johnson and Wood on the roster. Langston Galloway is a name that seems plausible as a trade piece to clear a roster spot. Khyri Thomas is another player that may be sacrificed so that Detroit can hold onto both Johnson and Wood.

Christian Wood belongs on an NBA roster. We’ll see if he’s finally found a team that he can stick with, something he wasn’t able to do in the first three seasons if his career.

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Featured Image: Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY Sports