Image Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
NBA executives and scouts have very difficult jobs. Finding talent isn’t as simple as many make it appear. Being tasked with finding the NBA’s next crop of young players is a huge ask. On occasion, players get lost in the crowd and don’t receive the chance to show their true potential until later on. That was the case for Miami Heat C Hassan Whiteside until 2014. This year, that player could be Pelicans PF Christian Wood.
Wood went undrafted after posting averages of 15.7 points and 10 rebounds per game his sophomore season at UNLV. Through 30 games in the NBA spanning from the 2015-16 to 2016-17 seasons, Wood averaged a minuscule 3.2 points and 2.2 rebounds in 8.4 MPG. The 6’10” big was struggling to see time at the NBA level in his first two years. That struggle got even more intense the following season.
Wood played a grand total of zero NBA minutes last season. Instead, he appeared in 45 games (42 starts) for the Delaware 87ers, averaging over 23 points and 10 rebounds per contest. Before the 2018-19 NBA campaign (and just six days before Wood’s 23rd birthday), the Milwaukee Bucks took a flyer on the former Runnin’ Rebel.
Contrary to what Wood was hoping for, his results in the NBA were more of the same. 13 games. 4.8 minutes played per game. Under 3 PPG. He was dominant at the G-League level, though, averaging 29.3 points and 14.1 rebounds per game on nearly 56 percent shooting from the field. A force of nature in the G-League, but a bottom-feeder on NBA depth charts, something had to give.
After being waived by Milwaukee on March 18, Wood was claimed by the New Orleans Pelicans two days later. A team that has no playoff aspirations and can afford to give minutes to young player towards the end of the season is just what Wood needed, and he’s showing it. Scoring seven points in eight minutes was an appetizer for the entrée that was about to come.
Tuesday night against the Atlanta Hawks, Wood played 32 minutes. Going 7-for-9 from the field and even knocking down a three in the process, Wood dropped a career-high 23 points. Adding 9 rebounds and an assist to the mix was a nice touch. The icing on the cake came on the defensive end, where Wood recorded three steals and six blocks. In his first real dose of starting-caliber minutes, Wood played like more than a starting-caliber player.
Perhaps Wood, the G-League’s all-time leader in Player Efficiency Rating, simply needed a team to give him a chance. It’s hard for anyone in the NBA to make their mark when they’re getting less than 10 minutes per game. Especially as a two-way (NBA and G-League) player. With six more Pelicans games left in the season, I highly suggest you check out Christian Wood’s game. For all anyone knows – he could be the next big thing.