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Christian Wood will be the Pistons’ key role player this season

It’s the lanky, agile big man’s time to shine

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Sacramento Kings Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

I know what you’re thinking. 6-foot-10 Christian Wood, who signed to a non-guaranteed contract back in mid-July with Detroit, isn’t even a lock to make the opening night roster — so how is it reasonable to insist he will be the key role player for the Detroit Pistons this season?

Sometimes, you just know it’s a guy’s time. I know. Christian Wood should be pretty good, and he’s the best option for backup center on the Pistons’ roster. Period.

Christian is at a critical basketball age (nearly 24), and having flourished in the G League with the Milwaukee Bucks’ affiliate (averaging 29.3 points, 14.1 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game) last season, he’s got to have something more coming. In eight games with the New Orleans Pelicans at the end of last season, Wood was also impressive, averaging 16.9 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks. His next step in right there for him.

I read the chatter. Those Pelicans numbers really aren’t all that impressive; it was the end of the season and most teams were either tanking or resting key players. Remember, though, even on tanking teams young players and veterans alike are still auditioning for their next contract and their next opportunity. Wood rose to the occasion and did all he could against a lot of players that were also playing for something. Now, it’s his time to take the leap into a full-fledged NBA player instead of flailing around as a fringe NBA player.

Wood’s Main Competition

A few weeks ago the Pistons said “Why not?” to signing Michael Beasley to a non-guaranteed one-year deal. You would think that Beasley is likely in competition with Wood for that last roster spot. Beasley, no doubt, has talent and a spot in the league somewhere at least. However, on this particular team there’s not much of a fit for him.

Derrick Rose (and maybe Luke Kennard) off the bench will supply the playmaking on the second unit, and the Pistons have more shooters on the team than in recent seasons. As a result, the Pistons don’t need the isolation scoring opportunities that Beasley provides, and Detroit is better served going with a fairly young big man with upside. Also, sharpshooter Svi Mykhailiuk and enticing rookie Sekou Doumbouya essentially are slotted at the same wing position as Beasley. Give the young pups their run!

Beasley is just 30 years old, which isn’t old by NBA standards. There’s a possibility Beasley soaks up the opportunity right from the get-go, makes the team and is a key bench piece, maybe even entering the Sixth Man of the Year award discussion. The talent could still be there. You know, though, I’d have more confidence in laying down a hefty bet that Dwight Howard for the Lakers will have some kind of renaissance (or just be dependable) over Beasley having a legitimately impressive season.

I don’t know what that says about me and how I spend my time, thinking about and then comparing Beasley and Howard. But anyway, it wouldn’t be surprising to see both fall flat on their faces.

Wood’s Versatility

I like how Christian gets his points. I like how he tries to dunk on people. I like his length. I like how his defensive ability and potential is there. There’s definitely something excellent in the active, athletic backup big man. He’s likely not going to ever be a full-time starter in the league (unless he’s on a full-blown tanking squad). I know I’m not going out on a limb in saying that. But I’m also not saying he will only have a small impact as a tenth man or so. Christian Wood will be an integral piece for the Pistons as a top-6 team in the East.

I’d compare Christian Wood to former Pistons big men Amir Johnson and Mikki Moore. Christian has a much more refined offensive game than both Mikki and Amir, which isn’t saying much, but to their credit they both had long NBA careers as lanky, active bigs. Mikki developed somewhat of a jumpshot, but never a three-point shot. Amir developed a three-point shot, as for two seasons (one in Toronto and one in Boston) he shot over 40 percent from downtown on over 45 attempts each season. Amir was a threat.

Wood, in 42 career three-point attempts in the NBA, is just a 31 percent shooter. His outside stroke looks fine, but I’m not going to spend time guessing if that part of his game will develop or not. He may become a threat once his career takes off and he’s playing consistent minutes and is doing other things well. He may not be on as much of a leash then. However, at this stage, his three-point shooting development is rather unimportant. The Pistons are trying to win games now.

Christian does show signs of development and finesse in the post and in making aggressive moves:

This is a G League clip, but it does show his ball skills a bit with a heady, on-point pass.

Christian has some handles in his game and the first clip in this sequence is a legitimate example. The second clip sees Christian take advantage of Reggie Bullock in every which way. The thing with Christian’s ability to take guys off the dribble is that in semi-transition and the chaos that can occur — where much smaller (or slower) players occasionally find themselves guarding a much bigger and taller player — Christian can readily take advantage of the mismatch. Not a ton of 6-foot-10 bench players can.

Defensively, the good news is that Christian can move his feet with the best of them, both inside and outside. The bad news is that Christian is pretty slight for a center at his listed 214 pounds, so he will get bodied on defense and moved out of position on the boards at times. He’s not known as an elite shot blocker, but did have a six-block game with the Pelicans last season, and in 123 career G League games, he’s averaged 1.8 blocks per game:

If Christian gets good minutes throughout the season, sound defense might be the main reason why. While his offensive skillset is intriguing, his defensive skillset could actually be what puts him over the edge as a key rotational piece for a team (hopefully Detroit!) and not just a end of the bench depth piece.

Christian Wood has skills for the NBA. He’s done more than enough in the G League to stand out, and it’s looking like he’s been given a good opportunity. He’s making the Pistons roster this upcoming season and will be make a name for himself in Detroit as well.

What does Bad Boys’ Nation think of that?