NBA Rumors: Lakers linked to a flawed stretch five in free agency

Jun 6, 2022; El Segundo, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka speaks after introducing new head coach Darvin Ham at UCLA Health Training Center Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 6, 2022; El Segundo, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka speaks after introducing new head coach Darvin Ham at UCLA Health Training Center Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

The Los Angeles Lakers found success in NBA free agency. Not only did they retain their top three free agents on cheaper deals than anticipated, they added talented guards and forwards to surround LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

As free agency winds down, one question still remains for Los Angeles: Can they find a better backup center behind Davis?

By adding another center to the roster, the Lakers would struggle less when Davis is not available to play. Additionally, it could open up the possibility for Anthony Davis to move back to the power forward position more often – something he has openly wanted for years.

The Lakers signed New Orleans center Jaxson Hayes to their team, but his unproven skill set may suggest Los Angeles is best looking for another possible option at the five in the case that Hayes does not work out.

Who, then, would be a fit for the Lake Show? The remaining big man free agent pool is quite shallow. Unless LA’s general manager Rob Pelinka improves the front court via trade, any big man the Lakers pick up will not be the perfect fit next season. They will have flaws, but finding a center with a specialized skill set might be the best option.

Bismack Biyombo, Robin Lopez, and Frank Kaminsky are some of the final centers remaining in free agency. Next to them, though, is a big man who has struggled to prove his worth in the NBA in the last few years. After another unsuccessful year in Dallas, veteran big man Christian Wood is searching for his eighth team in his career.

According to Jovan Buha of The Athletic, the flawed big man is beginning to draw interest from Los Angeles’ front office.

When free agency opened, Wood seemed like a definite to secure a contract on a Mid-Level Exception. Now, it seems that Christian Wood’s only choice to play next season could be a veteran minimum contract. There are a few reasons that caused Wood’s sudden fall in interest throughout the Association.

Wood has been a 37.9 percent 3-point shooter in his career, and he has averaged roughly 15 points per game. The 6-foot 9-inches center would pair nicely next to Davis offensively, stretching the floor and offering more room for AD to operate to the best of his abilities.

A player of Christian Wood’s caliber on the perimeter should theoretically have plenty of value on the open market. The current era of the NBA always appreciates 3-point shooting, regardless of position.

Where Christian Wood’s flaws come to haunt the team is on defense. Though Wood is a consistent offensive talent, Wood has never proven much talent as a rim protector or post defender. Guards are able to blow past Wood on switches and pick-and-roll actions. He seemingly lacks conviction on defense, leading to frustrating costly mistakes all too often. His offense holds less impact when he consistently fails to stop rivals from scoring in return.

Perhaps, though, his offensive merit outweighs his defensive failures for the Lakers.

Anthony Davis is a perennial defensive center. His mere presence in the paint deters opponents from rushing to the rim. As long as Davis is available as a secondary defender, Wood’s deficiencies can be mostly reduced.

Being a minus defender in itself is not enough to tank a player’s value in the league, though. Wood is a definitive stretch five on offense, yet he has only been able to play with a team for more than one season once in his career.

Christian Wood’s locker room behavior hurts his fit on the Lakers

In Houston, Christian Wood’s toxic behavior came to a head when he refused to play in the second half of a regular season game in retaliation to being called out for his poor effort. After that moment, it became clear that his time in Houston was soon to come to an end.

The next team to take a shot on Wood was the Dallas Mavericks, led by Jason Kidd. The Mavericks’ other option at center in the 2022-23 season was JaVale McGee. While Christian Wood was clearly the better overall talent, he quickly moved to the bench behind McGee and only started in 17 of his 67 games last year.

Jason Kidd lacked any real trust or faith in Christian Wood. Even as the Mavericks fell out of the Play-In Tournament, Christian Wood still could not guarantee a large role in Dallas.

Adding Christian Wood to the Lakers suggests that Los Angeles believes they can manage his outbursts. The minutes at center would be split among Davis, Hayes, and Wood. If Christian Wood is still unable to commit to the team’s culture, then Los Angeles would not be at risk of losing their post depth.

In the end, Christian Wood is a low-risk option for the Lakers. Jaxson Hayes may be a flawed center as well, but he gives the Lakers a safety net. Regardless of Hayes’ drawbacks, he shows consistent effort every night on the floor.

If Wood can take this season as a last chance to prove himself, then his effort will pay dividends. Playing at his best with the Lakers will put the league’s eyes on him next offseason. Los Angeles has been a destination for players to recoup their perception across the NBA. Two seasons ago, Malik Monk went from out of the league to a consistent rotational talent thanks to his time in Los Angeles.

Should the Lakers sign Christian Wood, his future will be in his own hands. In the case that Wood can commit to the Lakers’ winning culture, Los Angeles will make the most of his skills. Otherwise, the Lakers will have lost little in taking a flier on Wood with a minimum deal.

Next. 22 players the Lakers gave up on too early. dark