After a weeks-long stare-down with a depleted center market, the Los Angeles Lakers finally made the most obvious move possible by signing Christian Wood to a two-year contract with a player option for the second year.
This has certainly shaken up the depth chart in LA and has league-wide implications that are bigger than Wood or the Lakers. It was certainly a headline move for Los Angeles at this point in the offseason.
However, just because it is a headline move does not mean it is a great move. Scrolling through social media after the signing you would have thought that the Lakers signed prime Wilt Chamberlain. The hype around Wood joining the purple and gold is through the roof when it really shouldn’t be.
I mean, c’mon. There is no way that someone actually photoshopped Wood with LeBron James and Anthony Davis and is serious about it. What are we doing here?
Lakers fans need to slow down on the Christian Wood hype.
Before even diving into some of the concerns around Wood’s game, it is important to analyze the situation. Los Angeles just signed a player who has played for seven teams in the last seven years. He has never made the playoffs in those seven years.
It is September and Wood just signed for the veteran minimum. Typically, players who are actually worth hype don’t sign for the veteran minimum two full months after free agency started. Some fans may compare him to Malik Monk, but that is different. Monk battled injuries and never got a chance to produce consistently in Charlotte before the Lakers took a chance on him.
Wood has produced at the NBA level. Heck, he has averaged over 20 points per game in his NBA career. Despite that, contending teams still didn’t want to bring in Wood. What does that tell you?This doesn’t mean that Wood can’t bring value to the team, because he can, but trying to pass him off as some grand-slam signing is a bit strange.
There are some legitimate concerns, as well as some misunderstandings about this signing. First, let’s start with the concerns.
Christian Wood cannot guard a tree that is standing in the forest. In the regular season, it is easier to get away with bad defense. In the playoffs that will get hunted like there is no tomorrow. Wood is going to become completely unplayable in his first-ever trip to the playoffs. You don’t suddenly change your defensive game eight years into the league.
Wood’s offensive numbers and ability to hit threes are enticing but his overall style of play does not translate to winning basketball. Some fans will blame the teams that he has been on but the proof is in the pudding. Here are the on/off net ratings for Wood’s teams over the last two years when he is on the court:
- 2022-23 Dallas Mavericks: -2.7 net rating with Wood on the court
- 2021-22 Houston Rockets: -1.2 net rating with Wood on the court
Wood did have a positive impact on his teams the previous two seasons as his teams had a positive net rating when he was on the floor. However, those two teams won a combined 37 games in two seasons. When he played with a Rockets team that was trying to improve, or a Dallas team that was meant to make the playoffs, he was worse for the team.
It isn’t like Wood has historically been a team player, either. He has been a locker-room distraction in his career, even getting suspended by the Houston Rockets in 2022 for his behavior after being benched. Does that sound like the kind of player who is going to be okay with buying into a lesser role for the greater good of the team?
Last season was filled with distractions for the Lake Show. The last thing the team needed to do was bring in another. Granted, Wood is not costing the team $47 million like the last distraction but he still could have a negative impact on the locker room. Plus, Los Angeles cannot simply waive him if things go sideways.
That has been the big misunderstanding about this signing as some have argued that the Lakers can simply waive Wood if things don’t work out early on. Wood controls his future with a player option next season. He would have to agree to waive that player option an entire year early to allow the Lakers to waive him.
If not, Los Angeles would have to pay his player option for the 2024-25 season. A $3 million cap hit might not seem like much but for a team that is often operating in the margins, it is.
This is not to say that Wood is destined to fail in Los Angeles. There absolutely is a world in which he finally buys into a smaller role and can give the Lakers 18-20 quality minutes of offensive player in the regular season to take some of the burden off of AD in the frontcourt.
But to spin this signing as some kind of big deal that the rest of the league should be scared of? Now that is silly. There is a good chance that if Wood makes it to the end of the season he won’t even be in the playoff rotation.