In my Jazz Draft Big Board, I noted that if the Jazz decide to either move out of the lottery or are still looking for another big with a load of upside late in the 1st round, UNLV’s Christian Wood might be the best option for them. Of course, the Jazz are no stranger when it comes to acquiring another 1st round pick to grab a high-upside big, having used that method to draft Rudy Gobert in 2013.
Despite his 6’11 frame and 7’3 wingspan, it would be a stretch to even consider Christian Wood as a center. Similar to Kristaps Porzingis, Wood has an extremely thin frame, particularly in the lower body, which gives him a lot of issues with defending in the low-post or boxing out to collect an offensive or defensive rebound. As he stated in a recent interview with Basketball Insiders, Wood knows that he’s going to have to add more girth to his long frame:
“I feel like I have to get stronger. Especially at the next level, there are guys that [will be tougher]. If DeAndre Jordan was guarding me, how am I going to back DeAndre Jordan down in the post? You know? He’s a big guy. So that’s one thing I need to work on.”
Until then, Wood projects as a player with a lot of defensive upside. Due to his terrific size, length and agility, Wood could potentially be able to guard multiple positions, as he seems pretty comfortable with going out to the perimeter to defend against the pick-and-roll. In that position, Wood could switch off to close out on the perimeter player or remain on his own assignment, as he can use his mobility to stick with an opponent if they decide to cut to the rim.
That versatility allowed Wood to be one of the better shot-blockers in the college game. Wood blocked 3.2 shots per-40-minutes, which would put him ahead of Willie Cauley-Stein, Jahill Okafor or Bobby Portis.
Alongside all of that potential, Wood definitely has his fair share of flaws as a defensive player. At this point, Wood isn’t a fundamentally sound defensive player, regularly biting for pump fakes or losing focus when he’s working off-ball. Wood is going have to attempt to fix those issues, or some of the league’s best offensive big man could absolutely eat him alive.
However, a lot of the intrigue regarding Wood comes from his work on the offensive end. At least in this year’s draft class, Wood could be looked at as one of the more offensively versatile bigs, and he can cause havoc in a handful of different ways.
The most threatening aspect of Wood’s offensive arsenal would definitely be his jump shot. While he hasn’t quite developed into a consistent perimeter threat (shot 24% from 3 during his sophomore season), Wood has developed a pretty solid shooting stroke with a high release point, which is impossible to guard given his 7’3 wingspan. While that stroke hasn’t led to consistent perimeter success, he’s a pretty solid mid-range shooter, registering 45% on jumpers from inside the perimeter.
That solid jumper combined with his mobility allows him to be a solid pick-and-roll threat, as he’s quick enough to speed past most defenders when he’s either working off-ball or as a ball-handler. For his size, Wood is a pretty excellent ball-handler, and can cut directly to the rim or use a spin move to work around the opponent.
Once he works his way to the paint, Wood is able to use his size and length to create a lot of easy looks. That’s evidenced by Wood shooting 65% from inside the paint during his sophomore season.
While the potential is there, Wood again suffers from not having a great feel for the game. There are too many instances where Wood goes for the mid-range or perimeter jumper when he’s either contested or there’s too much time left on the shot clock. He also tries to force cuts even though there’s a defender or two directly in his path, which could lead to some turnovers. Per-40-minutes, Wood averaged three turnovers, which is the ninth-highest total among draft-eligible prospects.
Although Wood has the potential to be a pretty solid two-way threat, he still has a long way to go, as he still doesn’t have a great feel for the game. With where he’ll probably be drafted (mid-teens to early 20’s), it should be expected that he’ll spend time in the D-League during his first season or two as an NBA player.
Again, as we’ve seen in the past with Rudy Gobert, the Jazz aren’t afraid to do that when they have a chance of developing a solid piece that they could have in their rotation for years to come. While it wouldn’t be totally smart to compare the two players, it wouldn’t be the worst idea for Utah to find a way to acquire a late 1st-round pick and then nab Christian Wood.
As we’ve talked about in the past, Wood definitely fits into what the team will be looking for in the off-season (stretch-4 that could also work as a rim protector). And with the low-risk nature of a late 1st-round pick, Christian Wood could turn into another promising youngster on the team’s roster.