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Why is Christian Wood still a free agent? Lakers, Heat, Nuggets lead potential landing spots for center

Christian Wood was the No. 15 free agent on my top 50 big board heading into the summer.

It’s somewhat surprising, then, that he is still one of the few unsigned players left in the market.

At 27 years old, Wood is right in the middle of his prime and coming off a good offensive season in which he averaged 16.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game on solid efficiency. 

So why is no one interested in Wood, and what options remain for him? 

MORE: How Max Christie’s breakout Summer League impacts Lakers rotation

Christian Wood is a valuable offensive big man

Wood is one of the better offensive centers in the game. While his scoring average was down last year, that was mostly a result of never earning head coach Jason Kidd’s trust and playing only 26 minutes per game. 

Wood has proven over the course of his seven seasons in the league that he’s a knockdown 3-point shooter. His 37.6 percent from deep last year was in line with his career average.

Wood is also a good lob threat. His 86 dunks led the Mavericks. That shooting and dunking ability is a rare combination. Lauri Markkanen was the only other big man to reach at least 85 dunks and 38 percent or better shooting from deep, per Basketball-Reference, but Markkanen made his first All-Star team and narrowly missed making an All-NBA team, while the interest in Wood is almost nonexistent. 

Christian Wood’s defense and feel are suspect

Wood could never get consistent minutes on the Mavericks because of his defensive limitations. 

Wood is a good rim protector — he averaged 1.1 blocks per game last season and opponents shot 7.6 percent worse at the rim against him per Crafted NBA, ranking in the 91st percentile of players. But he is oftentimes in the wrong position and doesn’t give the best effort, taking himself out of plays too frequently. He’s one of the worst players in the league at getting deflections due to that poor positioning. 

Wood also doesn’t do much on offense besides score. He’s not a great screen setter, passer or offensive rebounder. 

Wood has been on seven teams in his seven years in the league. He’s never really found a situation that has clicked for him. And his teams have always been bad, dating back even to his college days. He has often been criticized for getting empty stats. 

Despite those flaws, Wood can still be a very useful player in the right situation. What could those be? 

Lakers lead Christian Wood potential landing spots

The Lakers are considering both Wood and Bismack Biyombo for their 14th roster spot, per The Athletic’s Jovan Buha. They are projected to be in the tax and would likely be able to offer Wood only a minimum contract. 

A sign-and-trade with the Mavs for a bigger deal could potentially work. According to Substack’s Marc Stein, the Mavericks haven’t ruled the possibility out, but they “would have to really like the player they receive in return.” 

Wood’s fit on the Lakers makes sense. Anthony Davis could cover up many of his defensive weaknesses, and he has the shooting ability that they need to surround Davis and LeBron James. Whether he’s willing to play on a minimum is another question, and perhaps why his free agency has dragged on so long. 

Heat, Nuggets other potential Christian Wood landing spots

There isn’t a lot of cap room remaining this late in free agency, so Wood is going to have to settle for a significant pay cut from the $14.3 million that he earned last season. 

The Hawks, Nets, Hornets, Grizzlies, Blazers and Wizards all have their $12.4 million mid-level exception remaining, per Spotrac. Outside of a sign-and-trade, that’s the most that Wood could get at this point. 

The most likely scenario seems to be for Wood to take a small one-year prove-it type of deal, maybe on a league minimum. There are some good teams out there that need backup big men — the Heat, Nuggets and Lakers all come to mind.

If Wood could shake the empty stats accusations in a winning environment, then maybe he could cash in next summer somewhere.

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