At 7:58 p.m. PT, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN sent out the tweet Lakers fans have been waiting for: He reported that Christian Wood had agreed to terms on a deal with the Lakers, specifically a two-year minimum deal, with a player option for the second season.
This has been a long-rumored destination for Wood, but now that it’s official, we can begin to break down what Wood’s role may be and why the move makes sense.
First thing’s first: While every role is important and, ideally, you are optimizing every roster spot en route to building a championship-caliber team, the 14th man on the roster will likely not be the tipping point between winning Title No. 18 or crashing and burning in the playoffs. So Wood is not being asked to be the focal point of the offense, or average 18 and 10 and live up to a three-year $41 million deal like he was in Houston.
Instead, he’s likely going to be asked to lighten the load for the core group of guys and potentially step up to a bigger role and be an offensive weapon for a handful of regular-season games. Let’s dig into a few ways he may help.
Christian Wood: Innings Eater
In baseball, an innings eater is a dependable, reliable, but unspectacular pitcher who can provide a decent floor and eat up some of the innings during the dog days of the 182-game regular season to allow rest for other pitchers. They might not make the playoff roster and are not at the top of the rotation, but they are necessary to survive such a long season. That is the kind of role Christian Wood will likely play on this team.
Anthony Davis will be playing a combination of the 4 and 5, with early reports indicating Davis will be at the 5 to start this season. So that makes Wood the likely backup center, or third option if Jaxson Hayes plays himself into those backup minutes. With Wood’s notoriously abysmal defense; this is a perfect spot for him to be.
If Hayes misses time or Davis is taking off on back-to-backs, Wood is fully capable of eating up those minutes and maybe, against a non-playoff team, be enough of an offensive force to lessen the blow of these players’ absences and still help you win some games. And in an 82-game season with injuries bound to happen, it’s good to have a player able to crawl out of bed and give you 12 points and 7 rebounds ready to slot in as a 4 or 5.
Goodbye Center LeBron
With size comes power, and with power comes options. Adding another big means we have likely seen the end of LeBron James at the 5. The Lakers have been doing this more and more since 2021 when Vogel began relying on it from time to time, but now, with a still capable Wood, I don’t see why you’d force Bron to play so out of position unless another team goes very small and Bron is a center in name only or if the team just ends up that short-handed. The 5, even in today’s game, is still a very physical position on both ends of the floor, but now, if you want to go smaller or be more athletic, you could just slot Wood at the 5 and not play James out of position to free up a spot.
With LeBron entering Year 21, he needs to take on less responsibility during the regular season, and if bringing in Wood takes off the wear and tear those center minutes put on his body, then the signing might be a smart deal regardless of his play.
People Forget Wood is a Bucket
Beyond just knocking down shots, Christian Wood's spacing/skillset theoretically adds a drastically new dimension to the front court that the team has lacked in recent memory— Alex Regla (@AlexmRegla) September 6, 2023
To highlight this, here's how Wood's shotchart (@cleantheglass) compares to the Lakers bigs last season: pic.twitter.com/3hQP9UG3P1
Last season for the Dallas Mavericks, Wood averaged 16.6 points and 7.3 rebounds in his 25 minutes of play. Those aren’t the kind of numbers you normally get from a minimum contract player. While his defense leaves a lot to be desired, Wood is excellent offensively. He’s a stretch 5 who shoots 51% from the field and 38 % from deep, needs the Lakers have been constantly trying to address throughout Davis’ tenure.
So much is unknown about Wood’s role, how committed he will be to this team and what his ceiling is, but one thing I can assure you is this: You won’t be complaining about his offensive production compared to the minutes he’s given.
You Should See The Other Guys
At the end of the day, we are talking about the 14th roster spot on a team that looks destined for a deep playoff run. Wood won’t make or break this team, but he’s a player the Lakers are taking a flyer on. Who normally takes this type of roster spot? A washed player on the backend of a career like JaVale McGee, a young player the league has all but given up on like Thomas Bryant, or one of LeBron’s good buddies like Tristan Thompson.
Given those options, I’ll take Wood every day of the week and twice on Sunday. He’ll play a couple of shifts a night, get you buckets and is capable of playing a larger role when players go down or need rest. At this price this late into the offseason, it’s the best move available, and Rob Pelinka and the Lakers organization made it happen, adding another productive offensive weapon to join their quest for banner 18.
You can follow Edwin on Twitter at @ECreates88.