Not a lot went right for the Houston Rockets last season, but the emergence of Christian Wood was one of them. Wood parlayed an excellent half-season in Detroit into a three-year $41 million contract with the Rockets and proved to be the bargain of the offseason. After averaging 21 points and 9.6 rebounds Wood has firmly established himself as an All-Star, and Rafael Stone appears to be trying to strike frontcourt gold again.
Daniel Theis was signed through a sign-and-trade this season to a four-year $36 million contract. The deal raised some eyebrows as the Rockets already have Wood and had just drafted two frontcourt players in Alperen Sengun and Usman Garuba. While the rookies have bright futures, Wood and Theis represent an intriguing frontcourt duo.
Both are mobile centers, capable of stretching the floor, and are on the smaller side. Stephen Silas has more talent in the frontcourt than he did a year ago, but making it all fit together will be one of his biggest challenges as training camp gets underway. Here’s how Daniel Theis and Christian Wood can share the floor.
Daniel Theis doesn’t get nearly enough love for his shooting. The main reason is that he isn’t a knockdown 3-point shooter. He’s not bad, especially for a center, but a career 33.5-percent shooter isn’t going to get anyone compared to Dirk Nowitzki. However, Theis really should be.
Theis is an incredibly efficient shooter from the mid-range. He’s a career 48.5-percent shooter on shots 10-16 feet from the rim and last season he set a career-best mark on long-two’s with a 55.6-percent conversion rate. The point being, Theis might not be a knockdown 3-point shooter, but his midrange game is plenty good enough to vacate the paint and create space for perimeter players to attack.
Wood is the opposite of Theis as a perimeter shooter. He’s a knockdown 3-point shooter, career 37.1-percent, who isn’t nearly as efficient from the mid-range. While both are fantastic rim runners, they have different hotspots as shooters. Their lack of overlap here should make them a natural fit within the flow of an offense.
Christian Wood and Daniel Theis aren’t prototypical centers. While some may argue this is a bad thing, I’d argue, especially on offense, that it is a blessing. One of them will be covered by a team’s center and one of them will be covered by a power forward.
One of them will have a speed advantage and one of them will have a size advantage. With both Wood and Theis on the court, the Rockets will always have a good matchup and it adds another layer to their pick and roll game.
Teams defend the pick and roll in one of two ways. They either switch every pick and live with some inevitable mismatches or they play a drop coverage and live with a few open threes and jumpers. With Theis and Wood on the court, the Rockets will have two excellent pick-and-roll screen men.
Both are devastating as rim runners and can pick and pop. The Rockets, depending on who’s covering Theis or Wood, will be able to pick their matchups at will. The creativity that the pairing can unlock for the Rockets offense should see the offense be revitalized.
Neither Wood nor Theis are known as defensive goliaths. While they both can hold their own on the perimeter, they’re not devastating rim protectors. However, the pair has predominantly been asked to be the lone center. It’s a lot easier for two people to protect the rim than it is for one.
Wood and Theis don’t need to be elite on their own. If the pair can develop good defensive chemistry there’s a good chance that their post defense will be greater than the sum of its parts.