The Good and the Bad of Christian Wood’s Season
The strengths and weaknesses in Christian Wood’s game were readily apparent this past season, and it’s what makes him such a perplexing player. Another factor that adds to Wood’s mystery, is his status as a positional tweener.
Wood is neither a true center nor a true power forward. On its own, this isn’t a problem, but in the context of the Rockets' poor roster, it presented plenty of issues.
Christian Wood’s efficiency within and outside the arc is a unique ability. Only three players who shot better than Wood’s 39% from 3-point range also were more efficient on 2-point attempts. Two of the three, Dorian Finney-Smith and Nicolas Batum, were low volume shooters, but the third player was Karl-Anthony Towns. Towns bested Wood in volume and efficiency, but being a poor man’s shooter of Towns is still high praise.
Wood also showed an impressive ability to score in isolation. According to NBA tracking statistics, Wood averaged 2.1 isolations a game and 0.93 points per isolation. While not near the top of the league, his 62.6 percentile in isolations indicate he was comfortably above-average. Also of note, his 2.0 points per game on isolations was fourth-best among centers, with only Towns, Joel Embiid, and Giannis Antekounmpo producing more points.
The final area where Wood popped was in defensive rebounding. His defensive rebounding percentage of 30.4% was the ninth-best in the league among qualified players. Defensive rebounds have been rightly devalued, but being in the top ten can’t not be a good result.
Christian Wood’s offensive game is predicated on scoring, and it shows in his passing metrics. 2.3 assists and 1.9 turnovers per game is plain bad for a player taking nearly 13 shots plus five free throws a game. The eye test also showed a player who struggled to make passes unless they were incredibly obvious or all scoring avenues had been exhausted.
Wood’s poor free throw shooting is a strange development. Good 3-point shooters almost always are good free throw shooters, but Wood bucks that trend. His 62.3% mark from the stripe was well below the league average of 77.5%. He left points on the table that his talent suggests were there for the taking.
While Wood posted solid defensive rebounding numbers, his offensive rebounding is nearly non-existent for a center. 1.6 offensive boards and an offensive rebounding percentage of 5.7% are putrid marks. An offensive rebound is as good, if not better than forcing a turnover.
Defense was a struggle for Wood this past season. He’s not great at defending in space, isn’t a good rim protector, and his intensity ebbed and flowed throughout games. The Rockets have been one of the worst defenses in the league since Wood became the starting center, and he is a large reason why.