Christian Wood’s contract became fully guaranteed on Friday. What’s next for the exciting Detroit Pistons’ athletic forward?
Detroit Pistons fans haven’t had much to cheer about over the last decade. So, it’s easy to forgive the fanbase when a young, talented big man like Christian Wood lands in Detroit and fans immediately call for him to become a 30 minutes-per-game starter.
That’s not how the NBA works, this isn’t 2K. If it was, we’d be in the year 2027, fresh off the Pistons seventh straight NBA Finals Championship led by 7-foot point guard, Steven Garcia.
The NBA doesn’t operate on an overall rating, it operates on trust. When players earn the trust of their coaches, they earn more playing time. This is why a player as talented as Wood is on his fifth team in as many seasons.
“Sometimes guys bounce around awhile before they get it figured out,” said Alvin Gentry, Wood’s former coach. “We loved him when he was here. I think he’s shown … that obviously the talent is there, but sometimes it takes a little while to stick. It takes a little while to understand what it means to be a pro. I think he’s there now.”
After receiving the game ball after a win over the Indiana Pacers in October, Wood told the Detroit News, “Once I started to get in a rhythm and coach got more comfortable with me on the floor, saw how the game was going and how I could help the team pull out the game, he gave me a little more time.”
Now, Wood is averaging 23 minutes per game, a career-high and far above the 5 minutes per game he averaged last year with Milwaukee. It seems he’s finally found a home in Detroit and as of Friday, his one-year contract with the Detroit Pistons is be fully guaranteed.
Wood has struggled in the past few games, compared to the dynamic performances Pistons fans have grown accustomed to. Part of this is due to tough matchups in back-to-back games against Kevin Love but also because of his inexperience in playing a full NBA season.
Despite that, there’s no doubt that Wood should absolutely be playing the bulk of the starting forward minutes next to Sekou Doumbouya. With Andre Drummond trade rumors swirling and Griffin sidelined for the foreseeable future, the Pistons should be in full rebuild mode.
This means Casey should be reallocating minutes from veterans like Tony Snell to potential studs like Wood. Snell is a fine player, but he’s 28 years old and even in this stage of their careers, it feels like Wood can often have a bigger impact on the game than Snell.
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Of course, as we illustrated earlier, Casey is all about who he can trust, as exemplified in their Jan. 9. loss to the Cavaliers when Casey played Snell in crunch time in favor of Doumbouya.
Pistons beat writers have pointed to Wood’s less-than-stellar defense as a reason why Casey has been reluctant to give Wood more minutes but advanced metrics actually favor Wood’s defense over Snell. Wood is posting a better defensive rating, higher defensive win shares, and higher defensive box plus-minus than Snell. Of course, the eye test would tell you that Snell is the better perimeter defender and more equipped to guard small forwards, but I’d rather spend the remainder of this lost season seeing how Wood and Doumbouya fare together than watching Snell’s marginally better perimeter defense.
Whether Wood can earn Casey’s trust and begin playing starter’s minutes in Griffin’s absence remains to be seen. Casey declaring Doumbouya a starter makes it seem like a possibility.
Either way, it’s clear that Wood has been an intriguing enough player to turn his freshly guaranteed contract into re-signing. And hopefully, Casey can eventually show the trust in Wood that Pistons Twitter has so vehemently displayed.