Contrary to what many may think, the Detroit Pistons will be able to retain their key free agent.
The Detroit Pistons will head into the offseason with a few major priorities. One of them, without question, is the necessity of re-signing the recent breakout story Christian Wood.
Wood had played for four different teams before his arrival in Detroit. With every single one of those teams, he showcased the reality that he does have a spot in the league. Still, for one reason or another, he was left without a home.
When the Pistons picked him up a year ago, he didn’t have a guaranteed spot on the roster despite the Pistons lack of depth in their front court. Instead, he went into a battle for the final roster spot with NBA veteran Joe Johnson.
For the fans, it was clear who deserved that final spot. But there was still concern that Johnson would be favored for his experience.
Eventually when Detroit made the right call and decided to keep Wood, he spent the first half of the season playing inconsistent minutes. Dwane Casey often elected to play Thon Maker over him.
While he certainly had his bright spots throughout those months, the fans wanted more.
From that point on, basketball fans saw an iteration of Wood that we had not yet seen. He was officially unleashed. Over the next (and final) 13 games of the season, he averaged 22.8 points and 9.9 rebounds per game on 56.2 percent shooting (40.0 percent from three).
His ability to navigate the floor, and especially the baseline, for someone of his size is almost baffling. He’s entered that new iteration of big men that we’re seeing where he’s almost become a rim-running floor spacer. It’s bizarre.
So naturally given his play on the court combined with his impending free agency, people have questions.
How much will he get paid? I have no idea. That’s a figure that absolutely no one has been able to gauge, and that was before we realized the pandemic would have an impact on the salary cap for the next few years.
The market is going to be weird.
Since Detroit sports fans generally can’t have anything too good for too long, fans are starting to get anxious that he may leave. It’s expected that there will be multiple teams who express interest in him this offseason, but there’s nothing to worry about.
The Pistons were the first team to finally give him a legitimate shot. He played phenomenally for the Pelicans to close out the season in 2019, but they had to let him go.
Admittedly as was previously mentioned, it did take some time for Wood to play some consistent minutes with Detroit. However, once that point arrived, the support from the fans soared higher than it has for any come up player in recent years.
He worked his way into the conversation for “Most Improved”. He set legitimate goals for himself that he could achieve if he were to stay.
It becomes a matter of where the best opportunity to thrive is for him. As it stands, there are a few teams that come to mind but the Pistons are certainly one of them.
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So while he may not see that same volume on offense that he did to close out last season, he’d still be their primary pick and roll option and remain their featured big man. His ability to space the floor would potentially raise to another level with a healthy Pistons team.
The play making abilities of Griffin, Kennard and Rose will open up a lot more on offense for Wood. He’ll no longer be one of the only players that defenses are actually paying attention to. Because of this, it’ll open up the possibility for him to cut to the basket or pick and pop along the perimeter a bit more.
He’s useful no matter where he ends up, but Detroit could use his talents to jump start their rebuild.
Additionally, Pistons fans have been worried that he’ll leave for financial reasons.
Of the fifteen players that were on Detroit’s payroll this season, (plus Josh Smith, but he’s off the books heading into next season) only ten of them will be returning next year as it stands.
This is subject to change, seeing as it’s pretty likely that Thon Maker will return, and the same may go for Langston Galloway. Additionally, they’ll have a new rookie to pay along with whatever free agents they bring in.
However, Ed Stefanski has been so meticulous with Detroit’s spending since he arrived that in pretty much any scenario, the Pistons will have more than enough money to pay Wood. They’ll be able to offer more money than any team in the league.
Could he leave in pursuit of a championship? Absolutely. But it would involve taking a pay cut and while that’s entirely within the realm of possibility, we won’t know it until we see it. As it stands, Detroit seems to be the most likely option for him.
The first team to give him a legitimate shot, the first team that allowed him to burst onto the scene gives Detroit some pretty solid leverage. Again, he’ll play a featured role in some capacity if he were to re-sign and compensation will hardly be an issue.
It isn’t a matter of “will he” or “won’t he”. It’s a matter of time. It’s about “when”.