The Charlotte Hornets, Philadelphia 76ers, and Milwaukee Bucks are among the NBA teams that gave up on Christian Wood in the past five years, but the 6-foot-11 forward never gave up on himself. Right about now, Wood’s ex-girlfriend must be wishing she could say the same.
Christian Wood struggled to find his NBA home
Houston Rockets newcomer Christian Wood has bounced around more than a basketball that Luka Doncic takes on an end-to-end drive for a layup. Undrafted coming out of college, he played in 51 games for four NBA teams over his first four years as a pro.
It began with Wood latching on with the Houston Rockets in the NBA Summer League after he left college in 2015 at the age of 19. The Rockets let him go, but Wood caught on with the Philadelphia 76ers, who used him sparingly in 14 games before cutting the rookie in January 2016. He spent the remainder of the season shuttling between the 76ers and the Delaware 87ers of the NBA Development League.
The following season was a lather/rinse/repeat year for Wood, but this time with the Charlotte Hornets and their Greensboro Swarm affiliate. Again, he got a taste of NBA life, but not enough playing time to make an impact. That was followed by a wasted season trying to hook on in the Chinese Basketball Association.
Wood’s fortunes began to change with the 2018-19 NBA season. After playing sparingly with the Milwaukee Bucks, he joined the New Orleans Pelicans and made the most of his two starts and six other appearances. Playing 24 minutes a night down the stretch, Wood averaged 16.9 points and 7.9 rebounds. He closed the season with career highs of 26 points and 12 rebounds against Golden State.
Christian Wood was now on the verge of making it big in pro basketball.
Coming out of UNLV too soon stymied his development
If he had to do it all over again, Christian Wood might concede that he should have stayed in college another year. Wood was a role player as a UNLV freshman and then averaged 15.7 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks for the Runnin’ Rebels in the 2014-15 season. Had he stayed another season, Wood might have cut two years off the journey that finally took him to a slot in the Detroit Pistons’ rotation last season.
Wood appeared in 62 games in the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 season. Signed off waivers for $1.6 million, he beat out veteran Joe Johnson for a roster spot and stuck with the franchise all year.
The trade of Andre Drummond to the Cleveland Cavaliers opened a starting spot, and Wood produced 13.1 points and 6.3 rebounds in 21 minutes a night, shooting 56.7% along the way. He was now in the perfect position to cash in as a free agent.
On Nov. 24, 2020, Wood and the Pistons worked out a sign-and-trade deal. After accepting $41 million – fully guaranteed according to Spotrac.com — over three years, Wood became one of the pieces in the Houston Rockets’ makeover in a swap for Trevor Ariza and incoming rookie Isaiah Stewart.
The Rockets are off to an 0-2 start, but Wood connected for 31 points against Portland in the opener and then 23 vs. Denver. He’s also averaging 8.0 rebounds and has made four of his first seven 3-pointers.
The 2015 NBA draft was the worst night of Christian Wood’s basketball life
Labeled by some as a likely first-round pick shortly after declaring for the 2015 NBA draft as a UNLV sophomore, Christian Wood saw his stock plummet during the spring. On draft night, Wood rented a party suite at a Las Vegas hotel to watch with family and friends. However, picks kept coming and going without his name being called.
By night’s end, Wood was undrafted. Immediately afterward, he was also unattached. His significant other bailed out on him to add insult to injury.
“I lost my girlfriend that night, too,” Wood told The Ringer. “I dropped her off at the airport after the draft and never saw her again.”
It was her loss and not his. The new $41 million contract will bring Wood’s career earnings to a little more than $45 million, which is a fitting reward for a man who persevered after two brutal gut punches on draft night.
All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.