Christian Wood has decided to enter his name in the 2015 NBA Draft and is expected to be taken in the second half of the first round. He’s an athletic 6-foot-10 forward that’ll be drafted on his potential to grow into NBA-level player.
Based on Wood’s sophomore season, here’s what should translate into the NBA and what he’ll need to do more of.
Where he fits
Chris Wood had two monster games against Ken Pom top five defenses. He crushed Arizona with 24 points on 10 of 17 shooting, spurring the Rebels to their biggest win of the season. Then in his third matchup with San Diego State, Wood, Dave Rice and UNLV finally figured out how to beat the Aztec post double, which led to Wood scoring 21 points in the final game of the season for UNLV.
In those two games Wood faced only man defense. Whether it was pride or a defensive strategy, Arizona never doubled Wood. And after the first few minutes, where UNLV made Winston Shepard guard two players in the paint, Steve Fisher called off his post double.
In both instances, Wood looked unguardable from when facing up and attacking in one-on-one situations.
Wood shows off his ability to beat opponents’ big men off the bounce. Arizona wasn’t sending a help defender anywhere near Wood, which is why he was able to go off even with poor spacing in a 1-4 low set. For the dunk against San Diego State, there was an extremely late attempt at help defense, but Wood had already started to elevate.
Wood won’t face zone defenses in the NBA. He was actually really efficient against zones, but he was so reliant on his teammates getting him the ball against zones that he tended to disappear. He’s probably not going to face many post doubles in the NBA, unless he becomes a star.
He’ll have one-on-one matchups, which is where he is the best. This, plus his finishing in transition are two major reasons to think Wood can score in the NBA.
He did have big days against team’s that defended him much differently, whether it was a zone, or in Wyoming’s case, not guarding him at all on the perimeter.
Against Wyoming Chris Wood dropped in UNLV’s first 19 points and ended up with 29 for the game. But his big day was spurred by Wyoming’s ball screen defense, which made it a priority to keep guards from getting to the lane, and Dave Rice drawing an isolated ball screen that got Wood all alone on the wing.
Wood also went off against Air Force in UNLV’s first game without Rashad Vaughn. He scored 31 points on 11 of 17 shooting against a team that played primarily zone. But of his 31 points, only four came against the zone. The other 27 came in transition or against Air Force’s man defense.
He also struggled against San Diego State twice. In the two regular season meetings, Wood played 69 minutes, scored just 12 points on 5 of 15 shooting and committed six turnovers, as UNLV struggled dealing with the post double.
Against the other Ken Pom top 10 defense he faced, Utah, Wood had a night to forget. He scored eight points on 10 shots, as he struggled driving past the Utes defenders.
Overall Wood lacked consistency. His skinny frame allowed defenders to physically keep of his spots on the court. But Wood showed the ability to be dominant against two of the best defenses in college hoops. Plus, his performance against Arizona was the most NBA-esque team Wood played.
We need to see more of
There weren’t many possessions that Chris Wood set a ball screen and scored as the roll man. A big reason was Wood’s poor screening. He did get a dunk against Arizona on a pick and pop.
He doesn’t make contact on the screen – Cody Doolin didn’t run his man into the screen either – but Brandon Ashley is recovering late, and Wood makes him pay with a pump fake.
If Wood can become a better screener, he will get opportunities like that, though he’ll probably have someone rotating to take away the dunk in the NBA. But about that pump fake.
Wood likens himself to Kevin Durant. But Durant is one of the best shooters in the NBA, while Wood just finished his sophomore campaign shooting 28.4 percent from three. He did shoot 33 percent from three on the road.
Draining threes would make Wood a much more enticing NBA prospect. It’s why he spent so much shooting on the perimeter this season. But he can still be very valuable without the three.
Wood just needs a respectable jumper. He hit 44.8 percent of his two-point jumpers, per hoop-math.com. If he’s able to knock down 16-foot jumpers with some consistency, it will make his face up drives much more difficult to guard. And going to the rim will always be more efficient for Wood.
Another area that Wood needs to develop is on the block. He has shown he has an effective drop step and spin move, where his long legs allow him to cover a ton of ground. But for the most part his post moves looked like this.
Amazingly, he hit that shot with some consistency this season. But it had a lot to do with facing diminutive opponents. That awkwardness will likely lead to more shots getting swatted into the stands than going through the net.
More than scoring
Christian Wood was one of 18 players in Division I to average a double-double with 15.7 points and 10 rebounds. He was third in the Mountain West (5th in offensive, 2nd in defensive) in rebounding percentage at 17.6 percent. But he was on a bad rebounding team.
UNLV finished 242nd in defensive rebounding percentage and 306th in offensive rebounding percentage. The Runnin’ Rebels only had two true post players, and Goodluck Okonoboh was an average rebounder for a big man. Rashad Vaughn had a tremendous run in conference play with a defensive rebounding percentage of 15.9, which would have been seventh best among non-post players.
Essentially, Wood was the only good rebounder. He had two huge days, 19 boards against Fresno State and 16 against San Diego State, but there are still doubts as to whether he was simply collecting high totals because his teammates were not good rebounders.
Wood and UNLV got torched on the boards by AJ West in three meetings. The Wolf Pack big man grabbed 48 rebounds – 32 on the offensive glass. West was the best offensive rebounder in the nation, and it wasn’t close. Rebounding was one Wood’s more consistent impacts, but he still had significant ups and downs.
Wood also proved to be a quality shot blocker. He finished second in the Mountain West, behind his teammate Okonoboh, in blocks per game with 2.6. He was seventh in the conference in overall percentage.
Those two big man made UNLV one of the best rim protecting teams in the country. Despite struggling to defend guys off the dribble, UNLV finished fifth in the country in opponents’ field goal percentage at the rim. Plus all those offensive rebounds they gave up didn’t hurt as severely as they should have because of the long arms waiting.
UNLV was eighth in Division I in opponents’ points per possession on putbacks after offensive rebounds at 0.87, per Synergy Sports. Opponents shot 43 percent (7th best) after these offensive boards. The main reason being that Wood and Okonoboh were still near the basket rejecting or altering shots.
It’s difficult to determine how much of that success goes to Wood and how much goes to Okonoboh, but either way Wood was a part of a tremendous rim protecting duo, something that is important at every level of basketball.
Ultimately Wood should translate to the NBA. He’s not a finished product, but nearly averaging 16/10/3 while looking raw is why Wood is projected in the late first round.
Even though I hated on his rebounding, he should be just fine grabbing boards, especially if he bulks up. Plus, he should be a good rim protector for a second unit immediately.