NBA Free Agency is quickly approaching, and for the New Orleans Pelicans, this go around will be all about bolstering their team around their nucleus of Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, CJ McCollum, and Trey Murphy III.
After struggling to find his footing in the league, Christian Wood eventually landed a three-year, 41-million-dollar deal with the Houston Rockets. After two years with them, he was traded to the Dallas Mavericks during the 2022 offseason. And after a season with them, Wood will now be an unrestricted free agent this off-season.
So, should the Pelicans pursue Wood as a potential target in free agency? As we have with our other posts like this, we will leave the salary cap ramifications to the experts and focus on answering this question from a strictly on-court perspective.
On the surface, it would seem like adding Wood would be a pretty good idea. One of the Pelicans’ biggest weaknesses last season was their lack of shooting. They were 29th in 3-point attempts (30.1), and 23rd in 3-point makes (11.0). And as we noted yesterday, they only rostered four players who have been above league average on wide-open 3-pointers in the last three seasons (per thinkingbasketball.net).
To his credit, Wood has converted on 40% of his wide-open 3-point attempts over the last three seasons (58th percentile). So, in theory, adding him would help to alleviate the Pelicans’ spacing/shooting concerns.
The problem here is that in today’s game, Wood would usually play the five, especially if he’s going to be playing alongside Williamson. That’s worrisome because Wood is not good at one of the things the Pelicans currently struggle with: rim protection.
One of the big reasons that Wood didn’t play more than he did for Dallas (he only averaged 25.9 MPG and only started in 17 of his 67 games) is because Head Coach Jason Kidd didn’t trust his defense. On the year, the Mavericks’ defense was 2.8 points worse (25th percentile) when Wood was on the floor (per Cleaning the Glass).
The Pelicans need shooting, but at the center spot, it is more important that they get someone who can anchor their defense. They can add shooting at the wings and forward spots. But generally speaking, the rim protection element has to come from their bigs. And it is for that reason, that I don’t think the Pelicans should pursue Wood in free agency this off-season.