Hey everyone, that’s it Dan Woike back from the Summer League in Vegas with the latest edition of the Lakers newsletter. This week we tackle the biggest question currently facing the Lakers – the player most of you seem to want. Here’s what I hear about Christian Wood…
All with the Lakers, all the time.
Get all the Lakers news you need in Dan Woike’s weekly newsletter.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.
Rob Pelinkain a moment of clarity, made it clear what kind of player the Lakers are looking for with their likely final addition via free agency this offseason.
“We don’t want to sign anyone who copies the skills that Jackson Hayes have,” Pelinka said at the NBA’s Summer League this month. “So if we can diversify the big position and have different looks, that would be good.”
He didn’t say “Christian Wood”, but he basically could have. The Lakers and the talented but ever-available big man have been heading down the same path toward each other for more than a week. Over the past three seasons, Wood has averaged 18.1 points on 50.9% shooting and 38.1% shooting from three-point range. He’s grabbed 8.9 rebounds and blocked 1.1 shots per game – excellent stats for a modern big.
So why don’t they sprint against each other?
Late-stage free agency is a tough one, where factors beyond the Lakers’ control can come into play.
According to sources familiar with the team’s free-agent pursuits but not authorized to speak publicly, the Chicago Bulls are suddenly seen as a potential threat to prevent the Lakers from landing Wood.
The reason? Chicago was recently granted a $10.2 million player exception due to Lonzo Ball’s a knee injury that is expected to keep him out of action next season. The Bulls can use some or all of that money to acquire a player via trade or sign a player to a one-year free-agent deal.
And this might be surprising, but with the Lakers only able to offer the veteran’s minimum (worth $2,463,490 for a player with seven years of service), there is more financial incentive elsewhere. There is also a stigma among players that once you take a vet minimum deal, you price yourself into that category. While it’s not impossible to get a raise in free agency (ie Dennis Schroder this offseason in Toronto), once you set your price as a bargain, it’s hard to set a new one.
Sources also believe the Miami Heat could be a suitor for Wood, especially if they are able to execute one Damian Lillard Act. The Heat were rumored to be in the market for Dario Saric before choosing Golden State, and the Lakers also had interest in Saric.
While teams love Wood’s talent and offensive ability, there are reasons why he’s available.
“If LeBron [James] can make him stand on the line, it cements LeBron as the greatest player of all time,” an NBA source said. “That’s how hard it is.”
Are you enjoying this newsletter? Consider subscribing to the Los Angeles Times
Your support helps us deliver the news that matters most. Become a subscriber.
Among players listed as centers on basketball-reference.com, only nine have ever averaged at least 16.5 points, seven rebounds and 1.5 made threes on 37% shooting in a season. Only of the nine Karl-Anthony Towns, Kristaps Porzingis and Wood has done it several times.
Towns and Porzingis will each make more than $36 million next season. How is it possible that the Lakers would get Wood for less than $2.5 million?
Sources around the league point to two major shortcomings. First, despite the blocked shots, Wood’s contributions on defense are lacking, frustrating former coaches and teammates. And second, there seems to be a disconnect between what Wood thinks about his place in the league and how the league as a whole sees him. There are related concerns about his professionalism.
It’s telling that Dallas has chosen to let Wood enter free agency without a fight despite a roster built to be competitive now. A floor-spanning, long, athletic big must be an ideal offensive partner to Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic. Instead, he is unemployed.
There is a risk in signing Wood that the problems that have dogged him on seven teams in seven seasons would come with him to Los Angeles. Perhaps the market forcing him to accept a minimum contract would lead to more acceptance of his role. Or maybe it would just lead to more whining about being underused and underappreciated.
However, the Lakers could be the right team at the right time to make a move.
Sources say the team has done significant background work on Wood. Coach Darwin Ham was in Milwaukee when Wood played 13 games there in 2018-19. Anthony Davis also played with Wood in New Orleans at the end of that year. Assistant JD DuBois was with Wood in Detroit in 2019-20. Several members of last season’s Dallas Mavericks staff have close ties to the Lakers, James and Davis.
The team knows what he has done, what he hasn’t, what he can do and what he can’t do. And while there are other big men available to space the floor – Yes Mychal Green for example – no one else has Wood’s ceiling.
That’s why the Lakers are in this: He’s the best player out there with the skills to best complement what the team has built this summer. He is best equipped to fill in as a starter if Davis misses time.
But the fact that it comes with risks — and requires a belief that you can help a soon-to-be 28-year-old mature as a person and player — is good enough reason to move toward Wood with caution.
Song of the week
“This must be the place” by Sure Sure
I love a good cover song, especially one perfect for summer, and this rendition of a Talking Heads classic fits the bill. For a player like Wood, stops in Philadelphia, Charlotte, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Detroit, Houston and Dallas didn’t work out. But maybe, just maybe, this has to be the place.
In case you missed it
— Maxwell Lewis is living an NBA dream that shocks one Lakers-loving fan — his father
— LeBron James will change his uniform number back to 23 for next season
— Scouts and managers rate Lakers’ offseason from ‘very good’ to ‘great’
— Will the Lakers give LeBron James the Kobe treatment and retire both numbers when he hangs it up?
— Two months on, Darvin Ham still finds Steve Kerr’s flopping comments ‘lame as hell’
— Lakers star LeBron James returns for the 21st NBA season
— Does LeBron James coach? The Lakers star seemed to enjoy coaching son Bryce’s basketball team