Unlike most of America, Sam Hinkie and the Sixers management team wanted no part of resting up on Labor Day Monday. Not only did the team sign second-round pick J.P. Tokoto to a 1-year deal, but undrafted former UNLV big man Christian Wood was inked to a 4-year contract. This Wood news came out of nowhere after he spent the past summer league with Hinkie’s former mentor, Daryl Morey, and the Houston Rockets. However, the Rockets could only offer him a 2-year deal as they look to avoid the hard salary cap, so Hinkie was only too happy to swoop in and grab him.
Wood is a fascinating case, as a guy considered to be a first-round talent by many draft evaluators who never heard his name called on draft night due to maturity/work ethic concerns that can occasionally plague a 19-year-old. Securing him with a contract that is presumed to be at a minimal salary base and confirmed to be only partially guaranteed certainly helps the decision to bring him aboard. Moreover, for a Sixers team that can afford to take the time to allow players to round out their games and come into their own, Wood presents an intriguing skill set.
The 6’11” power forward not only averaged 15.7 ppg and 10.0 rpg during his sophomore season with the Runnin’ Rebels, but you could also see the outline for the stretch the floor/defend the rim paradigm which every NBA team is looking for today. Wood certainly had the rim protection portion of things down, as he recorded 2.7 blocks per game last season, which featured seven games of 4+ blocks. Meanwhile, he wasn’t the most efficient perimeter shooter, but he did hit 28.4% of his threes while attempting over 2 per game. I’m sure the Sixers feel there’s enough there for them to work with after rebuilding the shots of players such as Jerami Grant and Jakarr Sampson, guys who basically ignored the three-point arc in college.
Perhaps most interestingly, Wood’s signing continues a concerted effort by the Sixers this offseason to improve in the half court. As noted on his DraftExpress profile, Synergy Sports Tech data showed Wood converted 70% of his shots ‘around the basket’ in half court situations, which was the 7th-best rate among top-100 prospects. Two of the six players ahead of him were already drafted by the Sixers, Jahlil Okafor and Richaun Holmes. After seeing the team finish dead last in offensive efficiency each of the last two seasons, it’s clear Hinkie had an offseason plan for how to improve that situation.
It remains to be seen whether Wood even cracks the Sixers rotation, let alone becomes a significant contributor at the NBA level. Still, he’s certainly the type of high-risk/high-reward player a rebuilding franchise would be wise to take a chance on; leaving spots open for players like him is one of the main reason why Hinkie has eschewed filling the roster with middling veteran free agent types. For a Sixers organization still looking for that big score, Wood represents one more lottery ticket to scratch off.