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NBA Free Agency: Christian Wood has long sought legitimate opportunity and New Orleans Pelicans in position to grant him his wish

The front office has made a savvy choice mere weeks before the end of the regular season!

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NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

All Christian Wood has ever wanted in the NBA is a chance.

The New Orleans Pelicans might have just granted him his wish yesterday.

Losing Malcolm Brogdon for an extended period on top of dealing with injuries to several other guards, the Milwaukee Bucks were forced to add free agent Tim Frazier at the expense of Wood’s roster spot. The Pelicans pounced, grabbing the 6’11 forward/center off waivers after letting go a familiar face in Jason Smith. Since next year’s salary doesn’t even partially guarantee until the first game of the 2019-20 regular season, New Orleans has the opportunity to give the 23-year-old a real bargain test drive over the remaining games on the schedule, this summer and then in the following training camp.

Why make much, if any, ado about a player who has spent the vast majority of his court time in G League games over the last four years?

  • Because he remains a bonafide prospect: an athletic rim protector, a fantastic rebounder and quite the potent yet highly efficient scorer.
  • Because he was averaging 29.0 points, 14.0 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and getting to the line 9.4 times a game in 27 G League games this season.
  • Most pertinent of all, because the team with the best record in the league — the one which drafted Giannis Antetokounmpo (instead of just talking about wanting to do so) and surrounded the favorite to win this year’s MVP with a who’s who list of underappreciated talents at one time or another — didn’t want to let Wood go.

While putting up big numbers at the level just below the NBA has never been a problem, Wood’s 2017-18 G League averages of 23.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 1.6 blocks grabbed the attention of the Bucks enough to issue a summer league invite. In his first game against the Pistons, Wood exploded for 23 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks.

“That I’m good and I need to be signed,” Wood said when asked what he’s trying to demonstrate at summer league. “I’m just waiting for my opportunity and I know it’s going to come.”

Wood was named to the 2018 Summer League First Team with averages of 20.4 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.8 blocks across five games, and the highlights were impressive. Just watch for yourself and keep in mind how the Pelicans bigs have performed when Anthony Davis hasn’t been on the floor for most of the last seven years.

“Once I get the time and people see me, I know that I can be an X-factor in the NBA,” said Wood to Hoopshype last August. “I can run the floor and beat other bigs and I’m faster than most people my size.”

General managers and scouts from all 30 teams had another good opportunity to view Wood’s abilities up close again during the 2018 G League Winter Showcase this past December. During the four-day event in which every G League team played two games, Wood shined, averaging 34.5 points, 13.5 rebounds and 4.5 blocks. His play earned him a spot on the All-NBA G League Showcase First Team.

There have been many games this season where Wood has looked like he can do it all and this week was no different. The Bucks assignee displayed a perfect complement of offensive skills — when he wasn’t hitting the mid-range jumper, the big man could be found attacking the rim, drawing fouls and staying active on the offensive glass. Afforded the opportunity to play big time minutes with the Herd, Wood clearly embraces the chance to be a leading man.

Soon thereafter, Wood was named to the Midseason All-NBA G League Eastern Conference Team, thanks to those gaudy numbers.

In 20 games with the Herd this season, Wood is averaging a team-best 29.3 points per game — second among all NBA G League players, 13.9 rebounds and 2.2 blocks, while shooting 54.8 percent from the field. He is one of two players in the G League this season averaging at least 20.0 points, 10.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks.

Wood has scored in double figures in all 20 of his games this season, including 30-or-more points on 12 separate occasions. The forward has also posted 16 double-double performances on the season.

Nearly four years ago, Wood was utterly crestfallen upon hearing the news that his name wasn’t going to be called in the 2015 NBA Draft. Coming across Tweets that radiate the utmost confidence and usually more than just a hint of his saucy personality are a common occurrence these days.

More amusement: even DeMarcus Cousins is a believer in Wood’s future.

122 impressive G-League validating games later, Christian Wood will soon suit up for a New Orleans Pelicans team that is in full-evaluation mode and knowing they need to replace — as best they can — all the minutes and production of one Anthony Davis. Every little bit is going to help and it sounds like it’s going to be a lot of fun watching the team’s latest addition give it his best shot.