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Christian Wood quickly proving his worth to the Pelicans but remains keen on improvement

Wood is off to a ridiculously hot start in New Orleans.

NBA: Sacramento Kings at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off a 25-point, 9-rebound and 3-steal effort — this, after setting a number of individual career-highs across the board only 48 hours earlier, Christian Wood couldn’t help but beam with pride inside the New Orleans locker room.

The Pelicans had just knocked off the Kings, snapping an eight game home losing streak, and Christian played a major role in that fun outcome, posting his second consecutive ‘Hey, I not only belong in the NBA but deserve minutes’ performance. Interestingly, Wood seemed happiest in responding to a question about his defense, specifically about some displays of improvement in slowing down Sacramento’s pick and roll attack.

“We were focusing on that in practice,” said Wood. “When we came in during halftime. they showed me some film of pick and roll defense, showing me how to play against De’Aaron {Fox} — those quicker type of guards. I felt like I did a better job today. It wasn’t like last game where I had six blocks, but I felt like defensively I was locked in.”

Christian hammered home the point of trying to make the biggest strides on the defensive end with his very next answer, too.

“I’ve always been versatile on offense, but that’s really not one thing I’m focusing on. I want to be one of the better two-way players. I want to be able to impact the game on both sides of the floor.”

Over his last two games, Wood has blocked seven shots and stolen the ball six times. That’s a pretty darn good impression of wunderkind Anthony Davis, wouldn’t you say?

While he still needs to improve his timing with teammates, absorb more fully the game plan and strategies and keep working on his positioning so as to avoid that dreaded no man’s land on defense, Wood’s teammates and head coach already sit in his corner.

“Well, I think he’s been good offensively — obviously with 23 and 25 points, but I just think having a {defensive} presence,” said Alvin Gentry after Thursday’s win. “He has length. He didn’t block six shots tonight, but he changed a lot of shots. The thing that I keep emphasizing to him is consistency and he’s been pretty consistent in these past two games.”

Through three games, Wood’s hustle stats have shined like a beacon on a dark night. He is averaging 4.2 deflections and 18.0 shot contests per 36 minutes of action with the Pelicans. For comparison’s sake, Jrue Holiday is averaging 3.2 deflections and Davis is contesting 13.3 shots per game on the season.

Elfrid Payton has found himself most in awe by Wood’s ability to seamlessly fit into the schemes without hiccup. In case you’re not aware, young, inexperienced players often try to force the issue in hopes of getting noticed and thus retained for the long term.

“I think the biggest thing is he’s not searching out there,” said Payton. “He’s playing, he’s getting it within the offense. Offensive rebounds, rolling to the basket, protecting the rim for the most part — he’s not searching for those kind of performances. He’s playing great.”

When asked to make a comparison to Wood’s supernova start, Payton offered Yogi Ferrell and Quinn Cook as two examples who burst onto the scene. While they certainly had their moments, they didn’t immediately drop a couple of jaw-dropping lines in their first two big-minute appearances.

Julius Randle admitted to media after the win over the Kings that he knew nothing about Christian Wood before the Pelicans grabbed him off the waiver wire nine days ago: “Not a single thing. Not a single thing, but I know a lot about him now though.”

While it’s only been two games of solid run and the Pelicans have been stuck playing in meaningless basketball games during this entire month, count Randle as a firm believer in Wood’s future.

“It’s been amazing, man,” stated Randle. “For him to be able to impact the game the way he does on both ends of the floor is really, really good. He has a bright future in this league.”

In the grand scheme of things, Christian Wood hasn’t accomplished anything of great significance yet and isn’t any guarantee to do so, but observe that he is in the midst of checking boxes.

  • He’s posted stellar lines in back to back games, relying solely on God-given ability.
  • He’s not only exhibited great effort, but the understanding of what it takes to succeed on this level.
  • He’s won over a new locker room in the matter of days.

For those not blessed with superstar potential, the road is infinitely more challenging. Many players have tried to break into the league before him, similarly asking for that one chance, but when presented with a golden opportunity, they flubbed it.

Christian Wood is taking advantage of his moment in the most spectacular of ways, and as he would surely tell any naysayer, just keep an open mind — his future is yet to be written.