Pistons breakout player Christian Wood ranked No. 3 free agent

Detroit News

Rod Beard
| The Detroit News

Whenever NBA free agency finally begins, the league’s 30 teams will turn their attention to reshaping their rosters — some with hopes of shifting the balance of talent to match the powerhouses that the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers have amassed.

Some of the top names are predictable, given their impact last season: Anthony Davis. Fred VanVleet. Christian Wood.

Wait, Christian Wood?

After an eye-opening season with the Pistons, Wood has emerged as one of the top prizes in free agency. Wood, a 6-foot-10 forward, garnered the No. 3 ranking in ESPN’s list of the top free agents available this offseason.

ESPN senior writer Kevin Pelton points to Wood’s production in the final 15 games of the season, as he posted 22.3 points and 9.5 rebounds in 34.1 minutes. He also shot 56 percent from the field and an impressive 41 percent on 3-pointers.

Wood’s playing time ramped up significantly during that time, after Andre Drummond was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Wood moved into the starting lineup.

“He is just entering his prime, having turned 25 last month,” Pelton wrote. “All of that makes Wood a fascinating target.”

For the first time in years, the Pistons are in an enviable position in free agency, with about $30 million in projected cap space. They also have Wood’s Early-Bird Rights, so they can exceed the cap to re-sign him, if they choose.

By some estimations, the probable estimations for Wood’s salary would be the midlevel exception of about $9.3 million. Even that would be a significant increase from his minimum salary last season of $1.65 million.

That’s not the whole story, though.

Wood almost didn’t make the Pistons’ roster last season. He was in a final-day competition with Joe Johnson to take the final spot, but the Pistons opted for Wood’s upside when Johnson suffered an injury before rosters were finalized.

The journey from the 16th man to one of their most-prized assets was evident in Wood’s final few games, with 29, 30, 22 and a career-best 32 points in the finale against the Philadelphia 76errs.

Pelton’s list puts Wood ahead of Pelicans All-Star forward Brandon Ingram, Wizards big man Davis Bertans and Kings wing Bogdan Bogdanovic.

As one of the few teams with available cap space, the Pistons have options with respect to how they want to play the free-agent market.

Wood did not participate in the Pistons’ in-market workouts in Detroit, but he apparently has been working out with other NBA players, including the Golden State Warriors’ Klay Thompson, in Los Angeles.

The Pistons and new general manager Troy Weaver likely have Wood as their top priority in free agency, but Weaver chose not to make any comment about Wood’s future in Detroit. That’s more of a negotiating ploy to not overplay their hand in the market, but it’s becoming clearer that Wood will be a sought-after free agent.

That is, whenever that time comes.


Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

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