Should the Milwaukee Bucks Be Locking Down Christian Wood?

Christian Wood had a great Summer League. The currently un-contracted 22-year-old put up dominant numbers to average 20.4 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks over five appearances with the Milwaukee Bucks. All three of those marks were good enough to lead the squad in Las Vegas.

Wood’s campaign was capped off with a selection to the All-NBA Summer League first team, joining three 2018 top ten selections in Wendell Carter Jr, Kevin Knox, and Collin Sexton, while a first-round pick last year, Josh Hart was the last player to round out the five.

Despite the impressive run of play, it appears increasingly unlikely that the Bucks will offer Wood a contract for the upcoming season, despite dealing with their fair share of struggles at the five in recent times.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Matt Velazquez, recently tweeted that while there are indeed rival teams circling, the Bucks are not one of them.

This is likely due to the fact that the Bucks have a surplus of big men already on the 15-man roster. Thon Maker, John Henson, and the recently signed Brook Lopez in no particular order are first in line on the depth chart as it stands. Veteran big man, Tyler Zeller, is also still floating around the periphery, with his non-guaranteed deal still a possibility to be picked up for 2018-19.

When the Bucks released former Duke Blue Devil Marshall Plumlee from his two-way contract in recent days, many assumed it was indeed to create room for Wood, who has floated around the perimeter of the NBA, without grabbing his opportunity to stick.

With the Velazquez tidbit in mind, let’s look at why the Bucks should be strongly considering signing Wood, and how letting him slip by could be a decision they live to regret down the line.

Heading into the 2015 NBA Draft, the concerns on Wood were anything but skill based, rather his maturity and commitment to utilizing his vast array of talents the only thing holding him back. After bouncing from Philadelphia to Charlotte and then to the G League, it would appear from the outside that he has been unable to figure it out.

Chris Reichert of 2ways10days wrote an extended scouting analysis on Wood based upon his G League play last season with Delaware. As you read through, it becomes further pronounced how talented Wood is, with his ability far exceeding a player that has yet to really come close to making it in the NBA.

One particular quote from a league representative in the piece only enhances that thought.

“He could have a long NBA career, or he could bounce around the world playing in a different country every year, it’s really up to him. Because when he’s engaged he’s one of the elite players in this league, no question.”

Wood was a force on both ends of the floor in Vegas over the past two weeks, asserting his authority on the contest by crushing rims on one end and swatting shots down the other. Quite simply, Wood seemed to have an intensity that reached far greater levels than the other players on the floor.

In the clip above, Wood receives the ball just beyond the half-court line and immediately goes into attack mode. At 6’10”, he has decent enough handles to do so if given open floor against a similarly sized big.

In this case, his opponent Jonah Bolden is simply bullied out of the way while Wood slams the ball down ferociously in his face. This was a regular procedure for Wood in Vegas, which challenges the idea that he has motivation concerns.

Another string to Wood’s bow is his ability to stretch the floor, a pre-requisite in the modern NBA. Wood wasn’t exactly a dead-eye in Vegas, but still, connected 4-of-13 tries from beyond the arc, and knocked down 32 percent of his 3.6 attempts per contest with Delaware in the G League last season.

Defensively, he did get lost on occasion in Vegas, though that’s hardly a rare sight, in what can at times be basketball that degenerates into glorified pickup ball. His length and quick feet did allow him to correct his positioning and impressively protect the rim, however, as his 2.8 swats per outing would suggest.

In relation to how Wood could fit on the current Bucks roster, let’s look beyond this season in what we have already described as a cramped center position on Mike Budenholzer’s squad.

In an unquestionably genius signing, the Bucks acquired Brook Lopez for approximately $3.3 million using the bi-annual exception. A bargain basement move for a guy that 17.9 points and 6.8 rebounds over his career. But remember, his deal is just one season long.

The longest-tenured member of the Bucks’ roster, John Henson has been a staple in the Bucks rotation since the 2012-13 season, though his sporadic play, mixed with various ailments, has seen him in and out of the starting role with extreme regularity. Truth be told, the Bucks would probably like to trade his contract, but after signing Lopez for the above-mentioned bargain, Henson’s two years and approximately $17 million remaining is not exactly the most attractive deal getting around.

Thon Maker is the wildcard. The two-time playoff difference maker (pardon the pun), holds the hopes of many Bucks fans dreams in his often shaky hands entering year three. An ability to stretch the floor, protect the rim, and provide extreme enthusiasm and energy, Maker is the guy the Bucks will continue to desperately hope pans out long-term next to their current superstar, Giannis Antetokounmpo.

When reviewing those above options holistically, you very quickly realize that the Bucks center rotation beyond this year is well and truly up in the air.

With well-known salary cap issues, you are forced to query whether the Bucks should be letting a guy with the talent of Christian Wood walk when he could be had for the minimum, or even still, a two-way contract?

After Summer League, it would appear a mere formality that Wood ends up with a third NBA franchise, gaining another opportunity to realize his obvious potential. If the Bucks pass on Wood, they will be crossing their fingers that he isn’t the missing piece they let slip through their grasp.

It may never fall into place for Wood. He may never be able to put it all together at the highest level. But for the minimum, would you really be willing to take that chance?

I’m not so sure I would.

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