Christian Wood Impresses as Sixers Fall to Knicks

Undrafted rookie Christian Wood was impressive in his first extended action of the preseason, finishing with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

Christian Wood, an undrafted rookie out of UNLV, scored 13 points to go along with 10 rebounds in the Sixers loss to the Knicks | Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Christian Wood, an undrafted rookie out of UNLV, scored 13 points to go along with 10 rebounds in the Sixers 94-88 loss to the Knicks | Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Christian Wood had a strong sophomore season for UNLV, averaging 15.7 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks per game for the Runnin’ Rebels.

That strong play would cause Wood to declare as an early entry candidate for the draft. Wood then measured out well at the NBA Draft Combine, standing just under 6’11” with a 9’3.5″ standing reach that was the 4th tallest at the event.

Even as late as June, ESPN, DraftExpress, USA Today, and all had Wood projected to go in the first round. In the end, Wood would not hear his name called in June 25th’s NBA draft, with questions surrounding his work ethic, basketball IQ, and maturity causing him to go undrafted.

Despite that Wood’s talent was never in question, and that talent was on full display last night for the Sixers.

With Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor both sidelined due to injuries, Wood had his best opportunity so far to make an impression with the Sixers staff. In 20 minutes against the Knicks Wood finished with 13 points on 5-10 shooting, collected 10 rebounds, and blocked a shot. He connected on a pair of jump shots, including a three pointer, took his man off the dribble, posted up, crashed the offensive glass, and dove to the hoop off of pick and rolls.

It’s an assortment of skills and athletic gifts that you rarely see in a 6’11” big man, which is why some, including ESPN’s Chad Ford, considered him a potential lottery talent. And, when all is said and done, perhaps the same questions surrounding Wood that prevented him from being drafted will crop up and prevent Wood from sticking around long term. But the Sixers will have a month to work closely with Wood to figure out what makes the uber-talented 20 year old tick, a luxury that none of the teams had leading up to the draft.

The small, partially guaranteed contract that the Sixers signed Wood to, reportedly with only $50k guaranteed, was a small price to pay for that opportunity.

So far in four preseason games Wood is averaging 6.5 points and 4.3 rebounds per game in just over 12 minutes of action, while shooting 50% from the field. He’s been the Sixers second best defensive rebounder, hauling in an impressive 27.1% of the available defensive rebounds while he’s been on the court. He has the 3rd best offensive rating on the team, the best defensive rating, and the 3rd highest Player Impact Estimate, an estimate of the percentage of game events a player achieved for his team.

Whether or not Wood makes the team remains to be seen, although his performance so far this preseason has certainly warranted a spot on the opening day roster. Regardless, so far it’s been a gamble that has seemed to work out for the 76ers.

Sixers struggle from field

The Sixers struggled offensively against the Knicks, shooting just 35.8% from the field, 20.5% from three point range, and 59.5% from the free throw line.

Despite struggling from three point territory the Sixers continued to fire from downtown, with just under 50% of their field goal attempts coming from the three ball. Last season the Houston Rockets, Hinkie’s former team, led the league in three point attempt rate, with just under 40% of their field goal attempts coming from behind the line.

The Sixers struggles included a 1-7 performance from Isaiah Canaan and a 2-7 showing from Hollis Thompson, both normally among the Sixers more reliable three point shooters. Scottie Wilbekin, who was given an extended run as the backup point guard, also went 1-7 from three point distance.

Considering the Sixers shot the three ball at such a high rate, finishing the game with 37 free throw attempts was quite a feat, even if the team struggled to convert those opportunities at the line. The Sacramento Kings led the league in free throw rate, with 0.363 free throw attempts per field goal attempt last season. The Sixers rate last night against the Knicks was 0.457.

That shot distribution, with almost everything coming from either behind the three point line or at the rim, is very much what the Sixers are aiming for as they build their offensive system.

Odds and Ends

  • Robert Covington finished the game making three of his six three point attempts, and is now shooting 42.3% from three point range on the preseason. Because over 60% of his field goal attempts have been from three point territory, Covington actually has the most efficient true shooting percentage on the team despite shooting only 40.5% from the field. One negative: with six turnovers last night Covington’s now average 3.3 turnovers per game in only 25.6 minutes, which is way too high.
  • Furkan Aldemir has struggled so far this presason, but last night was probably his best game so far. Aldemir scored 6 points, grabbed 6 rebounds, crashed the offensive glass, and generated 2 steals for the Sixers last night. He also got to the free throw line 8 times, although he only connected on 4 of the attempts.
  • Nobody on the Sixers had more than 2 assists last night. Part of that was a result of none of the perimeter shooters hitting shots, but the Sixers also didn’t have a ton of players available to really create open looks for teammates, either.
  • One area the Sixers did well in was on the defensive glass, giving the Knicks only 7 offensive rebounds in their 45 missed field goals. They also forced the Knicks into 23 turnovers.

Next up: 

The Sixers next preseason game is a rematch against the Washington Wizards Friday at the Wells Fargo Center. It will be broadcast on Comcast SportsNet, the last preseason game that will be broadcast locally.