Clippers 2015 NBA Draft Targets: UNLV’s Christian Wood


Mar 7, 2015; San Jose, CA, USA; UNLV Rebels forward Christian Wood (5) controls the ball against the San Jose State Spartans during the first half at San Jose State Event Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Clippers appear to be set on trading into the 2015 NBA draft, and since losing Spencer Hawes in the trade to acquire Lance Stephenson, the Clippers are in even greater need of another backup big man. And one potential target they can consider in the draft is Christian Wood of UNLV.

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The initial problem with Wood is that he played as a power forward in college, meaning that the 6’9″ Glen Davis (the Clippers’ primary backup big man with Hawes gone) would be required to spend more of his playing time as a center. Yet whilst that may seem like an issue, as Davis can easily be considered as a power forward due to his fairly limited size, he’s actually spent a fair amount of his minutes at center.

He spent 30 percent of his playing time this season at the center position, and on top of that, Davis played at center for 66 percent of his minutes during the 2012-13 season when he was with the Orlando Magic. And even though he only played 34 games that year, he still found success. As he put together the best season averages of his career — with 15.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game.

So if Wood is limited to the power forward spot, it isn’t the end of the world. Especially as it’s not out of the question that Doc Rivers may look to trade or sign for another center as well (for instance, if he can trade Jamal Crawford to create more cap space).

However, if the Clippers can acquire a pick in this year’s draft and they look to bolster their frontcourt, Christian Wood should be someone they consider.

In terms of his offense, Wood’s versatility makes him an excellent fit for the Clippers. Not just because he’s surprisingly agile and quick for a 6’11” big man, but because he has enough range to stretch the floor and operate as a pick-and-pop option in ways that Davis cannot. And seeing as L.A. execute the pick-and-roll so effectively (and frequently) with superstar point guard Chris Paul, Wood’s range would suit them perfectly.

Wood averaged 15.7 points per game this year, and did so through a host of shot types — both inside and out. He made 49.7 percent of his field goal attempts, and even made 25 total three pointers in the 33 games he played (at a 28.4 percent rate). But even though a three point stroke is always a welcome addition for any stretch-4 in today’s NBA, that’s just one small part of Wood’s skill set.

He has a very solid face-up game, and can either use his mid range shooting to exploit weaker perimeter defenders, or use his quick first step and fluid explosiveness to drive to the basket. His slender 220 lbs frame will make it harder for him to finish through contact against the stronger interior defenders of the NBA, but he can still use his quickness to go straight past defenders or at least draw fouls when they get left behind.

And that’s another area where Wood can help the Clippers’ frontcourt — the free throw line. We all know about DeAndre Jordan’s 39.7 percent shooting from the charity stripe this season, and it’s a key reason why the Clippers ranked 28th in team free throw percentage this year. Wood, on the other hand, made a far more efficient 74.7 percent of his free throws throughout college, and a backup big man who isn’t a liability at the line is always valued in the NBA.

Christian Wood won’t just be beneficial to the Clippers as an offensive option off the bench, though. He averaged 10 rebounds per game this season, and ranked 3rd in the Mountain West Conference in total rebounding percentage with 17. His 7’3″ wing span often allows him to reach over smaller players, and combined with his explosiveness he has the tools to be a very capable rebounder.

Due to the length and explosiveness Wood possesses, he can also be a highly capable rim protector, especially when using his quickness to fly over from the weak side in help defense. He averaged 2.7 blocks per game this season (which was good enough for 2nd in the MWC) and even ranked 4th in his Conference for defensive win shares with 2.3.

Jan 31, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UNLV Runnin

Wood — like any other rookie — does have his flaws, though. His post defense is the main area of his game that needs some work, and it largely stems from his small frame. If he can gradually add some muscle and lower body strength over the next couple of years, Wood will be far more effective at guarding opposing big men in the post. He won’t get backed down so often, and strength alone will already make it easier for him to hold bigs out of the paint.

When he can do that, he can start putting his explosiveness and long reach to even better use.

As for where Wood may land in the 2015 NBA draft, he’ll likely fall somewhere in the latter part of the second round. DraftExpress, for example, have projected that Wood will be taken with the 46th pick by the Milwaukee Bucks. And as so many top talents in this year’s class are big men — with the likes of Karl Towns, Jahlil Okafor and Kristaps Porzingis on offer — a very capable two-way player such as Wood may be a steal near the end of draft.

So if the Clippers are able to trade for a pick in the second round (read about Doc Rivers’ full intentions here), they could find that Christian Wood is still available. And considering the floor spacing he provides on offense, his rebounding and his athletic rim protection, he could be a very worthy target for a Clippers team in desperate need of frontcourt depth.

Next: Clippers will try to trade for a 2015 NBA Draft pick