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Rockets 2021 player recaps: Christian Wood

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The future of the franchise?

New York Knicks v Houston Rockets Photo by Troy Fields/NBAE via Getty Images

Christian Wood

It’s safe to say Christian Wood’s first season with the Rockets was the best one of his six-year career.

The big man averaged a career-high 21 points per game to go with 9.6 rebounds per game, also a career-high. It’s definitely safe to say he played better than the value of his contract, a three-year deal worth $41 million.

Even though Wood showcased the best basketball of his career, it’s also fair to say that he didn’t perform his best because injuries plagued him throughout the year.

Wood missed 31 games this season due to injury, a majority of those games from a sprained ankle he suffered in early February.

The potential Wood exuded over the first 20 or so games gave Rockets fans much-needed hope following the James Harden trade. Outside of Harden, Wood was unquestionably the best player on the floor for the Rockets.

In his first game with the team, Wood proved that the Rockets didn’t make a mistake by signing him in the offseason.

He became an early favorite for the Most Improved Player award. He eventually finished fourth in voting, but had he stayed healthy, the award could have easily been his.

Wood’s ability to give the Rockets some size without sacrificing their floor spacing made him such a valuable commodity.

Even after the Harden trade, Wood was able to will his team to wins and people began to put some respect on his name, including Shaquille O’Neal.

That first game after the Harden trade was crucial to Red Nation, and Christian Wood showed that the sun would still rise and Wood could operate as a primary option on offense.

However, Wood’s health caught up to him, as it did for many Rockets over the course of the season. Wood played hurt on a sprained ankle in late January, and it forced him to miss three games. Then, weeks later, Wood’s ankle gave him even more problems.

The injury Wood suffered kept him out for the next 17 contests. The Rockets would lose every game in that stretch and the balloon for the season popped.

When he returned, the team was built around Kevin Porter Jr., and Wood spent the rest of the season learning how to coexist with KPJ. He was learning how to get his rhythm back and play with his new point guard, which posed challenges for the center. The team also kept shuttling guys in and out of the lineup with trades, injuries and G-League call-ups, which made it difficult for any Rocket to find a consistency.

One of Wood’s best games in the final iteration of the Rockets came against one of his former team, the Milwaukee Bucks. You could sense from C-Wood that this game meant a little more to him than an average game and it showed.

In this game, Wood showcases his ability to win one-on-one battles in the post, create his own shot, hit the deep ball and space the floor, which is crucial for any post-modern NBA big. Wood’s success in this game was overshadowed by KPJ’s 50-point night, but even on a career night for KPJ, Wood was able to put together a pretty darn good game too.

Wood has two years left on his team-friendly contract, which could make him a valuable trade asset considering he may not fit the team’s overall timeline. However, I’m curious to see what this Rockets team looks like with a full offseason together under their belt and another insane talent can do before the team makes any decision on Wood.

Depending on who the Rockets bring in, I think Wood can adapt his style to play alongside anyone, whether it’s a point guard in Cade Cunningham, a wing in Jalen Green or another big in Evan Mobley. He’s going to space the floor to allow any of those guys, or KPJ, to eat. And he’s also enough of a threat to ensure that the other guys won’t face double teams very often.

Wood may have been one of the most improved players this season, but he has so much more room to grow and the sky is still truly the limit. It’s fair to be just as excited about the potential of Christian Wood now than before he even played a game in a Rockets uniform.

That’s what makes this Rockets rebuild so dangerous. If Wood continues to progress at this rate, and the team can hit on just a few of its many draft picks over the next few years, the Rockets will be right back in the playoffs where they belong.