Here's why Christian Wood should be a lock to win this coveted award
The Houston Rockets are a quarter of the way into the 2020-2021 season and have surprised many around the NBA with lockdown defense and selfless play on offense. It hasn't been a calm year for the Rockets with the departure of its face of the franchise James Harden, and they weren't projected to find an identity this early in the season.
That was until Houston Rockets general manager Rafael Stone's acquisition of center Christian Wood, who showed up firing on all cylinders.
Wood signed a workable 3-year, $41 million dollar deal with the Rockets, and the organization was projecting a huge leap from Wood this season after being slept on for the majority of his five-year NBA career.
Last year, Wood averaged 13.1 points and 6.3 rebounds with the Detroit Pistons, and most organizations weren't looking to sign him to a long-term deal. Teams were hesitant because it took him five years to prove he could be a starter in the NBA.
This year, Wood is averaging 23.6 points and 11.7 rebounds per game. He's connecting 55.3 percent of his shots and 37.9 percent from beyond the arc. He is a sure lock for the Most Improved Player Award. With each game he is making his case for a spot on the Western Conference All-Star Team. He is the second leading scorer among centers in the conference. Deandre Ayton and Jonas Valančiūnas are behind Wood with their 14.4 averages.
Seven years ago Wood made a similar improvement between his freshman and sophomore years at UNLV.
“I averaged 4.5 points per game freshman year, and sophomore year I turned 4.5 points into 15.7 points per game and 10 rebounds per game. If that's not work ethic, I don't know what is," Wood told Adrian Wojnarowski on The Woj Pod.
Wood shockingly went undrafted in 2015, and signed with the struggling Philadelphia 76ers as a free agent. It was tough for a young, admittedly immature player to find his role on a team that went 10-72 that year. Wood was waived by the 76ers midway through the season.
He bounced around the G League from the end of 2015 thru 2018. He spent a brief period in the Chinese Basketball Association with the Fujian Sturgeons in 2017. Even they said he wasn't good enough and waived him. Luckily there was still a place for him in the G League with the Delaware 87ers, but time was running out on Wood's window to make it to the NBA.
Teams weren't calling. He could hear the narrative growing around the league. Was Christian Wood not good enough to play in the NBA?
A brief stint during 2018-2019 with the Milwaukee Bucks turned Wood's confidence around. Playing 1-on-1 against MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo every day assured Wood that he could compete with the best talent the NBA had to offer. He thought maybe I can play in this league. Pick-up games aside, the Bucks didn't find Wood worthy enough for a roster spot and waived him in March 2019.
The New Orleans Pelicans signed him two days later and Wood found minutes with Anthony Davis' absences due to trade demands and extended rest. Wood recorded multiple big scoring and rebounding nights with increased minutes. Nevertheless, Wood was waived again in July 2019.
Wood was picked up by the Detroit Pistons for 2019-2020 and finally found success in the league. All that had to happen next was for Wood to find an organization willing to give him a shot to be a key piece.
“I always felt like if I had the opportunity, if a team actually spent the time to invest in me, that I could produce and do what I'm doing now," Wood told Woj.
Enter Rockets GM Rafael Stone who recognized the production Wood would provide with regular starting minutes. And Wood hasn't let Houston down one bit.