As we get closer to free agency, teams monitoring the power forward market believe that Christian Wood remains on the Knicks’ radar.
One team with interest in Wood expects the 25-year-old to be a top target for New York this offseason.
SNY reported in March that some in New York’s front office had been enamored with Wood. The Knicks had been monitoring Wood for much of the season prior to the coronavirus outbreak. Many teams were monitoring Wood ahead of the trade deadline, but New York was one of the few teams watching the Pistons regularly after the deadline -- an indication that the Knicks had a high level of interest in the forward.
Wood was in the midst of a career year during the NBA’s coronavirus-shortened 2019-20 campaign. After the Andre Drummond trade, Wood moved to the starting lineup and averaged 23 points, 10 rebounds, and shot 40 percent from beyond the arc as a starter.
Wood established a career-high in scoring in three straight games before the NBA suspended the season due to coronavirus. He had 32 points in Detroit’s last game of the year.
That run as a starter helped Wood finish the season ranked 13th in the NBA in PER. The only two players who weren't All-Stars ahead of him on the list were New York's Mitchell Robinson and Portland's Hassan Whiteside.
Detroit has Wood’s early-bird rights, so the club can exceed the salary cap to re-sign the power forward. But the Pistons will have competition.
ESPN’s Kevin Pelton ranked Wood as the No. 3 free agent in the 2020 class, based on which players can provide the most value over the next three years. So the Knicks probably aren’t the only team with cap space who see Wood as an offseason target.
Wood, an unrestricted free agent, would certainly fit New York's youth movement. And he also could fit into a gap in the club's front court.
Taj Gibson has $1 million of his $10 million contract for next season guaranteed, and Bobby Portis has a $15.7 million team option for next year. It’s unclear what New York will do with those options, but teams would be surprised if Portis’ option was exercised.
So New York could have just two big men on the roster (Julius Randle and Robinson) going into free agency. The Knicks also could have nearly $60 million in cap space this offseason, depending on what the club decides to do with its team options.
Interestingly, Wood's 2019-20 season numbers are comparable to another former Knicks power forward -- Kristaps Porzingis. As noted in March, Wood's scoring, rebounding and assist average per 36 minutes are on par with Porzingis, whom New York traded to Dallas in a deal that, so far, has looked awful for the Knicks.
Also noted in March: the Knicks need to do something productive with the cap space created by the Porzingis trade if they want to change the perception of the deal. Based on what Wood did last season, signing him this offseason would certainly help with that effort.