Did the Miami Heat make a mistake by not signing Christian Wood before the Lakers?
The Los Angeles Lakers Tuesday night signed Christian Wood to a two-year deal, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, taking a potential Miami Heat free-agent target off the market.
It’s been a long summer for Wood, who saw his value plummet to the veteran minimum after an up-and-down season with the Mavericks. Wood had been a rumored target of both the Lakers and Heat before the Lakers decided to sign him.
Wood’s contract is worth $2.7 million this season and has a player option for 2024-25 worth about $3M, per ESPN’s Bobby Marks.
This begs the question: Why didn’t the Heat make a move to sign him sooner?
The answer comes down to the Heat’s ongoing pursuit of Damian Lillard. The Heat are waiting to get clarity on the Lillard situation before filling out the roster. Miami currently has 13 players on standard contracts, and the front office had to jump through some CBA hoops just to fill out the training camp roster.
Because a Lillard trade with the Portland Trail Blazers would likely be complicated and include multiple teams, the Heat did not want to tie up roster spots or finances that could potentially handcuff them in any deal-making.
It’s a shame, because Wood’s potential fit on the Heat’s roster — and perhaps in the frontcourt alongside Bam Adebayo — seemed ideal. Wood, 27, is a productive rebounder, scorer and 3-point shooter who would have provided much-needed size and spacing to Miami’s rotation. He averaged 16.6 points and 7.3 rebounds last season, and is a career 38% 3-point shooter at 6-foot-10.
But there’s a reason Wood was still available at the minimum. He’s a below-average passer and defender for a big man and has played for seven teams in his seven NBA seasons as coaching staffs and teammates have grown frustrated with his tunnel vision on offense and uninspired defense. Mavericks coach Jason Kidd was often critical of Wood in the media and, by midseason, it was clear his days in Dallas were numbered.
To sign Wood would be making a bet on his talent and the coaching staff’s ability to coax more out of him on the defensive end. Perhaps the Heat would have felt comfortable doing that after a Lillard trade was completed, but they have made their priority clear. The Heat likely won’t sign a 14th player until a trade is completed or until they have to. NBA teams must have 14 players under standard contracts by the start of the regular season.
Taking a chance on Wood would have been a gamble for the Heat, but a low-risk one that the Lakers were ultimately willing to make.