Posted on: July 24, 2023, 10:08h.
Last updated on: July 24, 2023, 10:51h.
The Los Angeles Lakers were close to signing former UNLV power forward Christian Wood. But the Chicago Bulls have entered the chat and can offer the free agent more money.
Wood, a 6-foot-10 big man, went undrafted out of UNLV. He’s played for seven different teams since entering the league in 2015.
Wood had several short stints with the Philadelphia 76ers, Charlotte Hornets, Milwaukee Bucks, and New Orleans Hornets before he established himself as a legit banger with the Detroit Pistons during the 2019-20 season.
Wood signed a contract with the Houston Rockets before the 2020-21 season, where he emerged as a potential All-Star who could fill the stat sheet with a double-double every night. In two seasons with the Rockets, Wood averaged 19.1 points and 9.9 rebounds per game.
Wood spent last season as the sixth man with the Dallas Mavericks after they acquired him in a trade with the Rockets. He averaged 16.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per game off the bench.
Wood now has a chance to contend for a title and play alongside superstar LeBron James if he signs with the Lakers. However, that would require Wood to take a significant pay cut. Wood could earn more money with the Bulls, but they’re a long shot to win the NBA championship next season.
Lakers Can Only Offer Minimum
The Lakers were the tale of two different teams last season. They finally traded point guard Russell Westbrook prior to the deadline, who had been a huge distraction all season. The role players around James and Anthony Davis eventually figured out how to effectively play with each other, and shooting guard Austin Reaves emerged as a fan favorite in Tinsel Town.
The Lakers looked like they were going to miss the postseason, especially after James went down with a foot injury. Without James, the Lakers rallied late in the season and qualified for a spot in the Western Conference Play-In Tournament with a 43-39 record.
The Lakers secured the #7 seed and picked off the #2 Memphis Grizzlies in the first round. In the second round, the Lakers were an underdog once again and upset the #6 Golden State Warriors. The Lakers ran out of gas in the Western Conference finals when they were swept by the #1 Denver Nuggets. But it was a heck of a magical run for the Lakers as the #7 seed.
A player like Wood would bolster the Lakers’ front line, and he could handle the more physical aspects of life in the trenches, which would reduce the overall wear and tear on the injury-prone Davis.
The Lakers were close to signing Wood a couple of weeks ago. But the Bulls have a big edge and could outbid the Lakers. The veteran minimum salary is $2.7 million next season, and that’s all the Lakers can afford to pay Wood.
Bulls Can Offer Wood a Higher Salary
The Bulls finished last season 40-42 and failed to secure a playoff seed after they were knocked out of the Eastern Conference Play-In Tournament. The Bulls have two superstar scorers in shooting guard Zach LaVine and small forward DeMar DeRozan, but only one ball, which is why the two clashed at different times last season.
LaVine and DeRozan were both the subject of trade rumors last season, yet the Bulls retained their top two scorers at the trade deadline. Center Nikola Vucevic was also mentions in trade discussions, but he signed a contract extension this off-season worth $60 million.
Wood would be a great fit with the Bulls and they could use his rebounding skills. He would improve the Bulls’ frontline defense and be a strong complement to Vucevic.
The outlook for point guard Lonzo Ball is bleak. Ball was supposed to rejoin the Bulls last season, but he’s struggled to regain form after multiple knee surgeries. There’s a chance that Ball’s career is over and that he might never play in the NBA again.
The NBA awarded the Bulls a special injury exemption and salary cap adjustment of $10.23 million. That provides the Bulls with the advantage to offer Wood a much higher salary than the Lakers.
The Bulls are a long shot to win the 2023-24 NBA championship at +17000 odds, and they’re the fourth-lowest team on DraftKings’ futures board. The Bulls are +6000 odds to win the Eastern Conference title.
The Milwaukee Bucks won the Central Division for the past five seasons, and they’re the favorite to lock up a six-peat this upcoming season at -290 odds. The Bulls are +2900 to win their division for the first time since 2012.
Futures Market Before Wood Heads to Hollywood
The Lakers are always a popular pick to win the NBA championship, whether or not they have a legitimate shot at a title. There are Lakers fans all over the country. But the ones in Southern California tend to have deep pockets, and aren’t shy about backing their beloved team with futures bets in Las Vegas, which often skews the futures market.
Although LeBron James hinted at retirement, he’s not quitting any time soon, and he’s fully committed to this upcoming season. If he’s serious about an impending retirement, this might be the last chance for James to win a title in a Lakers uniform.
James has publicly stated he wants to play for the same team that drafts his oldest son, Bronny, who will play for USC next season.
The Lakers are +1200 odds to win the 2023-24 NBA championship, according to DraftKings. They are the sixth-highest team on the futures board and are +750 odds to win the Western Conference.
The Phoenix Suns are the betting favorite to win the stacked Pacific Division at +160 odds after the Bradley Beal trade. They lead the Golden State Warriors (+280), Lakers (+350), Los Angles Clippers (+500), and Sacramento Kings (+1000). James Harden requested a trade to the Clippers, which should impact their futures if the Philadelphia 76rs honor his request.