Bucks’ young big man Wood believes he can be an ‘X-factor in the NBA’

Christian Wood has earned a spot in training camp for the Bucks after strong play in the Las Vegas Summer League.

Christian Wood made quite an impression at the Las Vegas Summer League.

While playing for the Milwaukee Bucks, Wood averaged 22.8 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.8 blocks in five games in July, while shooting better than 30.0 percent from beyond the 3-point arc.

It led to Wood being signed to a contract by the Bucks and with training camp only weeks away, he told Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype he is looking forward to the challenge of competing for a roster spot and believes he showed what he can do in Las Vegas.

“It felt good, I’ve been around numerous times so I had a good feel for the competition,” he said. “I felt like once I got things going, after the first game, I just knew it was going to be good. I had a good sense of how people guarded me on pick-and-rolls. I was able to impact the court on both ends while running the floor.

“My knowledge of the game, my energy and my hustle helped show that I have a motor that can help my team.”

Wood, a former collegiate standout at Nevada-Las Vegas while playing with future NBA players Patrick McCaw and Rashad Vaughn, said his body and his game has evolved.

He’s spent some time in the NBA the last two seasons, playing 17 games with the Philadelphia 76ers in 2015-16 and 13 for the Charlotte Hornets in 2016-17. In 30 games, he’s averaged 3.2 points and 2.2 rebounds, shooting 44.7 percent from the field and 66.7 percent from the free-throw line in 8.4 minutes.

“Big time! I put on like 20 pounds since the first year and I’m 7-foot with a 7-4 wingspan,” he told Kalbrosky. “I’ve been in the gym, getting in really good shape. I’m working on a routine and a dietary plan with my trainer. We have been doing all the little things you need to succeed. I’ve been training with Joe Abunassar at Impact Basketball in Las Vegas.”

Wood, a 6-foot-11, 220-pounder, also rubbed elbows with several NBA players while there.

“I have seen DeMarcus Cousins this summer. Norman Powell, Jared Dudley and Alan Anderson have all been there helping me out. Kyle Lowry comes by from time to time, too,” Wood said. “The best advice was from Cousins. He helped me out a little and when he saw me play, he told me if I kept putting in this work, people would start to see it. He said it was just a matter of time before it paid off.”

Wood’s ability to shoot the 3-ball was also on display during play in Las Vegas last month. He earned first-teal All-NBA Summer League recognition.

“It’s improving, I’m starting to knock it down and mix it up well,” he said. “I feel very comfortable from 3-point range. I work on it every day.

“Obviously, I cannot just be shooting from downtown all day because I’m a seven-footer. Like, most of my points were around or under the basket. It’s just a second or third thing for my arsenal. My game is still more hustling for rebounds and tipping in dunks, doing the little things. The 3-pointer does help stretch the floor, though, even though I’m usually near the rim.”

Wood believes his frame is conducive to being able to be a factor in the NBA on both ends of the floor.

“I’m able to alter shots, I have good feet and good timing to make my shot-blocking ability so strong,” he said. “They don’t anticipate my length when they see me driving down the lane. That stops them in their tracks.

“And on the offensive end of the court, I’m able to use long strides and finesse to help finish and score. Even when other guys are more physical, my length can beat them.”

Two guys with NBA experience assisted him during his three seasons playing in the G League, where he had averages of 20.6 points and 10.0 boards, Wood said.

“Someone who really helped me is Emeka Okafor — it was really good for me to be around him,” he told Kalbrosky. “Okafor told me some tips to help give me a longer career. He told me I can make a lot of money playing this game if I can just stick with my routine, working on the same program.

Elton Brand loved me, too. It was a big family down there. Brand was the general manager, but he was also a teammate, first. He always loved the energy I provided, it’s just all love with him. We have a great relationship.”

Wood is appreciate of his time spent in the G League.

“Going down there (G League) definitely makes you appreciate (the opportunity) a lot,” Wood told Gilbert Manzano of the Las Vegas Review-Journal during summer-league play. “Coming from the NBA my first year to then going down there, it’s two totally different games. It makes me more hungry to get back.”

Getting back to making quite an impression, the 22-year-old Wood said he heard exactly that from coaches this summer.

“They liked my versatility and how young I am despite how much experience I have,” he said. “I know I need to get stronger, but I know the way I can play has intrigued a lot of people. Even though I haven’t yet had a chance to perform like that on a big stage, I got some more eyes on me this summer and more people were able to notice this year. I just want to be able to showcase what I can do on the court.”

Wood believes all he needs is an opportunity, which should come at training camp with the Bucks in a few weeks.

“Once I get the time and people see me, I know that I can be an X-factor in the NBA,” he said. “I can run the floor and beat other bigs and I’m faster than most people my size.”