Oh boy. We are going to hear a lot about Rasheed Wallace over the next few weeks. The ‘Sheed rumors got off a rip-roaring start bursting with journalistic clarity when Gary Tanguay declared on CSN yesterday that, “It looks like [Wallace] will be a member of the Celtics…I’ll leave it at that.” (Hat tip: CelticsBlog). Tanguay than immediately clarified via his blog that he was just stating what his “gut” is telling him, based in part on the fact that ‘Sheed and KG are friends.
(In case you missed it, Ric Bucher Tweeted last week that ‘Sheed won’t come to Boston. Bucher is a solid Tweeter, by the way. Hollinger should invent a Twitter formula somehow measuring the Value Added each Tweeter creates based on the quality and quantity of tweets and the links he/she posts. Bucher would rank solidly here among NBA journos).
We’ll have more time to fully evaluate ‘Sheed, but here are some preliminary things to consider when debating whether ‘Sheed is worth the full mid-level exception (expected to be about $5.6 million):
1) He’s almost 35
2) In 2009, he scored the fewest points per 36 minutes (13.5) since his rookie year
3) In 2009, he recorded his lowest PER since his rookie year
4) In 2009, he recorded the lowest offensive rebounding rate of his career. (He grabbed 3.1 percent of available offensive rebounds, an unthinkably bad number that is far, far worse than the rate put up by every center in the NBA who qualified for the scoring title last season, according to Basketball Reference). In fairness, this has never been one of Wallace’s strong points.
5) In 2009, he had the lowest assist rate (7.1 percent) of his career
6) In 2009, his blocks per 36 minutes number fell to its lowest level since 2005
7) In 2009, an astonishing 89 percent of Wallace’s field goal attempts were jump shots, easily the highest number I could find among both power forwards and centers. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s simply an indication that his offensive game is very predictable now.
8 ) He has some sort of temper problem. You may have heard about this.
Look, these are facts. People love ‘Sheed. He’s colorful, he’s tough, he has a unique skill set–always has–and he said “Ball Don’t Lie.” But if this isn’t the profile of a guy on the decline, I don’t know what is. He just finished a season of surliness and occasional laziness, and he has fewer and fewer demonstrably above-average basketball skills.
But those skills are valuable. Among them:
1) He can shoot three-pointers. He hit 35 percent of his threes last season, basically the same hit rate he’s recorded since ’04. It’s not great. But it’s solid for a near seven-footer, and there is no question that the mere threat of ‘Sheed spotting up spaces the floor.
2) He rarely turns the ball over. His turnover rate has been below 10 percent in each of the last four seasons. Know how many other guys who use up at least 18 percent of their team’s possessions can make that claim? Three: Antawn Jamison, Tayshaun Prince and Dirk Nowitzki. Such an underrated offensive skill.
3) He’s still an ace defender when he tries, especially in the post. His ability to bother Dwight Howard is well-chronicled, and judging by the Shaq trade, everyone is supposed to make off-season acquisitions with the goal of stopping D12. (Just kidding–I know Shaq brings more to the table than just Howard Stop-ability, as Jay Bilas might say).
4) While his offensive rebounding his declined badly, his defensive rebounding hasn’t. He grabbed about 25 percent of all available defensive boards last season, the highest rate of his career. That would rate have ranked fifth among 20 centers eligible for the scoring title, behind only Joel Przybilla, Howard, Sam Dalembert and Emeka Okafor, according to Basketball Reference.
It’s no accident that Detroit’s offense and defense have performed better in the last two seasons with Wallace on the court than with him on the bench, according to 82games.com (See here for ’09, here for ’08). The effect is nowhere near as dramatic as it was when ‘Sheed was in his prime during the ’04 championship run (seriously, look at these freaking numbers) but there’s still some evidence the guy can have a positive impact on the floor–provided he’s motivated.
Would he be motivated to play 15-20 minutes per game as the C’s sixth man? Enough to offset an obvious drop-off in his raw basketball abilities?
Would you throw him $5.6 million to find out, leaving only the biannual exception and the vet’s minimum exception to fill the others holes on the team?