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Sheed: Please Don’t Be a Carlos Baerga

 

So, that happened. Rasheed Wallace is going to be a member of the Boston Celtics after signing a two-year deal worth the full mid-level exception (about $5.6 million for next season). I’ve already written about the decline in Sheed’s statistical production last season here, and how I think he would fit in with Kendrick Perkins here

Whenever one of my teams signs a big-name free agent whose career is clearly declining, I think of Carlos Baerga. In 1997, Baerga was 28 and entering his third second season (ed note: Thanks to commenter Josh for pointing out the error) with the Mets after two disastrously unproductive seasons in New York. In Cleveland, he’d been an All-Star on a Hall of Fame career trajectory, but something happened in 1995, and his game fell apart. But 1997 was going to be a bounce back season. In story after story, he told reporters he had found God, given up booze and gotten himself into shape. I remember one columnist arguing that Baerga would surely play better because he’d be surrounded by other Spanish-speaking infielders (Rey Ordonez and Edgardo Alfonzo), which would make him feel more comfortable. 

I bought all of it, and drafted Baerga in my fantasy league. Of course, he continued to be a disaster. None of the off-the-field changes or cultural comfort mattered at all. He was washed up physically (or, more likely, mentally), and he wasn’t going to recover. 

This is not to say any of this applies to Sheed. At 34, he’s a much, much more productive basketball player than the 28-year-old version of Carlos Baerga was a baseball player. And he fits perfectly here. Think about it like this: He does everything Glen Davis does, but better (except for grabbing offensive boards) and he does a lot of things Glen Davis simply cannot do. (Note: Amid your Sheed Euphoria, consider whether this is the end of Glen Davis’s Celtic career, and what that might mean for the future of a team that is very old and has exactly two proven assets under 30. Gary Tanguay has Tweeted that he expects Davis to be a Spur very soon. Hat tip: Graydon at the Spurs blog 48 Minutes of Hell).

Glen Davis became a valuable offensive player last season because his jump shot helped the C’s space the floor and gave defenses an extra threat to think about. Rasheed Wallace can do the same thing, except he can stretch the floor even further. As we’ve discussed, about 44 percent of his shot attempts last season were three-pointers. In fact, one look at his NBA.com hot spot data shows there is a lot to like in Sheed’s oft-criticized shot selection. 

The thing that immediately struck me was how few long two-point jump shots Sheed attempted. Yes, everyone would like Sheed to post up more on offense and work for interior shots, but at least he’s not out there chucking up 20-footers–the least efficient shot in the game. Add up all those long two-point attempts, and they average out to almost exactly 1.5 long two-pointers per game. I can live with that. 

On defense, Glen Davis became a useful player this season because he worked damn hard to not be a defensive liability. Even so, he had trouble defending the screen-roll and guarding big men who are too strong or too quick for him, though he uses his broad base effectively. 

Sheed, at 6’10”–at least–has no such problems. He’s played center for the last three seasons, and he can defend a variety of skilled big men. He has managed to hold Dwight Howard to 18 points on 53 percent shooting despite a mismatch in size and athleticism, according to Basketball Reference. He’s not exactly bottling up D12, but he’s not getting steam-rolled, either.

As I mentioned last week, there are observers of the NBA who still consider Sheed among the most highly-skilled and smartest post defenders in the league. (For more on Sheed’s defense, smarts and personality, since this great Eric Adelson profile of Sheed in ESPN the Magazine, which Jeff at CelticsBlog helpfully dug up last week). He will be able to spell both Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins for more extended stretches than any back-up big the Celtics have had since KG got here. That has enormous benefits. We still don’t know how well KG’s knee is going to hold up in, say, Game 52 of next season. 

He will also likely replace Kendrick Perkins in the team’s crunch time line-up on a semi-regular basis.

Truly, I believe signing Rasheed Wallace could have just as big an impact on the Eastern Conference hierarchy as Cleveland’s deal for Shaq and Orlando’s decision to trade for Vince Carter instead of signing Hedo Turkoglu

But this is where I find myself thinking of Carlos Baerga. I just spent several paragraphs raving about Sheed despite an obvious decline in production last season. But wait! Detroit was a dysfunctional team in 2009 with a young point guard learning on the job, a star player who fit in so poorly the team basically told him to go away, and a star two guard who reportedly didn’t get along with his unprepared rookie head coach. The team was a mess! Maybe Sheed was frustrated and unmotivated. 

That won’t happen here, not with the magical motivational powers of KG and a newly realistic chance at a ring! Right? We’re getting a fully engaged, fully driven Sheed who is not breaking down physically after more than 34,000 minutes played in the NBA. Right?

Right?

I’m hopeful that we are, and I’ll be rooting for Sheed as if he’s been here for ten seasons. Help us win #18, and you’ll be a legend in New England.

  • csm99

    Go out and get Hill, and resign Big Baby Davis if we keep everyone from last year Except Moore, Marbury, and Ether Hudson or Pruitt. We will have a full roster then we can start coming together and how it's looking if we stay healthy we will win 18 no matter who we go against.

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  • Bob Johnson

    Sheed? He quit on his team last year and is nothing more than a spot up 3 point shooter!

    What is this the official AARP team of the NBA?

    My god this is disgusting

  • Steve

    Bob, Rondo and Perk are both starters on this team and both younger then the C's draft pick. If they resign Davis for the right price he is also a future starter that is under 25. While the best players on the team are over 30 don't you think that could be because they are still in their prime? While late in their prime they still have learned what it takes to win a title. Why don't you go root for Portland or OKC? They are young and have no hopes of a title.

  • jason

    Well, it fits Ainge's "2-year window" plan pretty well. I think motivation is a huge factor with Wallace. You know I've always been a 'Sheed fan. I don't see him having any problems with being a "role player" if he thinks this team can win it all. I don't think Boston needs him to be '04 Sheed on offense if he can be '04 Sheed on defense.

    To me, the big question is how hungry he is to get back to the Finals. Hungry 'Sheed is dangerous for the East, especialy Mr. Howard. Complacent 'Sheed is damaging to the Cs.

  • John

    This article managed to talk me into Sheed, if only a little. Still, the answer is not to get older. That was precisely the Celts problem last season, remember? How quickly we forget that old age leads to injuries, which leads to breaking down when it matters most. And now this news that the team is also pursuing Grant Hill?! Why don't the C's sign every member from the 1986 team and call it a day. Ariza? Childress? Any wing defender that can shoot the 3? I feel like there had to have been a better option out there.

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  • Josh

    How was 1997 Mr. Baerga’s third season with the Mets? In 1995, he was the starting second baseman and third hitter for the Cleveland Indians that went to the World Series and lost to the Braves in six games. In 1996, he began the season with the Indians, but after a slow start, the Indians traded him to the Mets in the middle of the 1996 season. So 1997 would have been Mr. Baerga’s FIRST full season as a Met, not his third. Can we get a fact check before Mr. Lowe publishes his next article? Now, whether you take this article seriously… I’ll leave that decision up to you.

  • Matt

    csm99,

    Don’t worry, I think even with this many old players your team will win more then 18 games next year. ;-)

    You won’t get past LeBron & Shaq, much less Vinsanity & D12.

    Two years and you’ll get a good lottery pick.

  • http://angryirish.com Lefty

    Ok so Sheed, Pierce, Garnett and Ray Allen make the Celtics Geriatric and the AARP gang…yet Cleveland just got a 37 year old Shaq and Orlando just DOWNGRADED from a (just turned) 30 year old Turkoglu to a 32 year old Vince Carter (who has definitely lost a few steps since his ultimate ‘prime’). How are Celtics fans supposed to fear Orlando and/or Cleveland? The Celtics will have a deeper more talented team next year than anyone in the East. If they can resign Big Baby they will also have three 25 and unders that could be future solid players/stars. Are people forgetting about Rondo and Perk? Neither of them are near the age of 29 (average peak year for an NBA player). The only thing that scares me is Lebron James but I still think they will be too much of a one man band to win. Face it the Celtics lost their best player to injury last year. If the Cavs, Magic or Lakers lost their best player there is no way they would compete.

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  • BeanTown Classics

    Sign Sheed, Powe and Hill. Bye bye big baby, steph and moore. Win the title again.As long as Tony Allen can get himself healthy for a full season and Pruitt can continue to develope I think this team is set to go deep for Many years to come. Rondo and Perkins are a solid foundation. Continue to surround them with solid Vets and this team will contend for a long time.

  • tomthetoe74

    Sheed is an idiot. He is going to shame Celtic pride. A leaky vessel to say the least. BUST!

  • jay

    Celtic pride?

    Sorry, but the celtics led the league in Ts last year, Garnett and Perkins are two of the biggest loud mouths in basketball, Wallace is going to fit right in.

    As far as Cleveland/Orlando go, not worried in the least. I think they hurt their chances with those trades, Carter is nowhere near the player he used to be, and shaq isn’t scaring anyone anymore. Perkins will limit D12 and Shaq, granted not without foul trouble, but with wallace to back him up (who handled D12 pretty well in the past, and is an excellent post defender) it won’t be an issue.

    Now if we can just find a reliable second string PG.

  • thomas whigham

    nelson or rondo?
    allen or carter?
    pierce or pietrus?
    garnet or lewis?
    howard or perkins?

    Call the first one a tie if you want. Carter has Allen covered. Pierce has pietrus. KG has Lewis but my guess is at this point the discrepancy has shrunk. Howard has Perkins. Its either 2, 2, tie, or 2, 3 in favor of the magic depending on your view of meer and rondo.

    as far as depth, boston has a lot, and if you guys sign hill that’s even sicker. but as far as people talking about a washed up star SG past his prime, its ironic for Boston to say that, and that includes Allen’s 53 point massacre of the bulls.

  • http://www.celticshub.com Zach Lowe

    @thomas: I don’t think I said VC is a washed up, did I? I actually have a healthy fear of his athleticism (though I think his shot selection occasionally veers into poor territory)

  • jay

    Noone said he’s washed up, and glad ya brought up Allen, let’s look at the difference.

    Carter, made his living off creating his own shots, he beats people off the dribble, he hits fall aways, he dunks over you. At 32, he’s now just a step slower on that first move, just a step slower getting into that lane. For a cut and slash player, one step makes all the difference.

    Allen is a completely different player, he gets open with the help of his team. He moves off screens, without the ball, and finds space. The only thing he loses, is maybe he doesn’t have the endurance he once did, and might need more time on the bench, but even that’s debatable.

  • http://aol.com steven c

    Clearly, the Celts have chosen short over long term since Sheed will be 35 by opening day. I am unconvinced this is a wise move, simply because I don’t see the upgrade over Davis/Powe. Let us look at Wallace over the last three years (where his production has eroded marginally). About 31 mins a game, 12.5 points on .425 shooting (.355 from 3pt),
    7 boards and 1.6 assists. (last year 32, 12, .419, .354 , 7.4, 1.4). Last season Powe/Davis 35.3 mins 14.7 on .490 shooting (3pters is not applicable since Powe took none and Davis was 2 of 5) 8.4 boards and 1.6 assists. So it appears that apart from 3 point shooting it’s at best a wash. And you lose two promising young players. I forgot, there is one area where Sheed’s stats are an upgrade. Technical fouls! Sheed, over his career has averaged 21 a year (though to be fair it’s only been 17 a year the last three years!), whereas Powe and Davis managed a paltry 6 between them! Frankly, I think this was not a good move and adding Grant Hill who’ll be 37 (and a rickety 37 at that!) also won’t help the Celtics either. To put it simply adding more age to an aging team does not appear to be a fruitful move. Frankly, if Garnett is fit all season, and Pierce and Allen avoid serious injury, then Boston is a contender in the East. If not, then with or without Wallace, the Celtics won’t challenge. But as hack reprters are wont to end their pieces: “Only time will tell!”

  • Michael

    Matt Barnes! Matt Barnes! I really think he would complete the picture so long as Pruitt can sufficently bakup Rondo. All the talk two years ago was uncertainty about starting a sophmore PG with the Big3. Well that went… um… pretty OK, not bad, maybe it worked (oh wait, won NBA title). Now with the (awesome and great fit) addition of Sheed, all we need is a 3rd year backup point guard to step up and sign a Posey replacement/upgrade (Barnes). I hope Baby is back, I would really miss him, but if forced to choose, I’d go with Barnes. Still not 100% sure how to guard Rashard Lewis, but I think KG will figure it out :) Can’t overlook Lebron, but if it didn’t work out this year and I don’t see it workin next year just because you went out and got Shaq (see PHX 1st round exit 2008, no playoffs 2009). Lebron IS NOT staying in Cleveland, and they should trade him even though they won’t.

  • Michael

    on a side note, for all my love for the guy, I don’t recommend taking Rasheed Wallace in the top 100 of your fantasty draft!

    Rondo on the other hand will be 2nd round worthy.

  • http://chadfx.com Chad

    As a Lakers fan I am terrified of these new look Celtics. I was already terrified of the old look Celtics. All I know is this last June could ended a lot differently if KG didn’t hurt his knee in Utah earlier this year, and this signing gives the Celtics another versatile, skilled, defensive big man and a frontline that will torment all other NBA frontlines.

  • thomas whigham

    Zach i was talking to someone from the comments section, specifically: Orlando just DOWNGRADED from a (just turned) 30 year old Turkoglu to a 32 year old Vince Carter (who has definitely lost a few steps since his ultimate ‘prime’). How are Celtics fans supposed to fear Orlando and/or Cleveland… basically the presumption of invincibility. I think Boston has depth that is scary, and can rest the big three, especially if you sign Hill to spell Pierce. But not being afraid of VC is I think incongruous with the fact he’s a top 5-6 SG in the league. I usually pop over here and read the blogs, thanks for the input guys :)

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