When you look at Rasheed Wallace what do you see?
•A 6-foot-11 player who shoots 3’s and owns a volcanic temper?
•A versatile big man who can defend power forwards and centers?
•A 14-year veteran who has logged over 1,000 games and is coming off a down season statistically?
•The best value for the Celtics to use their mid-level exception?
None of those reactions are wrong, necessarily, but it’s the final choice that seems to be at play here, and it’s probably the correct one, because the case for bringing Rasheed Wallace to the Celtics is relatively simple.
Let’s start on the court. Zach Lowe at Celtics Hub made the statistical argument that Wallace is declining as a player and it’s hard to argue with that analysis. No, Wallace isn’t as good as he was five years ago when he was an important piece -- more important than he has been given credit for -- of the Pistons world championship team. But he’s still effective as a defensive rebounder and shot blocker and it’s worth remembering the dysfunctional mess that Detroit became last season.
The Chauncey Billups-Allen Iverson trade was a bust, so much so that the Pistons basically asked the Answer to go away late in the season after he objected to coming off the bench. Recent reports out of Detroit had first-year coach Michael Curry feuding with Rip Hamilton. Not coincidentally, Curry is now the ex-coach.
Wallace did his best work in Larry Brown’s structured “Play the Right Way” system, which took advantage of his skills, and didn’t ask him to be something that he is not; namely a high-volume scorer. That wouldn’t be a problem in Boston where he could easily move into the latter act of his career as a sixth man.
As for his temper, it’s been fairly well-documented that what sets Sheed off is chaos, be it refs who lose control of the game, coaches who lose control of the locker room or media stuff. The media stuff (along with the outbursts usually directed at referees) has helped paint a negative portrait of Wallace, yet you rarely hear teammates complaining about playing with him.
In the anti-chaos department, he has a kindred spirit in Kevin Garnett, and the word is that KG has lobbied for his friend to come to Boston. The Celtics believe their locker room is as strong as any in the NBA and that no player, particularly no veteran player who understands how things work in the league, is going to be a problem.
But the off the court stuff is far less important than what Wallace can still do on the floor and here’s where he can be a huge asset for the Celtics, even if his production continues to decline. In a best-case scenario Wallace logs 25 minutes or so a night backing up Garnett and Kendrick Perkins. Wallace remains a good defender, someone whom Garnett said once was like, “looking in the mirror,” when he played against him. His shot-blocking presence would also be a huge addition to the second unit’s defense, which did not have any shot blocking presence last season.
Offensively, Wallace steps out and shoots 3’s as well as any big man in the league, the caveat there being that he doesn’t shoot it that well (he’s been between 35 and 36 percent the last four seasons). But having an outside shooting big man is a huge part of how the Celtics play and something that was missing during the playoffs without Garnett.
In Wallace, the Celtics would also have the perfect contingency plan if Garnett’s knees aren’t ready to take the pounding or if Perkins’ shoulder acts up, and as an added bonus he is said to be drawing interest from Dallas, San Antonio and Orlando. Keeping him away from one of those teams would also benefit the C’s.
If you assume that players like Anderson Varejao, Hedo Turkoglu, Trevor Ariza, Ron Artest and Lamar Odom are going to get more than the mid-level exception, then Wallace represents the best bang for the buck on a short-term deal. The question is for how many years, and as the Celtics let James Posey walk over a fourth year last season, one wouldn’t think they would want to lock up a 34-year-old until 2013.
An argument can be made that it would be wiser to spread the exception to two players to fill two needs -- say Anthony Parker and Antonio McDyess -- and that would be a solid Plan B, but there’s no guarantee that they could get two veteran players for that money. If the Celtics are going to dump their entire mid-level exception on one player, Wallace would be an excellent use of those resources.
A quick look at other developments affecting the Celtics:
THE EDDIE HOUSE EQUATION
Now that House has made the financially prudent decision to pick up his player option and stick with the Celtics, their backcourt has come into focus. Beyond financial considerations, this was a good move by House because he has found a home in Boston where the coaching staff has learned to take advantage of his skill-set.
House has proven to be a difference-maker when his jumper is falling, and a consummate professional even when it’s not. What he isn’t is a point guard, and it’s to his benefit that Doc Rivers has not shoehorned him into that role simply because of his size.
That means that the Celtics are in the market for a backup point guard who can run the team, create opportunity with a dribble-drive game and guard opposing two guards. That sounds an awful lot like Stephon Marbury.
Beyond the top three free agents (Jason Kidd, Andre Miller, Mike Bibby) who are going to be looking for starting employment and the two restricted free agents (Ramon Sessions, Ray Felton) whose teams have said they would try to re-sign, there are a handful of serviceable veterans on the market. But none bring the kind of ability to the table that Marbury does, at least the kind of ability that Marbury may still have.
Marbury didn’t show nearly enough during his time with the Celtics, but he’s the only one among the second-tier of free agent point guards who has demonstrated those skills, and if he’s willing to prove it with the Celtics this season on a low-money short-term deal it would be a solid investment.
BIG DEAL FOR BIG BABY?
It’s been clear by Danny Ainge’s actions that he would like to re-sign Glen Davis -- at the right price. Ainge indicated early in the process that the Celtics would tender Davis a contract offer, ensuring that he stays a restricted free agent, and he has consistently noted that he would let the market set the value for Big Baby’s services.
Speculation has had Davis getting offers of somewhere between $3 million and the entire mid-level exception, but a few things have already happened that have decreased the chances of Davis getting a huge deal.
Two of the teams with cap space who were looking for big men in free agency made moves on Wednesday. The Pistons were reported to have come to an agreement with Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon (who somehow scored a 5-year $55 million deal out of Joe Dumars which gives him $67 million worth of shooting guards signed to contracts over the next three years). That eats up most of the Pistons’ cap space and they are expected to try to retain McDyess.
Memphis, meanwhile, traded for Zach Randolph in a curious move, to say the least. The Grizzlies still have the space but with Randolph, Marc Gasol and Hasheem Thabeet in the fold they might be out of the market.
Oklahoma City is smartly targeting Paul Millsap and it’s doubtful Davis would fit with that roster anyway. Ainge is doing the right thing by letting the market dictate Davis’ value and a Wallace signing would provide further protection if it does indeed get too rich for their taste.
OPTING IN IS THE NEW OPTING OUT
Used to be when a player had an option on his contract he was as good as gone, but it’s a whole new world these days. Carlos Boozer, Memo Okur and Kyle Korver all elected to play out their deals with the Jazz and that means the sharks are circling around Millsap. (Er, thanks guys?)
Kobe Bryant didn’t exercise his early termination option with the Lakers; not that anyone expected him to leave Los Angeles, but that gives the Lakers one less headache to deal with as they contemplate re-signing Trevor Ariza and Lamar Odom. Jermaine O’Neal, Jamal Crawford, Kwame Brown, Michael Finley and even Ricky Davis have all elected to stay in their current deals. The only big name players who have opted out so far are Turkoglu and Varejao.
All those opt-in decisions have helped water down what was already a fairly thin free agent market and possibly helped drive up the markets for players the Celtics might have wanted to pursue; like Grant Hill.
THE CURIOUS CASE OF CHARLIE VILLANUEVA
The Milwaukee Bucks came into the offseason with two coveted restricted free agents -- Sessions and Villanueva. Despite owing Luke Ridnour starter money and drafting Brandon Jennings the Bucks elected to tender Sessions, which wasn’t all that surprising considering how well he’s played.
But they didn’t offer a qualifying offer to Villanueva a not-yet 25-year-old forward whose numbers have been heading in the right direction since he came into the league and the Pistons swooped in quickly and signed him.
Why would the Bucks cut the cord with Villanueva, particularly when they cleared room by dealing Richard Jefferson to the Spurs? The only explanation is that the team doesn’t want to deal with the luxury tax, but this is the kind of move that could haunt a team down the line.
The NBA is quickly lining up into a have and have-not league. The haves, which include the Celtics, Cavs, Magic, Spurs and Lakers are all making big pushes to stock their rosters with available talent. Cap space is a wonderful thing but this is less about the free agent bonanza of 2010 then it is about saving money in a depressed economy.