Another day, another installation of "Camp questions". We pass the halfway point of the Celtics roster with a closer look at new Celtic Gerald Wallace.
About Gerald Wallace:
Wallace is the most tenured player on the Celtics, currently preparing for his 13th NBA season. He played only one season at Alabama before entering the NBA at age 19 in 2001. He spent his first three seasons with the Kings (he is the only member of the 2002 Kings, who were screwed over in the Western Conference Finals against the Lakers, still in the league), playing sparingly for a veteran Sacramento squad.
In 2004, Wallace got his big chance as he was selected by the Bobcats in the expansion draft. He spent six and a half seasons in Charlotte, helping the Bobcats to their one and only playoff appearance in 2010. Wallace is Charlotte's all-time leader in points and steals, 2nd in rebounds and blocks, and 5th in assists (amazing stat alert: six years after he left, KG is not only the all-time leader in all five categories for Minnesota, but he has more than double 2nd place in each. Insane).
Halfway through the 2010-11 season Wallace was traded to the Blazers, with whom he'd spend just about exactly one year. In 2011-12 the Nets came calling and traded their 1st round pick (who ended up being ROY Damian Lillard) for "Crash", and Wallace played well down the stretch for New Jersey. Last summer the Nets decided to keep Wallace, giving him a 4 year, $40 million deal as he entered his age 30 season. It was expected that Wallace could give them elite defense and be their 3rd/4th option on offense, but instead he completely fell off, averaging his lowest points, rebounds and minutes totals since he was with Sacramento a decade ago.
This summer he was part of the trade that sent KG, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry to Brooklyn.
Wallace will make $10.11 million this season. He has 3 years and $30.3 million left on his contract.
1. What the hell happened last season?
There are approximately two million stats I could bring up that show that Wallace had an awful season in 2012-13. From his per-game numbers, which dipped across the board. To his rate numbers, which dipped in everything except assists. To his efficiency numbers, where he shot his worst field goal percentage since 2003-04 and his worst three-point percentage since 2005-06.
In short, he was terrible.
But we already know that, so the better question is: why was he so bad?
Well one possibility is that he just never got used to his role as 4th banana with the Nets. Wallace was always a guy that had a usage rate (% of plays that a team runs through a player while he's on the floor) right around 20% throughout his career (I consider his career starting with the Bobcats as he played so sparingly in Sacramento).
From 2004-05 through 2012-13, a total of nine seasons, Wallace's lowest usage rate was 18.6%. His highest was 24.5%. On average, his usage rate was 20.1% for those nine years. Clearly he had become accustomed to being either the first or second option on his teams, something that was never going to happen once the Nets brought in Joe Johnson to join Deron Williams and Brook Lopez.
Last year, Wallace's usage rate plummeted to 14.5%, by far the lowest since he had become a legitimate NBA player. It's not too hard to see why that would impact his stats, after all, less touches = less impact.
While blaming it on his usage rate is looking at Wallace in a "glass half-full" way, there is also the "glass half-empty" idea that Wallace's athleticism simply dried up in his 12th NBA season. He has always been a guy who relied on his freakish athletic ability on both the offensive and defensive end. Considering he entered the NBA in 2001, it's not too big of a stretch to see why he may simply not have too many bullets left in the gun. Keep in mind that Wallace averaged 37 minutes per night from 2004-12, often times playing a "do everything" role for the Bobcats. When you combine that fact with his all out style of play (which earned him his "Crash" nickname), there could be too much tread on his tires.
2. Can Wallace adapt to his role off the bench?
Since his 2004 move to Charlotte, Wallace has almost exclusively started for his teams, coming off the bench only 18 times in 604 games played. However, with Jeff Green locked into the starting SF role, Wallace must learn his new role quickly.
If he can get over the mental adjustment of not starting the move could actually help Wallace quite a bit. After all he should be able to see a bigger role on the 2nd unit with Boston than he did as a starter in Brooklyn, which will hopefully allow him to return to the level of production we saw in the past.
It will also be interesting to see how often Wallace plays side-by-side with Green. Since Green is likely in line for 35 minutes per night, it's going to be important for Brad Stevens to figure out how to use the duo together so that he can maximize Wallace's value. When you consider how big both of them are (Wallace is 6'7", 215; Green is 6'9", 235), it seems likely that you could shift one of them to PF against some smaller line-ups (Miami is one such match-up that comes to mind).
Wallace should also help take some pressure off Green on the defensive end, where even last season, in a down year he still produced.
3. Is Wallace untradable?
One thing that I've heard over and over again since the July trade with the Nets is that Wallace is "untradable". But that's just not true.
Not in a league where Joe Johnson (4 years, $88 million remaining on his deal), Vin Baker (4 years, $56 million), and Andrea Bargnani (2 years, $23 million) have all been traded. In the NBA there is seemingly a sucker born every minute, and now it falls on Danny Ainge to find that sucker.
Of course, Wallace could make it easier on Ainge by returning to form this season. If that happens, all of a sudden Wallace's deal goes from "terrible" to simply "not very good", and it may not be a ridiculous thought that a team would be interested in Wallace at the trade deadline. By then Wallace will only have 2+ years and $24ish million remaining on his contract and in that last season he'll become a valuable trade chip with his $10 million expiring contract. So if he bounces back to career norms (on a per-minute basis) it really comes down to whether a contending team thinks that he can produce for them at the end of this year plus the 2014-15 season. Not an impossible situation to imagine.
For now though the smart money is on Wallace to be a Celtic at least until the trade deadline, and more likely for the entire season. Although if the Celtics do decide to trade Rajon Rondo look for Ainge to force whatever team wants RR to take Wallace with them. Because even if Crash can bounce back this year, he's still overpaid and 31 years old. Two things that don't jive with the Celtics rebuilding process.
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Michael Dyer 9/22/2013 07:25:00 PM Tweet