The Key to the Cleveland Deal

By: 02.22.08  •  5 Comments
IMAGE DESCRIPTIONPhoto courtesy Steve & Barry’s

Most of the Cleveland-area reaction to yesterday’s last-second, 11-player deal falls somewhere between “We’ll see” and “And at least they did something.” Which is understandable. From a pure talent standpoint, you can’t really argue that Cleveland’s infusion of new players is only slightly better than what they had prior to Thursday.

So, for the “We’ll see” people, the wisdom of this move will most likely come down to one guy: Ben Wallace. And we’re not just talking about Ben’s play on the court; we’re also talking about his act off it. It’s a topic explored by the Akron Beacon-Journal‘s Patrick McManamon this morning:

But the most interesting acquisition, by far, is Wallace.

The Wallace of Detroit

If Wallace is the Wallace who played in Detroit, the Cavs have an inside defensive presence they have not had in James’ tenure.

The Ben Wallace who played in Detroit was a powerful presence. He worked, he fought, he enforced, he rebounded and he blocked shots. He earned his status by working for everything — and he was named the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year four times.

That Ben Wallace was impossible to dislike.

Wallace still can guard the best of the NBA’s inside players, and the Cavs acquired him with an eye on Boston’s Kevin Garnett and Detroit’s Rasheed Wallace — two likely playoff opponents.

But Wallace in one sense was also the Larry Hughes of Chicago, a big-money, free-agent signee who did not live up to expectations and who became the object of fan scorn.

Perhaps it’s no coincidence, then, that the two were traded for each other.

Wallace signed a four-year, $60 million contract with Chicago prior to last season, then bickered with former coach Scott Skiles over wearing his famous headband.

The Bulls did not allow headbands. In one game, Wallace wore one anyway.

Headbands, happily, will not be an issue in Cleveland. With James sporting one every game, Wallace can probably wear as many headbands as he wishes, including inside out and upside down if he so wishes.

But there are some worrying numbers about Wallace.

His 1.6 blocks are his fewest since the 1999-2000 season. Same with his 8.8 rebounds.

Wallace is not an offensive player — to say the least — but he’s shooting 37 percent, his worst mark since he was a rookie. Also, his free-throw shooting invites him to be fouled late in games; his career mark is 41.7 percent, and he’s never topped 50 percent in his career.

He’s also 33.

What’s wrong?

So the numbers beg questions.

Do they indicate Wallace is on the decline?

Are they the result of unhappiness in Chicago?

If they are the result of unhappiness, is it wise to bring in a guy who did not play past his unhappiness when he was making $15 million a year?

Or was Wallace simply a bad fit in Chicago’s offense, where he had to be the only inside presence?

Will he be a better fit in Cleveland, where he has Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Anderson Varejao to play off and with?

And will it help him to return to a team where he can go back to concentrating on rebounding and playing defense? To being the enforcer for the King himself?

Really, that will be his role again.

And that might be a role he is most comfortable filling.

To read the full article, go HERE.

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