NBA / Feb 22, 2008 / 9:50 am

The Key to the Cleveland Deal

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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    I like the addition of Delonte West. He seems to be more of a ball player than Larry “I’m hurt again…” Hughes. The don’t need him to be greater than Hughes, just smarter. Same for Wally….they will suffer a bit because Wally doesn’t play D…but you can camouflage that by playing team D…zones….and just don’t let him guard the Kobe’s or the Wade’s….no…

    I think it’s a win win for them, getting both JoeSmith, a smart veteran player who can still “finally play like he was the number one pick”. BigBen, will be okay, I think he gave up on the bulls with hard nose ScottSkiles, and even though they changed coaches it wasn’t like he was going to explode for 25points 20boards….he gives them a defensive presence. The didn’t have that with Gooden…..

    The Laker trade to get Gasol was highway “JerryWest rObbery……

  • Jah

    I like this trade for Cleveland. Consider the following rotation:

    PG – Daniel Gibson
    SG – Sasha Pavlovic
    SF – LeBron James
    PF – Anderson Varejo
    C – Zydrunas Ilgauskas


    G – Delonte West, Damon Jones, Eric Snow
    G/F – Wally Szczerbiak (consistent outside shooting)
    F – Joe Smith (interior offense)
    F/C – Ben Wallace (interior defense, toughness, experience and immense locker room presence)

    That’s a deep squad that will complement LBJ well. They are now the 3rd best team in the East behind Boston and Detroit. However, I think they could take out the top 2 teams should they meet in the playoffs.

  • Celts Fan

    I really like this trade too. Lots of people are questioning it, but I see it as a bigger upgrade than people make it out to be. Let’s take a look.

    They gave up:
    Larry Hughes (way too much $, doing alright, but made of paper mache)

    Drew Gooden (solid player, good low post scorer and rebounder)

    Donyell Marshall (can we help you with your suitcases?)

    Cedric Simmons (see ya in the d-league)

    They got back:
    Wally (great shooter, will let them stretch the floor and make them pay for cheating off him to LeBron. defense could best be described as, “at least he’s trying…”)

    Delonte (love this kid. saw him in person a ton over the past few years. good jumper, great attitude, combo guard that can effectively run the point and has a good enough J he can play the 2, very underrated defender. great insurance policy for gibson’s injury/if he leaves this summer.)

    Joe Smith (solid low post guy. will replace Gooden effectively)

    Ben Wallace (I hate him at the 5 – 6’9″ 5s don’t work when the athleticism starts to go. If they play him next to Big Z at the 4 though, I love it, that lets Z handle the offense and you have a monsterous defensive/rebounding tandem there and guys like Joe Smith or Varajauo you can replace him with at crunch time)

  • Celts Fan

    *and Wallace’s deal is front-loaded, so while it’s too much $$$, it decreases each year.

  • todd

    if you ask me, wallace’s decline is a combination of not feelin it in chicago and physical decline. the guy still has game if he’s motivated, just don’t expect the big ben from detroit.

    for all the larry hughes hating he was still a very good defender, and a key to cleveland’s lockdown D. but whatever the cavs lose on D, they get it back in O. larry killed them on that end.

    i’d love to see what lebron will do with 2 new shooters to add to boobie, an enforcer, and a more consistent and smarter inside scorer.