Michael Scotto, SNYNets.com
Last season, Nets general manager Billy King traded forward Shawne Williams, the expiring contract of Mehmet Okur, and a conditional first-round pick (Damian Lillard) to the Portland Trail Blazers for forward Gerald Wallace at the trade deadline.
The move appeared risky at first glance. Wallace was in the final year of his contract and gave no indication he would re-sign and join the Nets in Brooklyn.
Wallace played 16 games with the Nets during the franchise’s final days in New Jersey before becoming an unrestricted free agent.
After the season, King and Wallace’s agent,Rob Pelinka, hammered out a four-year, $40 million contract.
With Wallace officially on board, King traded for Joe Johnson and re-signed Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Kris Humphries.
On Media Day, Williams was asked how he felt about being teamed with Wallace and Johnson. Both players were the only two other starters on board and two key reasons why Williams re-signed with Brooklyn.
“I just think those are two of the best players at their position and I feel like I’m one of the best players at my position,” Williams said.
With that in mind, is Wallace one of the “best” players at his small forward position?
Last season, Wallace was ranked in the Top-5 among small forwards in defensive rebounds per game, rebounds per game, steals per game, minutes per game, and double-doubles. Wallace ranked fourth in defensive rebounds per game (5.16) and rebounds per game (6.66). Wallace ranked fifth in doubles-doubles (9), steals per game (1.5), and minutes played per game (35.8).
Based on those numbers, Wallace can be considered one of the top defensive small forwards in the league. At 6-foot-7 and 220 pounds, Wallace has the size, leaping ability, and strength to guard any opponent. Wallace can close out on stretch power forwards beyond the arc, stay in front of players cutting across the lane, and own the glass down low.
Wallace also ranked Top-10 among small forwards in field goal percentage, free throws made, free throws attempted, and offensive rebounds per game. Wallace had one of the best strokes at his position and ranked eighth in field goal percentage (.454). At the charity stripe, Wallace ranked ninth in free throws made (3.10) and free throws attempted (3.88). On the glass, Wallace ranked 10th in offensive rebounds per game (1.5).
In this case, Wallace’s numbers prove he is an above average slasher that can draw fouls on opponents. He is also an underrated rebounder that can keep possessions alive thanks to his nose for the ball and hustle. In fact, Wallace’s offensive rebounding prowess has earned him the nickname “Crash.”
Wallace ranked Top-15 among small forwards in points per game, field goals made, free throw percentage, and player efficiency rating. He ranked 11th in points per game (13.79) and 12th in field goals made (4.95). And Wallace also ranked 15th in free throw percentage (.800), and player efficiency rating (15.79).
These statistics further validate Wallace’s rank as an above average offensive small forward.
Quite simply, his versatility on both sides of the court makes him a unique asset for the Nets. Wallace’s ability to play both forward positions allows coach Avery Johnson to matchup with any opponent’s frontcourt on defense and cause mismatches on offense by pushing the tempo.
“My game is such that I adjust to where I’m playing at,” said Wallace at Media Day. “Whatever coach wants me to do, or however he wants me to play, I’m always comfortable with.”
At this point in his career, Wallace understands he’s entering the last of his prime years and he wants to make the most of them.
“You’re getting to that age where you feel complete with a championship,” said Wallace on Media Day. “It’s about everybody being hungry and being comfortable with what they’ve done over their careers. That’s what drives us as a team and individuals.”
The fact that Wallace was the first core player signed by the Nets this summer spoke highly of his value.
Although he is the least likely of the starting five to garner major headlines, Wallace prefers it that way. Wallace said he was “scared of the city,” and all the people in New York, preferring the comfort of the New Jersey suburbs. Wallace is a veteran leader and a role player only in mindset, not talent. Expect him to play a critical role in many Nets victories this season.
Michael Scotto is an Analyst for SNYNets.com. Follow him on Twitter for the latest news from Brooklyn and the NBA: @MikeAScotto