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Considering Blazers F Gerald Wallace's Future In Portland

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The theme of the day apparently is members of the 2010-2011 Portland Trail Blazers who haven't gotten much attention during the lockout and who might have played their last game in the Rose City if the 2011-2012 season is cancelled entirely.

Earlier, we noted a nice retrospective on veteran Blazers center Marcus Camby, who will be a free agent at the end of the 2011-2012 season and almost 39 years old when next year's training camp comes around.

Ken Berger of notes that Camby isn't the only member of Portland's frontcourt who could be exiting stage left if the season is lost. Blazers forward Gerald Wallace would also have the ability to become a free agent after the 2011-2012 season.

Gerald Wallace, for whom Portland will still owe Charlotte a 2013 first-round pick, could exercise his opt-out and leave the Trail Blazers after punching the clock for only 23 games. Portland owner Paul Allen, who sat mute in a key bargaining session when talks fell apart a few weeks ago, might finally have something to say about that.

Wallace is on the books for $9.5 million in 2011-2012 and has a player option for another $9.5 million in 2012-2013. Wallace will turn 30 next July and, despite all the concussions, has plenty of basketball left in him.

Without a new collective bargaining agreement in place, it's impossible to determine whether it will be in his financial best interest to exercise his option or not. It's quite possible that only the Blazers and a handful of the league's most frugal teams will be able to pay him in the vicinity of his current salary, but we won't know that for sure until the deal is done. Given that Wallace is Portland's second best player right now and the significant sunk costs that went into acquiring him, the Blazers will likely be highly motivated to keep him, whether that's next summer or the year after. If the eventual CBA looks anything like the league's latest proposal, the Blazers should be fully empowered financially to re-sign him. His personality and game are perfect fits even if there are some position fit questions with fellow forwards LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum. 

One major factor that could influence his decision: summer 2012 will be chock-full of A-list free agents and, if this season is lost, will have this year's class carried over too. That will make for a glut of big-money supply in an NBA new world order that will likely limit teams' ability to serve as big-money demand. Picking up the $9.5 million option and waiting until things clear out in 2013, when Wallace would be turning 31, could make a lot of sense. He could bank a very nice salary, his open market value isn't likely to decrease that much in those 12 months and the competition for available dollars in free agency should be substantially less if he waits. If you're wagering, the safe, smart money is on Wallace coming back, now and/or later.

Bonus Wallace reading: Sebastian Pruiti broke down some Wallace tape over at Basketball Prospectus

When the Charlotte Bobcats traded Gerald Wallace last February, he was in the middle of a down season, scoring just 15.6 points per game with a PER of 15.0, while posting a True Shooting Percentage (TS%) of 53 percent in 48 games. Upon his arrival in Portland, Wallace was immediately able to return to his past level of success. Despite seeing his minutes drop slightly, Wallace was able to not only match his scoring with the Bobcats, but exceed it by 0.2 points per game. Additionally, Wallace's PER rose dramatically to 18.9 while his .590 True Shooting was also higher with the Blazers.

The difference can be explained by the Portland coaching staff looking at what Wallace didn't do well in Charlotte and taking it out of his offensive repertoire. Specifically, they stopped letting him work away from the basketball and instead put the ball in his hands.


McMillan was able to recognize that Wallace's strengths lie here, where he can take advantage of the mismatches he creates, rather than letting him work off of the basketball, come off of screens and settle for outside shots. This was a great adjustment and also an example of how teams are able to look at a player's past situation and find ways to make a player more successful. Portland's coaching staff found a way to utilize Wallace's skills, and if they continue to let him exploit mismatches, he should be just as successful when basketball resumes.

-- Ben Golliver | | Twitter