Our good friends at Rufus on Fire sat down with us last evening to provide some perspective on the newest Portland Trail Blazer acquisition. Ben Swanson and the guys at R.O.F. have been watching Gerald Wallace for years, including his meteoric rise and recent decline. Here are there perspectives.
Blazersedge: Let's get this out of the way right away. No matter what your future hopes, no matter what stage of development your franchise is in, it's a bummer to lose your figurehead All-Star for cap relief and picks. What's the state of mind among Charlotte fans right now? And what's the insight as to why the Bobcats made this move?
Rufus on Fire: I think most fans view this as a heart-breaking, but necessary move. I hate to use the cliché, but he was the heart and soul of this team. For so many years, he just laid his body out there every night for the team. Fans love to see that from their players, and to see him evolve into an all-star meant a lot. So, it's definitely not easy to see him leave, especially only one season removed from his all-star appearance. That said, the move had to be made. Charlotte's been teetering on the edge of the playoffs since around 2009. However, the team was built around veterans, so there was very little room to grow. Regardless, the Bobcats, being a small market team, refused to give up and rebuild because of support (and thus revenue) would be lost if the team had to rebuild again after such a short period of "success" (as compared to the rest of the Bobcats' years as a franchise). The way this team has struggled this season, I think showed that they had to make an effort to rebuild by trading on of their more valuable veteran players. Given Stephen Jackson's reputation around the league with referees/technicals, it didn't surprise me that the Bobcats were only able to move Wallace, who can fit on just about every team. The two picks helps the team rebuild through the draft and the expiring Przybilla gives the Bobcats financial flexibility. Dante Cunningham is also a young player who I'm happy to see come over.
B.E. Gerald Wallace has been amazing at times, ineffective at others, and injured. What's the ratio been lately? What should Blazer fans expect as far as percentage of maximum potential he's able to give? Also how serious is the degradation of his body and/or skills going to be over the next few years?
R.O.F. That's tough. As far as a ratio, I'd guess it would have to be 40:40:20 of good:ineffective:injured. Wallace has sat out for some games this season, but they've mostly just been nagging injuries like a minor sprained ankle, etc. Nothing like the punctured lung or other more serious injuries he's seen in past years. Despite injury worries, Portland fans should still expect to see high energy basketball. His overall percentage of max potential is probably still up around 80-90%, I'd say. I think being on a competitive playoff-caliber team will re-energize him to a degree as well. His body over the next few years is worthy of concern. However, I bet that risk goes down in Portland since he was playing 40+ minutes a night for years here but the depth of the Trail Blazers will allow him to play fewer, more effective minutes. Don't get me wrong - there will be a drop-off over the next few years. It's hard to say how much though. It could be pretty rough when it comes down to the last season of his contract. I don't think he can pull off the Larry Johnson-esque adjustments after his athleticism leaves him. But who knows. After all, he's all about putting in every ounce of effort.
B.E. What are Wallace's greatest strengths and what are his shortcomings? In what situations does he function best?
R.O.F. His effectiveness on offense this season has definitely been frustrating. I don't think I've ever seen him get called for so many charges. Perhaps teams have figured out his offense or perhaps he was playing through some minor injuries that he never talked about. Whatever the case, his offense has been as inconsistent as it's ever been. However, that shouldn't be much of a problem anymore since he won't have to be the #1 or #2 scorer on the Blazers, like he's had to be for so long on the Bobcats. His real value is on defense and rebounding. His defensive footwork and ability to draw charges are great. He also rebounds better than just about any small forward out there. I'd expect a decrease in rebounds though since Portland actually has big men who can rebound, as compared to Charlotte. He functions best on the fast break. His recklessness and sheer will to get to the rim allow him to get to the hoop while opponents usually can't help but foul.
B.E. At the end of the day, what will be Charlotte's lasting impression of Gerald Wallace?
R.O.F. Gerald Wallace leaves the legacy of being the first (and so far, the only) Bobcats to ever be an all-star. But more than that, people will remember his effort, versatility on both sides of the ball and acrobatic plays on the court that left everyone proud to call him a Charlottean.
Thanks to Ben for taking the time for us. Be sure to visit Rufus on Fire to get more perspective on this trade.