Posted by Zach Lowe on Jul 1, 2009
It’s time to start thinking about how Rasheed Wallace fits in with the Celtics. The team is courting ‘Sheed like I would court Mila Kunis if it weren’t for the restraining order, and it sounds as if ‘Sheed would be interested in coming here–provided the C’s offer him the full mid-level exception. I gave you a statistical breakdown of ‘Sheed’s unique game two days ago, so now let’s be a little less numbers-heavy and just talk hoops. Some thoughts:
• What does this mean for Kendrick Perkins?
Remember, Sheed has played almost all of his minutes at center since Ben Wallace left Detroit after the 2006 season. We think of him as a power forward, but he’s been an NBA center for the last three seasons, and he’s defended the big boys at least adequately (Example: Dwight Howard’s career averages head-to-head against Sheed: 18 points on 53 percent shooting). Some people regard him as among the very best–and smartest–post defenders in the league.
Look: Rasheed Wallace is not going to come to Boston and start at center. Kendrick Perkins has worked too hard and knows the defensive schemes too well to become a bench player. When KG went down, Perk suddenly found himself as the back line of the defense–the guy who had to show out on screen rolls and rotate back to the rim on damn near every position, all while helping on penetration, blocking shots and snaring rebounds. He handled it better than expected, and that experience will show this season when he has KG back to captain the defense.
He also set career highs in points per game, rebounds and PER, and he played the best offense of his career after KG went down. Perk is now a legitimate threat in the post.
He’s the starting center. Case closed. But is he the finishing center? Talk defense all you want, but coaches prefer to have their best possible offensive line-up on the floor when games get close and possessions become more precious. If he comes here and plays hard, I think you’ll see Sheed slide in for Perkins during the last six minutes of close games.
And my god, think about the spacing a Pierce-Allen-Rondo-Wallace-KG line-up would create. You take out Perkins, whose game doesn’t really extend beyond 10 feet yet, and you insert Wallace, who takes 44 percent of his shots from beyond the three-point line–and makes 35 percent of them. Rondo and Pierce should have a lot of space to work with when they drive into the lane.
All of this is assuming we’re not getting a guy who is about to become a stiff. As I told you earlier this week, last season was unequivocally the worst of Rasheed Wallace’s career. Big guys can stiffen fast. Think about how quickly ‘Sheed’s predecessor at center in Detroit went from All-Star to Useless. They are almost exactly the same age (Sheed is a week younger), and Sheed is already #60 on the league’s all-time minutes played list (right below Kobe and Ray Allen among active players).
What kind of deal does it take? And who fills out the rest of the roster? (Find out, after the jump).
I’m assuming ‘Sheed is going to want the full mid-level exception (about $5.5 million), which is all the Celtics can offer him. There is a market for ‘Sheed (the Spurs, Mavs and Rockets have all been linked to him already), and with his pedigree, an already-stacked team should be willing to offer him the mid-level if they believe he’ll push them over the top.
I’m going to be optimistic and assume that Sheed, at this stage of his career, is willing to sign a one-year deal. Teams looking to cut salary ahead of 2010 are not going to want to tie up their mid-level for more than one season.
The next question becomes: Who fills out the rest of the roster? Signing ‘Sheed would give the Celtics 12 roster players (assuming they let Gabe Pruitt walk), meaning there are three more spots up for grabs. Here are the three holes:
1) Back-up PG
2) Back-up wing
3) Big Baby and/or replacement free agent big man
I’ll ask: If the C’s use the full mid-level on Sheed, how are they filling these holes? (That’s aside from Big Baby, whom they can re-sign without cap limitations because of his Early Bird Rights). The only cap exceptions left would be the bi-annual exception (allowing a team to sign someone to a cheap deal–right now about $2 million per season–every two seasons) and the veteran’s minimum exception, which can be used on an unlimited players.
Is Anthony Parker coming here for $2 million per season? Is Grant Hill accepting the veteran’s minimum? What about (gulp) Stephon Marbury? (By the way, the Celtics absolutely should limit their offer to Marbury, should they make one, at the vet’s minimum. He deserves nothing more, but that’s a post for another day).
If not, how are the Celtics filling these roster spots? The only way to get around these salary limitations would be to do a sign-and-trade for one of these guys, but those scenarios present all sorts of problems, not the least of which is that Boston would have to surrender an expiring contract (Scal or TA, or both) to make the salaries match in such deal. Sign-and-trades also present a host of salary cap complications I won’t get into here, since we’re at 830 words.
Signing Sheed could turn out to be a great move. But at this time of year, everyone gets carried away with free agent and trade scenarios. (Sign BBD, sign Sheed and sign Barnes, then trade for Bosh!!!). Everything is more complicated than it sounds.
(On the bright side, we didn’t just blow our cap space on Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva! Go UConn!).