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What’s Left in Sheed’s Tank?

Posted by Neil Paine on July 31, 2009

Having covered the moves made by the Lakers, Magic, and Cavaliers this offseason, we now turn our attention to the Boston Celtics, whose bid to repeat as champions in 2009 was derailed by a number of late-season injuries, including the especially catastrophic loss of Kevin Garnett for the entire playoffs. In the wake of that injury and the subsequent loss of Leon Powe, Boston was reduced to starting Glen Davis and giving significant minutes to Brian Scalabrine (!!) off the bench in their series loss to Orlando -- a series which they managed to extend to 7 games despite the patchwork frontcourt. So when Boston opted not to bring the injured Powe back (and they may not re-sign Davis, either, depending on the offer he draws from another team), it was clear they needed to revamp their big-man situation before the window permanently closed on the mighty triumvirate of Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen.

Enter Rasheed Wallace...

Year Ag Tm Ht Pos G Min trORtg %Poss trDRtg Stat+/- OWS DWS WS
1996 21 WSB 82 F 65 1788 102.8 17.6 108.7 -2.48 0.6 1.8 2.4
1997 22 POR 82 F 62 1892 114.6 20.8 104.0 0.69 3.6 2.9 6.5
1998 23 POR 82 F 77 2896 111.9 17.8 106.0 0.70 3.8 3.8 7.5
1999 24 POR 82 F 49 1414 115.2 19.5 102.6 1.57 2.6 2.4 5.0
2000 25 POR 82 F 81 2845 112.7 20.7 103.2 1.12 4.4 4.5 9.0
2001 26 POR 82 F 77 2940 117.1 22.2 105.0 3.64 6.7 4.1 10.8
2002 27 POR 82 F 79 2963 114.1 21.9 105.3 3.01 5.5 4.1 9.6
2003 28 POR 82 F 74 2684 114.1 21.8 106.3 2.73 5.0 3.3 8.3
2004 29 POR 82 F 45 1675 110.8 22.1 110.0 1.72 2.4 1.3 3.7
2004 29 ATL 82 F 1 42 84.8 28.2 108.0 -2.62 -0.1 0.0 -0.1
2004 29 DET 82 F 22 673 107.7 21.7 95.7 5.07 0.7 1.7 2.3
2005 30 DET 82 F 79 2687 105.5 21.2 101.0 1.72 1.9 4.9 6.8
2006 31 DET 82 F 80 2780 112.0 19.7 102.2 4.60 3.9 4.7 8.5
2007 32 DET 82 F 75 2419 106.4 18.6 101.6 2.99 1.7 4.2 5.9
2008 33 DET 82 F 77 2346 108.8 19.4 98.8 5.26 2.4 4.8 7.2
2009 34 DET 82 F 66 2123 107.1 17.3 103.5 3.18 1.5 3.2 4.8
2010 35 BOS 82 F Proj 2.62

Contrary to a lot of people's perceptions, 'Sheed didn't have a horribly bad year last season -- yes, he suffered multiple leg injuries, his conventional numbers were down (14.2 points/36 min. on .419 shooting isn't exactly the greatest thing to put on your free-agent resume) and his efficiency stats dropped across the board (worse ORtg, worse DRtg, lower %Poss), but he was still a good defender by both box-score metrics and on/off-court data, and he still managed to post essentially an average PER even in a down season. If that's an off year, then it speaks pretty well about your abilities as a player, right?

And then there's the matter of adjusted plus/minus, which loves the guy. I mean, it really loves him. As you can see above, his estimated +/- from the box score stats has always been high (high enough, in fact, to rank him just outside the top 10 PFs of all-time by the metric), but even that seems to understate Wallace's apparent effect on his team's point differential when he's in the game. In 2002-03 & '03-04 combined (with '04 weighing double), 'Sheed was the 11th-best player in the NBA by APM, and when you combine 2004-05 & '05-06, you find that Wallace was the most effective player in all of basketball over that span! Additionally, in 2007 he was 21st overall, in 2008 he was 20th, and even in his "down year" of '09 he was the 9th most effective player in the league by APM. Adjusted plus/minus is a funny metric sometimes with a lot of year-to-year inconsistencies, but this kind of run can't be a mere coincidence. Wallace is obviously doing things on the court that make his teams better at both ends, and he's doing it year in and year out.

What is he doing, though? For starters, he's versatile, and versatile players always have nice plus/minus ratings. On offense he doesn't really venture into the paint much, but he spaces the floor well and draws opposing bigs away from the paint because of his shooting range. Plus, he never turns the ball over and he always produces a decent number of points per shot. He picks his spots, but he still can take about 20% of the shots when he's on the floor and give you solid efficiency. And defense is where Wallace really makes his impact -- he's constantly among the NBA leaders in defensive rating and defensive Win Shares because he blocks shots, hits the defensive glass hard, and snatches a surprising number of steals as well. Plus, he has a high basketball I.Q. (except when it comes to dealing with the refs, obviously), he reads plays well, and he can defend multiple positions. The APM numbers may overstate his value at times, but by the same token I think the raw box score stats understate 'Sheed's ability.

So needless to say, I think this was a good signing for the MLE, the kind of move that vet-laden teams like the Celtics can make attractive for older players like Wallace because of their championship-ready core. The only concerns are 'Sheed's penchant for on-court blow-ups (nothing new, and nothing that seems to impact team chemistry), the fact that Wallace didn't always seem to give 100% at all times these past few years (can we assume KG will break him of that habit rather quickly?) and, of course, Wallace's age (35). But unlike a smaller player who relied on quickness or a player of, say, Shaq's bulk, 'Sheed shares a body type with guys that age gracefully with the right care. If he's not plagued by injuries again (he missed just 4 games per season on average from 2005-08), the Wallace deal could pan out well for the Celtics this year.

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7 Responses to “What’s Left in Sheed’s Tank?”

  1. Jason J Says:

    It's funny that 'Sheeds flare-ups always seem to worry the fans, but his teammates consistently love him.

    I'm a little worried about health overall for the Boston bigs. Garnett missed a ton of time last year. Sheed missed a ton of time last year. Perkins has a history of shoulder problems. Scallabrine is terrible. I don't think they have any other bigs signed at the moment. I feel like a Spurs fan wishing we could skip the reg season and just play the playoffs while Timmy and Manu are still healthy.

  2. KneeJerkNBA Says:

    Sheed's aversion to the paint in Detroit probably has more to do with apathy than declining skills. I can see Boston posting him up when Garnett's on the bench.

    And hey, he's still light years better than Mikki Moore or Scalabrine. WIN.

  3. JMillott Says:

    I love the signing for the Celtics as Rasheed Wallace has in my mind always been a better version of Sam Perkins who was able to play a simular role to the one the Celtics will be asking Sheed to fill through age 38-39 for the Sonics.

    He is without a question a better player then the primary player he will be replacing in Glen Davis at both ends of the floor. I also believe his ability to stretch a defense to the threepoint line will be a major advantage for everybody from Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo all the way down to possibly Marquis Daniels, Bill Walker and should they return Leon Powe and Stephen Marbury.

  4. Kaveh Says:

    I think the bigger question is not does Sheed make the Celtics better, but does sheed make the celtics better enough.

    I am a lakers fan, so i have an obvious bias, but i think that the biggest obstacle for the Celtics are the Lakers. In the 08 finals, the Lakers played without Trevor Ariza and Andrew Bynum. These are two starters for the lakers. And even in last year's finals against the Magic, Bynum was playing injured/rusty. Will the Celtics be good enough in their last year to beat out the Lakers with Artest and a presumably healthy bynum?

    I think that with these additions (i think bigger than Sheed is M. Daniels believe it or not), the Celtics will be able to defeat both the Magic and the Cavs. They should have more difficulty with the Cavs, but they seem to match up extremely well with the Magic. D Howard was easily slowed down with Kendrick Perkins. Now add in Sheed and KG, and D. Howard is easily over-matched. Also, KG will be playing Rashard. We saw how good Rashard was in last year's finals when Odom was his defender ---Rashard sucked it up royally. So with KG on Rashard and Sheed/KG/Perkins on Howard, the Celtics should easily defeat them. Against the Cavs, it may be a different story. The Cavs, despite what people say now, have a great supporting role for Lebron --that's why they won 66 games last year. Will the celtics be able to beat them in a 7 game series? I think so, but it'll be close.

    Next year's finals is going to be one for the ages ---Lakers vs Celtics rematch (awesome) or Lakers vs Cavs, Kobe vs Shaq/Lebron. I think this is going to be the best NBA season ever (except for 2000-2003 and 2009 when my Lakers won it all, lol...just kidding).

  5. Ben Says:

    I am a Detroit fan. I hate to see Sheed leave the Pistons but if it was any team my wish would be Boston. He made Detroit better from the first day he arrived to the last day he played. He will make a Boston Celtic team that could have repeated as champs with a healthy KG last year, to NBA champs this year. Sheed makes an already tough Boston team better on offense and defense. They will match well up to LA and possibly take them in 4 if LA even gets there(yea I said it and I'm a Detroit fan),but will LA even get there with the Spurs new line up. The Spurs were always tough to beat but now they have filled the small needs that they had with two players that will take them to possibly the best team of the decade.A.McDyess and R.Jefferson. Boston and San Antonio in the NBA championship in 2010 this could be the best matchup in a long time.

  6. Jose Says:

    I've noticed that Laker fans love to mention that L.A. swept Boston last season, but both games were very close, and a last minute play or two could've resulted in Boston winning both of those games. Assuming that age and injury doesn't make Boston worse than they were last season at full health, it should be a great matchup again. In fact, losing Ariza for Artest could benefit Boston, because Ariza's quickness was a problem for everybody. Artest is a strong halfcourt player, but halfcourt play is Boston's bread and butter (San Antonio's too, for that matter), and now Boston has Rasheed.

    Kaveh: You ARE kidding about 2003, because my Spurs won that year (^_~), and I hope that they can surprise the Lakers this season as well by beating them and cementing themselves as the team of the decade. (Timmy > Kobe; he's got the edge in Finals MVP awards to prove it) Also, Gasol doesn't want any part of Shaq, so if the Cavs and Lakers get to the finals, you better hope that Bynum is healthy. There's no guarantee that the '09 Lakers (who struggled against a depleted Houston team but whipped up on a confused Orlando team; go figure) would have beaten the '09 Cavs in a finals series, and especially without home court. And the Cavs now have Shaq, Moon, and Parker - all without losing any of the key pieces that they had last season.

  7. vag. rich Says:

    sheed is one of the greatest PF's in nba history, he'll definetely make the celtics bench more deeper...gooda mova