by Chris Haynes / @ChrisBHaynes

Every team needs that nasty guy. I don’t mean nasty as in the former WWE wrestler, Goldust. I mean nasty as in someone who’s going to take on being the enforcer and who doesn’t mind doing all the dirty work. Gerald Wallace fits that mode perfectly.

The Portland Trail Blazers have been going through a transformation in recent years, making sure the roster was filled with nice-looking wholesome players who aren’t sour reminders of the” Jail Blazer” era. That’s cool, but a bunch of wholesome players only get you so far. Every team needs “that guy” on their roster.

Wallace has that rugged edge and persona without the off-the-court baggage. That’s why it was astonishing and smart that Rich Cho and the Blazers picked up Wallace for a little bit of nothing last season.

The move was praised by most, even though the acquisition would see the coveted Nicolas Batum delegated to a reserve role.

Why was Cho fired again? I’ve digressed.

Wallace is “Mr. Versatility,” at 6-8 you can find him anywhere on the court guarding the opposing point guards to the power forwards, which allows LaMarcus Aldridge time to rest on the defensive end. His nickname, “Crash,” exemplifies his aggressive style of play on both ends of the court. Coach Nate McMillan doesn’t need to draw up plays for him; Wallace finds his opportunities within the flow of the offense which is pretty remarkable for a player of his caliber. Did I mention he’s low maintenance?

When you think of the best rebounding small forward in the League, most would consider LeBron James to be the best. James has never averaged double digits in rebounding, Wallace has. He’s always among the league leaders in steals, averaging over 2 steals a game three times in his career. Opposing offensive players may get by their defender only to see Wallace flying through the air for the weak-side swat, as he’s always in position to help his teammates.

He hovers around 48 percent from the field for his career, which means he’s a high-risk efficient scorer. Wallace has an underrated low-post game too. Weighing in at only 215, he’s a brute on the block. He doesn’t possess a ton creativity down low, but he backs his way in effortlessly for easy buckets.

Mostly what I’ve mentioned about Wallace are the intangibles he brings. Let’s not get it twisted, this dude is a high flyer who thrives in transition and can be found on ESPN’s Top 10 any day of the week. It’s rare you find an athletic exciting player who probably cherishes his role as a garbage man even more.

Despite his numbers declining slightly over the last couple of seasons, Wallace finds himself on SLAMonline’s Top 50 yet again. With half a season of Coach McMillan’s system under his belt, Wallace is due for a breakout season with the Blazers, and he may very well be the X-factor in their quest for an NBA Championship next year.

SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2011
RankPlayerTeamPositionPos. Rank
50Luol DengBullsSF8
49Andrew BogutBucksC7
48Ray AllenCelticsSG9
47Marc GasolGrizzliesC6
46David WestHornetsPF15
45Kevin MartinRocketsSG8
44Andrew BynumLakersC5
43Brandon JenningsBucksPG11
42Lamar OdomLakersPF14
41Gerald WallaceBlazersSF7

Notes
• Rankings are based solely on projected ’11-12 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Maurice Bobb, Shannon Booher, David Cassilo, Bryan Crawford, Sandy Dover, Adam Figman, Jon Jaques, Eldon Khorshidi, Ryne Nelson, Doobie Okon, Ben Osborne, Quinn Peterson, Dave Schnur, Abe Schwadron, Dan Shapiro, Irv Soonachan, Todd Spehr, Tzvi Twersky, Yaron Weitzman, DeMarco Williams and Ben York.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.