SLAMonline Top 50: Rasheed Wallace, no. 34

by September 18, 2008

by Matt Caputo

Rasheed Wallace is a specific type of basketball player. He’s the type that you don’t want to see when you come into the gym. He’s never averaged a double-double, but it’s his defense, sharp shooting, speed and intangible basketball skills that separate him from many NBA big men. His scruffy beard and ratty headband could belong to any tough playground player in America. He plays in uptowns like cats in the hood, and he’s got highly disruptive skills that can be a difference maker in any game. He’s a solid defender who blocked 100 shots and hit 100 threes in each of the last three seasons.  He filled a 6-foot-11 gap in the 2003-2004 Pistons line-up, and won Detroit it’s first title since Zeke was running things. Wallace is also the type of player that probably never fully hit his stride.

Despite his fluctuating stats, Wallace has made an impact in the NBA since his first day on the job. He’s averaged no less than 10 points and played with four teams, including a single-game stint with the Hawks, since entering the league in 1995 with the then-Washington Bullets. Coming out of North Carolina, where he played for Dean Smith, scouts initially questioned if Wallace had the make-up to play in an NBA frontcourt, but he’s proven to be one of the League’s most intimidating forces.

Between 1999-2001, Wallace was hit with 78 technical fouls. Any observer watching would notice that, after a while, he’s becomes the type of player that is really out there playing against himself or at least psyching himself out of the player he should be. He’s got the size and skills to be a dominant NBA big man, but his somewhat underdeveloped post game and his relationship with referees has probably brought out the most negative sides of the game.

Despite Wallace’s abundance of techs, there is some evidence he might have been jobbed a few times. Wallace was suspended by the NBA for threatening shady-referee Tim Donaghy way back in 2003. It was the league’s longest suspension for something that did not involve violence or substance abuse. So, you can’t say he’s a bad judge of character. Yet, you have to wonder how a player that good could spend so much time worrying about the officials.

Sheed has always seemed to lack a true position. Too quick to be a center and probably too big to guard most power forwards, Wallace plays an awkward-yet-effective role in the success of most every team he has been on. However, there have been times when Wallace hasn’t played to his full potential and that’s probably cost him a lot of development as a scorer and rebounder. He should probably have averaged some double-doubles and added a Defensive Player of the Year Award to his resume by now, but he hasn’t.

He averaged 13 points, nearly 8 boards and 2 blocks per game during the 2004 Playoffs. By any account, he provided the major spark that turned the Pistons from a good playoff squad into a championship team. Though Chauncey Billups was the MVP, Wallace’s efforts were accounted for and his presence is still felt.

Wallace is a guy who has the skills to make an instant impact on most teams. While his technical fouls have cost his team tons of points through the years, his winning attitude is contagious, and he knows how to play to win when the time comes. He checks into our SLAMOnline Top 50 countdown at no. 34, but he’s the type of player who had the potential to be ranked much higher.

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