Celtics No Better With Rasheed Wallace
Our own Matt Steinmetz thinks that makes Boston the favorite to take home the title next year. But to me, that seems -- to put it as politely as possible -- a bit overly-optimistic.
Not only do the Celtics have a long way to go with their roster just to catch up to teams like the Cavaliers and the Lakers, but I would argue that replacing Kendrick Perkins in the starting lineup with Wallace actually makes Boston worse, not better. And it definitely doesn't put them any closer to winning a championship.
We know what Sheed brings to the table; his output has been fairly consistent over the last three seasons. If Wallace plays in the neighborhood of 32 minutes per night, he's going to give you around 12 points and seven rebounds per game, while shooting 42 percent from the field, and a little over 35 percent from three-point land.
As the Celtics' starting center last season, Perkins averaged just under 30 minutes per game, and averaged 8.5 points and 8.1 rebounds. He also shot almost 58 percent from the field. Perkins also took 242 fewer shots than Wallace did last season.
You see what I'm getting at?
Sheed has always been a guy who likes to get his shots. And if the flow of the game isn't going his way, no problem: he'll just pull up for an ill-advised three-pointer while trailing on the break, or in the half-court set with 21 seconds left on the shot clock. On a Celtics team with plenty of guys who can score, they don't need to add a player who isn't that great of a one-on-one defender (whether due to age or lack of interest, we'll certainly find out soon enough) and who thinks he should be a focal point of the offense.
As far as the other top teams' acquisitions, there are far fewer questions with them than there are with Wallace to the Celtics.
Ron Artest is a wild card to be sure, but despite what many pundits around the league have been saying, he is a DEFINITE upgrade over Trevor Ariza for the Lakers -- at least in the short term.
Sure, it would have been nice to lock up the 24-year old Ariza to a five-year deal, ensuring the Lakers a young player on the rise to balance some of the age on their roster. But let's be honest: the Lakers are only going to be title contenders as long as Kobe Bryant is around, and he's 30.
Yes, Artest is older, and he isn't as athletic as Ariza. But he's tougher, a better scorer, and able to defend a wider variety of players than Ariza can. And if defenses leave Artest the way they did Ariza, I'm sure he'll knock down the same wide open looks from three-point land, and at a similarly ridiculous percentage, too.
As far as Artest's combustibility factor, do you really think it's less than that of Rasheed Wallace? Please. Artest's most memorable out-of-control moments last year (one in the regular season and one during the playoffs) both came specifically against Bryant and the Lakers.
Wallace led the league in technical fouls with 19. Artest had four, which means he didn't even finish in the top 50.
(By the way, Kendrick Perkins was sixth with 12 technical fouls, and Kevin Garnett had seven in just 57 games. Adding Wallace to the mix? Have fun with that, Celtics fans.)
The Lakers improved with Artest, what about the Cavaliers with Shaquille O'Neal?
That was a huge upgrade for Cleveland. Why? What were the team's two biggest flaws in their loss to the Orlando Magic? Lack of a legitimate post player (Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Anderson Varejao? LOL), and horrific three-point shooting.
Shaq solves both of these problems immediately. With his post presence, teams will be forced to relax a bit on Mo Williams and Delonte West, so they'll have more of the types of looks they had during the regular season when the team won 66 games, instead of being locked down by defenders daring Sideshow Bob to try to score inside, which is exactly what the Magic did to perfection.
Speaking of the Magic, there's no guarantee that the moves they made will get them back to the Finals. Gone are Marcin Gortat, Rafer Alston, Hedo Turkoglu, Courtney Lee, and Tony Battie -- five rotation guys, if you're scoring at home. Vince Carter is a nice upgrade, sure, but there are serious depth issues now, and that's a lot of minutes that need to be accounted for by new or different players. Orlando may not be done making moves, and they'd better not be if they want to remain title contenders.
Which brings us back to Boston.
There are plenty of questions for the Celtics beyond just the addition of Wallace. Glen Davis, who played a huge role for the team during the playoffs, is a restricted free agent. Cap space is being spent pretty fast around the league, but it's not hard to imagine Davis getting a high-dollar offer that the Celtics would be unwilling (or unable) to match. This is someone who averaged over 18 points and six rebounds per game in the first round of the playoffs against the Bulls, and over 13 and 4 in round two against the Magic. Again, is Wallace going to produce much more than that, either as a starter or off the bench? Doubtful at best.
Perhaps the biggest question of all for Boston, though, is the health of Kevin Garnett. A knee injury that was supposed to keep him out for a fixed amount of time never healed as the team thought it would, and kept him out for the remainder of the season in which it occurred.
We know KG is one of the fiercest competitors in the game today, and will give everything he has once he's out there. But if that injury leaves him anywhere less ability-wise than he was when the Celtics were making their title run in 2008? With the upgrades that the Lakers and Cavaliers have made this offseason, Boston's chances of winning it all this year will be exactly zero.
The ingenious, all-powerful acquisition of Rasheed Wallace, of course, notwithstanding.