Wallace Isn't The Right Move, Just The Best Move

[From the Diaries. This is a couple days old, but basically says it all, and definately worth a read. Although I have a minor disagreement with the last two points, I think that if Pax does see the need to make a trade for an impact player, he won't be too attached to Tyrus Thomas. Losing all the cap space will make things tricker though. I'm still holding out until the trade deadline. -Matt]

Adopted from my post on Sweetdue:

I know, we're all giddy about the Wallace deal.  We finally got the big-name free agent we've been waiting for since Krause struck out in 2000.  But smart folks on this blog have already started asking the tough questions -- does this signing really fill a need?  Didn't we pay too much?

I think the answer is that signing Wallace wasn't the right move, but it was the best move we could make, given the options we had.


Wallace is not at all what the Bulls need right now.  We need a top-flight scorer in the worst way ... at crunch time, we rely on Ben Gordon and Andres Nocioni to score.  'nuff said.  We also need some sort of presence in the post.  Wallace provides us with none of that.

In fact, what big Ben gives the Bulls is more of what we already have.  The Bulls were the best defensive team in the NBA last season, and picked up its top defender.  At a certain point, there begins to be diminishing marginal returns to more defense.

In fact, the NBA is evolving away from players like Ben Wallace.  A few years ago, the Pistons were the right model to use to build a team.  Tough, bruising interior defense won championships.  But the rules changes have made the game more scorer-friendly, more guard-friendly, and more slash-to-the-basket friendly.  In the playoffs, big Ben was often on the sidelines and wasn't a dominating force.  In fact his weak shooting made him a liability at times.

And, of course, we overpaid for him.  He's not worth $15+ million a season.  And he's already 31, so he'll be 35 in the last year of his deal.  Not good.

The bottom line is that in a vacuum, the Wallace deal is not the right move for the Bulls to make.  He's not what we need, he's too expensive, and he's aging.  The "smart" move would have been to sign Pryzbilla and wait for the right trade.

Why, then, was this the "best move" for the Bulls?


  1. We didn't have a better alternative.  Our cap room would have been worth a lot less next season, because we will have players to re-sign and couldn't keep our cap room open forever.  If we didn't get Wallace, we would have had to sign Pryzbilla or Mohammed and hope we could use the rest of our cap room to work out a trade.  Wallace is by far the best player available--there isn't a better player on the FA market, and it is increasingly clear that no one like Garnett, Jermaine O'Neal, or Marion is available via trade.  Wallace is the best we could get with that cap room.
  2. We got an impact player.  Yes, the game has changed.  But there's no doubt that Wallace is a very good basketball player, no matter how you slice it.  His PER was 17.54 last season, his "fair salary" rating was $14.26 million, and he was worth 32 win shares.  He's won the Defensive Player of the Year award four of the last five seasons.  He's been to the All-Star Game each of the last four years.  Getting an impact player through the draft is a gamble, and getting one in trade usually means giving up a lot in return.  We added one for "free."  Maybe worth overpaying for.
  3. Because he's a big, we didn't overpay as badly as it seems.  Big players often command a premium.  Nene just signed a six-year, $60 million deal.  The Bulls signed Tyson Chandler to a six-year, $63 million deal just a season ago.  Since this is only a four-year deal, the hope is that he'll have some value in seasons three and four (with a soon-to-expire contract) if things don't work out as planned.
  4. We cripple a division rival at the same time.  It's hard to believe that the Pistons will be able to compete for the East crown without Wallace, given that they already were pretty thin.  On pure Win Shares alone, going from Wallace to Mohammed should mean six fewer wins.
  5. Wallace has great intangibles.  The Bulls are all about intangibles nowadays.  They only will draft hard workers, gym rats, etc.  They were willing to sit Tim Thomas and lose him for nothing rather than have a lazy player ruin their team persona and chemistry.  By all accounts Ben Wallace fits right into the Bulls' mold.  Plus his veteran leadership and character should help the Bulls develop.  As icing on the cake, he should help us get better calls from the officials.  (We can only hope.)
So given the context, I think this was a good move overall.  The rumor is that Paxson wanted to get Pryzbilla but Reinsdorf pushed him to go all-in for Wallace.  I like the move and I think it was the best alternative we had, given that players like Garnett weren't available.  So what does this mean for the Bulls?  A few thoughts:
  1. Wallace makes Chandler expandable.  Now the Bulls have to find a buyer for Chandler.  Yes, his value has never been lower, but we're going to need some money to re-sign our young guys and it's unlikely that we would ever play two no-offense players like Chandler and Wallace together.  Hopefully the Bulls end up getting more than P.J. Brown and J.R. Smith, but I'd take that deal if nothing else materialized.
  2. We're keeping Tyrus Thomas.  There was a lot of speculation that the Bulls took Thomas in order to package him to the T-Wolves for Garnett.  He certainly seemed redundant on a team that already had Chandler, Nocioni, and Deng competing for minutes at the 3 and 4.  Now that we have no cap space, and with Chandler gone, it looks more likely that we'll keep Thomas.  That makes me happy, because I think he will be by far the best player in the draft long-term.  He can handle the ball like a guard, he's a tough and brutal defender, he's extremely athletic, and he plays like a seven-footer.
  3. We won't make a trade for another impact player.  Despite ridiculous reports to the contrary, the Wallace signing makes a Garnett trade far less likely.  Now that the Bulls are capped out, we have to match salaries with the T-Wolves in any trade.  I hope the Bulls make a deal for a post player or a big guard, and I expect they will, but it will more likely be someone like P.J. Brown than Kevin Garnett.
All in all, the Bulls' future still looks as bright as it did before draft night.  With two lottery picks and Ben Wallace joining a playoff team that is young and still developing, this team could make noise in the East next season.  Talk of contending for the East crown is too optimistic, in my opinion, but this season will be a disappointment unless the Bulls have home court in the first round and make it into the second round.

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