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Just The Sports: Ben Wallace Gets Overpaid (Pt. II)

Just The Sports

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Ben Wallace Gets Overpaid (Pt. II)

The more I think about the Chicago Bulls' offseason moves, the more I am convinced that either general manager John Paxson knows exactly what he is doing and I am stupid or he is tweaking the wrong parts of his roster and I should be expecting e-mails from NBA teams inquiring as to my availability for interviews. While the former is probably closer to the truth, it will in no way keep me from writing this post.

Unlike a few of the sports writers I have read lately, I am not enamored with the Bulls' transactions. Picking an offseason winner, or loser, is problematic on many levels because no one can know what will happen when the season actually begins, but this is not a direct indictment of those writers because they are probably fulfilling an editorial requirement placed on them by their employers. Still, I cannot get too excited about a team that signs the big-name free agent in a weak free agent class and then makes a trade for P.J. Brown and J.R. Smith. Without further adieu, though, let's get to my actual thoughts about how the Bulls roster has changed.

First, let's clear up the notion that the Bulls needed help on defense. They did not. Last season, the Bulls were 6th in the NBA in defensive efficiency with their opponents scoring 103.2 points per 100 possessions. The Detroit Pistons with Ben Wallace were 5th in the NBA in the same category with 103.1, not exactly an eye-opening difference in the two teams. Problems for the Bulls arose when they tried to put the ball in the basket as their 22nd ranking in offensive efficiency indicates. Those data beg the question of how much Ben Wallace (95 Def. Rating last year) will improve the Bulls defense over Tyson Chandler (100 Def. Rating last year). The fact the Bulls did not address their offensive need is something I will adress in a short while.

In the meantime, I am going to stick up for Tyson Chandler because I think he was, and still may be, on his way to being the equal of Ben Wallace in terms of defense and offense (although equaling Wallace's offense is not saying too much). From Chandler's rookie year to the 2004-05 season, Chandler's offensive rating went up, peaking at 112, and his defensive rating went all the way down to 94. Last season, Chandler has a worse year with his offensive rating decreasing to 107 and his defensive rating going up to 100, which still gave him a very respectable player win-loss percentage of .744.

The reason why I think Chandler had a drop-off in production is because it was also his first year without Eddy Curry. I haven't figured it all out in my head yet, but I think there is something to the fact Eddy Curry, a legit low-post player with legitimate size, leaves and Chandler suffers from having to play along with the likes of Mike Sweetney, Malik Allen, and Othella Harrington.

Now, the Bulls cannot be reproached for trading away Curry, who had a heart condition and was already overweight to begin with, but they have still have yet to replace him. Ben Wallace and Tyrus Thomas certainly will not and for the Bulls to have greater success, they will have to get more low-post scoring.

Before you bring up the fact that the Bulls actually increased their offensive efficiency from 2004-05 (with Curry) to 2005-06 (without Curry), I already know, but that can be explained by the natural increase a player will have in their offensive efficiency from their first to their second year (see: Ben Gordon, Andres Nocioni, and Luol Deng).

Finally, we will get to the trade that foolishly sent away Tyson Chandler to land P.J. Brown and J.R. Smith. It would seem that P.J. Brown is an attempt to answer Chicago's low-post scoring woes, but if so, it is a poor attempt. The last four seasons for Brown have seen a decrease in his offensive rating and a decrease in his defensive rating, the opposite of what you want from a player. At 36, he is on the decline and probably will not provide the Bulls with much.

Personally, I do not like J.R. Smith and that will understandably color my description of his worth. My bias against him started when I saw him play in the McDonald's High School All-American game where he constantly launched 35 foot 3-pointers. And I was glad when he declared for the NBA instead of coming to play at UNC so I wouldn't have to watch a moodier version of Rashad McCants during my undergraduate years at the university.

So far, my first instinct about J.R. Smith has been correct. He clashed with Byron Scott and now it will be interesting to see how he gets along with Scott Skiles who will be tougher on Smith than Scott ever was. Even if he does give the Bulls good production, it will just be more superfluous perimeter scoring. Besides, don't they already have Ben Gordon?

As is probably evident, I think the Bulls would have done well to keep Tyson Chandler and to find a legitimate low-post scoring threat, either in the draft or in free agency. Instead, they got help where they didn't need it and didn't get help where they did need it.

Congratulations must go to you if you made it all the way through this post, and when I am wrong, do not hesitate to remind me.


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