One of the strange trends we’ve seen this NBA offseason is the league’s contenders adding or pursuing players who don’t seem to really match their needs. Not everyone agrees, but I’d put the Lakers signing Ron Artest and Cleveland dealing for Shaquille O’Neal into that category. The same criticism surely cannot be leveled at the Boston Celtics after they reportedly added Rasheed Wallace as a free agent Sunday, agreeing with Wallace on a two-year deal at the mid-level exception.
Like the Cavaliers, the Celtics had a tough time matching up with the Orlando Magic’s Rashard Lewis during the postseason. Because it was hard to keep bigs Glen Davis and Kendrick Perkins on the floor together, we saw Brian Scalabrine play 23.7 minutes a night in the Boston-Orlando series, and even though Scalabrine played OK, that’s not workable in the long term.
I did not consider a versatile four as important a need for the Celtics as Cleveland because of Kevin Garnett’s presumed return from knee trouble next season. If Garnett is healthy, he’s perfectly capable of defending on the perimeter, and if he’s sidelined Boston’s problems run deeper than matchups.
Still, it’s easy to see where a focused, motivated Wallace could help the Celtics in a role similar to the one played by James Posey in the 2008 NBA Finals. Then, Boston moved Garnett to the middle to match up with the Lakers’ frontcourt of Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, and Posey’s clutch three-pointers were a key to the Celtics winning the title. Doc Rivers may now have a tougher time taking an improving Perkins off the floor, but it’s always preferable to have options, and Rivers will. Should Boston be able to re-sign Davis, a restricted free agent, the team will also be well insulated should Wallace be unable to fit into a reserve role or see his game fall off in the postseason as it has in recent years in Detroit. Right now, Wallace is something of a bonus, and a very nice one for the Celtics.