Submitted by Cory Bernstein of Hoops Talk Nation
Brooklyn’s Finest 15 is the ranking of all 15 Nets based on what I think will be their impact on Brooklyn this season. Here’s number 4, Gerald Wallace.
We have now hit the Core Four.
Gerald Wallace clocks in as the fourth best Net and will be a huge part of Brooklyn’s success this season. He is entering his eleventh year in the league and this could be the season Crash finds himself making a deep playoff run. After some attrition last season, Wallace must show the world he is still an elite defender. Avery Johnson will be counting on Wallace to be the Nets’ primary wing defender, and for the Nets to make noise in the Eastern Conference he must perform on defense.
Wallace has one of the stranger shot selections in the NBA. His shooting took a precarious nose dive last season (here’s his 2010-11 shot chart). Wallace only shot above 50% from the field on the right side of the lower paint area. Though he shot respectably from the right elbow and just in front of the three point line (48% and 47.6% respectively), one must note how few shots Wallace took from these areas. Crash took a combined 46 shots from these two pots, while taking an astounding 372 shots from the two areas closest to the paint. This is not normal for a small forward. Andre Iguodala took a combined 137 shots from the right elbow and top of the key while only taking 172 from the two paint areas. Nic Batum took only 51 shots from the right elbow and top of the key, but launched 269 3’s to Wallace’s 147. In addition, Batum took a 235 shots from the two paint areas previously discussed.
The point I’m trying to make is that small forwards typically are not nearly as active shooting around the hoop as Wallace. Batum and Iguodala have similar playing styles to Crash, yet both took a significantly greater amount of shots from outside the paint area.
This is a good thing for Brooklyn. Unlike Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace fits very well with the Nets’ All-Star tandem in the backcourt and Brook Lopez on both ends of the floor. Wallace does not need to be, or flourish as, a jump shooter. Instead, Gerald is most effective setting screens and doing the dirty work (he’s called Crash for a reason) to get his points. Additionally, Brook Lopez enjoys operating out of the high post area. Though this can sometimes be frustrating (and probably contributes to his lack of rebounding), it could make Lopez and Wallace a lethal tandem. If Brook can improve his passing, he can become more efficiently operate from the high post, as he can dish balls to a cutting Gerald Wallace closer to the rim. If these two can work in unison down low, the Nets could see some incredible offensive success.
On defense, Wallace has been, and hopefully will continue to be, a great defender. He struggled last season as an on-ball defender, but I think that was more a testament to his effort than skill. For the previous nine years of his career, Wallace has been regarded as one of the top wing defenders in the game, and I expect him to get back to that level this season. As a thirty year old swing-man who relies on athleticism, he will certainly not be as good of a defender as he was three years ago. But, Wallace should anchor this crew on defense. As a small forward or stretch 4, Wallace will usually be guarding the best non-center or point guard on the opposing team. If he is up to this challenge, the Nets could contend in the Atlantic. If not, it the Nets’ defense will be abysmal.
Gerald Wallace must be a defensive expert for the inaugural Brooklyn Nets’ season to be successful. Offensively, Wallace will be an erratic mid-range shooter, but he takes so few shots from these weak spots that it is no big deal. Additionally, Gerald can supplement Brook Lopez and Kris Humphries’ rebounding efforts, and the three could combine to be a solid front court from that aspect. However, his success this season will be defined in the way he defends. If he can return to his elite defender status, the Nets will contend. If not, things may get ugly.