It came down to the wire, but the Blazers acquired forward Gerald Wallace from the Charlotte Bobcats today, reportedly for Joel Przybilla, Dante Cunningham, and two first-round picks. Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski had the news first, with CBS’ Ken Berger and NBA.com’s David Aldridge filling in details about the picks.
Rumors of this trade began swirling yesterday, and at first it didn’t make a lot of sense. Wallace is a small forward and is one of the players to whom Nicolas Batum is most often compared, and the front office has made it clear in recent weeks that Batum is the most important piece of the Blazers’ future plans outside of LaMarcus Aldridge. The logical trade for Portland to pursue at the deadline would have been an Andre Miller-for-Devin Harris swap, which had been gaining traction until the Deron Williams shocker. With that option off the table, Rich Cho was forced to look for the next-best thing.
It’s still unclear how exactly Wallace will fit in with Portland’s current rotation, but if the opportunity is there to grab a 28-year-old former All-Star who was named to the All-Defensive team last year for essentially an expiring contract and picks, you have to do it. The departure of Przybilla (I’ll say a proper farewell to him later tonight or tomorrow) leaves a gaping hole in the middle with Marcus Camby still injured, but Camby is due back soon, and in the meantime, don’t be surprised to see the Blazers play Wallace at power forward and Aldridge at center.
Cunningham has also become a fan favorite, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t sad to see him go as well. The fact that Charlotte was willing to move Wallace for this price would indicate that they are planning on rebuilding, and while Dante isn’t exactly a centerpiece for those efforts, he’s certainly not a guy any young team would say no to having on their bench. He plays hard all the time and has done a solid job of guarding bigger guys when Camby and Przybilla have been out. He will be missed for now, but his production is very replaceable.
The fact that Cho was able to swing a deal for a legit starting player without losing Camby or Andre Miller is huge for the team’s stability. While Miller’s and Camby’s age prevents them from being future building blocks for the Blazers, Miller has good chemistry with the guys now and Camby, once healthy, should be as solid as ever. Both are under team control next year as well, so don’t be surprised if their names pop up in rumors then as well. Przybilla’s contract was the only true expiring one on the roster, and Gerald Wallace is probably the best-case scenario for what Cho could have expected to turn it into.