Portland Trail Blazers: How would Rasheed Wallace have fared in the modern NBA?

Rasheed Wallace, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
Rasheed Wallace, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images) /
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In his era, Rasheed Wallace was among the most talented to ever play. Some say he didn’t reach his full potential. Would he have done so in the modern NBA?

Just as the case is with every NBA champion, the 2004 Detroit Pistons are spoken of in rarefied air.  Nearly two decades later, one could argue that it’s the most unique title in all of sports, since it’s the only team in league history to win a championship and not produce a Hall of Famer. The lack of a clear-cut star opens the door for a question: who was its biggest factor?  Some say it was the two-way prowess of Chauncey Billups; others say it was Ben Wallace’s command of the paint. But how about a moment for Detroit’s boisterous mid-season acquisition?

Here’s a statistic for you: eight different times, Rasheed Wallace found his team in a head-to-head Playoff matchup with the Los Angeles Lakers. He went 1-7 in those series, including five eliminations in six seasons as a member of our Portland Trail Blazers.

The one time it did go right, though, leads me to believe two things: a) Wallace had perhaps the biggest impact of any player in that Lakers-Pistons series, and b) he might have been two times as deadly in today’s NBA. There’s a case for, and a case against it.

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Let’s jump back into that Lakers-Pistons series just for a second. Because of Wallace’s past with losing leads to Los Angeles in the past, this series was never really a closed case. Which makes Game Four, with Detroit up 2-1, perhaps the biggest of all. With the score knotted up at 49 apiece, midway through the third quarter (reread that score; it sounds like a foreign language in 2020), Wallace gets into a scrum with Slava Medvedenko — yes, the Slava Medvedenko — and in a fury, Wallace, scores 17 points over the next 20 minutes.

They likely sought it out long before, but around this time, Detroit goes to an unstoppable secret weapon.

Over the next few minutes, Detroit uses pick-and-rolls with Rasheed Wallace and Chauncey Billups, knowing two things: one, Los Angeles is going to use its length to blitz everything, and two, O’Neal wasn’t the most ambitious about chasing stretch bigs out on the perimeter. It nearly worked during Portland’s 2000 Western Conference Finals series, giving him some of the easiest looks of his life.