Rasheed Wallace: Was He Any Good?

“Ball don’t lie” is the guiding principle for every single thing I write for this site.

From statistical analysis to comparing teams within and across eras to this very series you’re reading right now, the only thing that ultimately matters is what happened on the court, as measured and counted by the tools we have available to determine not just who won or lost and by how much, but how and why each player on the court contributed toward or actively hindered his team’s efforts.

“Ball don’t lie”, of course, has another name around here: “Sheed’s Law”, after Rasheed Wallace.

So it’s only fitting that the namesake of everything this site holds dear gets an investigation to determine whether he was as good as advertised—and a ring in Detroit plus what should have been a Finals appearance but for some atrocious and possibly rigged officiating in the 2000 Western Conference Finals suggests a guy who was pretty good since he was key to the success of both squads.

Where Wallace went—Portland, Detroit, Boston, even the 2013 Knicks—team success followed.

Sure, the Celtics were already good, but Sheed still gets points for showing up for a trip to the Finals that should’ve gone Boston’s way but for an injury to Kendrick Perkins and some awful officiating (again!) in Game 7, the “Kobe Bryant Went 6-for-24 Game” to anyone who was rooting for the Celtics.

But on the other hand, dude only averaged 14.4 points and 6.7 rebounds a game for his career, albeit in a super slow-paced era when he played the majority of his career minutes, the entirety of the Dark Ages plus the snail-world of the butt end of the Michael Jordan Era, when the teams he was on often didn’t crack 90 possessions a game. He was on teams that were slow by the standards of a slow league. We’ll keep that in mind as we go, because ball don’t lie…but sometimes ball don’t tell the whole truth, either.

Anyway, Sheed isn’t in the Hall of Fame and according to Basketball Reference, he’s got an 8.6% chance of being elected thereto. So for Confirmed on this one, he needs at least a fringe Hall of Fame case on some defensible level (consider the recent entry in this series on Robert Horry for an example of “fringe guy but he’s got a case.” Same idea.)

The Counting Stats

As mentioned, Sheed averaged 14.4 points and 6.7 rebounds per game across 1,109 games played, which interestingly is one place above Horry in the all-time NBA games played rankings—Sheed is 67th, Horry is 68th.

He ranks, as of this writing (through games of March 11, 2020), 98th in career field goal makes, 92nd in 3-pointers, 88th in rebounds, 39th in blocks (and 90th in blocks per game), 62nd in lowest turnover percentage, 31st in Defensive Win Shares, 73rd in total Win Shares, and 58th in career VORP.

And yeah, some of those are advanced stats, but we’re aggregating them to make a point here.

Sustained excellence is enough to get a guy who played enough minutes and had enough strong NBA skills onto the list of the top 100 guys in four different major counting stats and just shy of the top 30 in a major aggregate defensive advanced stat plus 73rd or better in three significant advanced stats.

It all suggests what anyone who watched Wallace play knew. He took care of the ball, made efficient use of his touches on offense even as he wasn’t the primary scorer, and if he was guarding you as your primary defender, you were going to have a bad time playing basketball that day.

And again, he got 14.4 and 6.7 while playing on teams that were slow by the standards of the slowest era in NBA history. During the best years of his prime in Portland, from 2000-01 through 2002-03, he scored 19.2, 19.3, and 18.1 points a game…on teams that played at a pace of 89.1, 89.3, and 89.4, respectively.

Oh, and league Offensive Rating was terrible back then too. We know that Sheed could shoot—he wasn’t a great 3-point shooter, but 33.5 percent in Portland and 34.8 percent in Detroit, the latter on far more attempts, but still nothing close to what his likely role as a stretch 4 would be today—so put him in a modern offense, give him more reps in practice, but keep everything else equal except for slightly higher efficiency on significantly higher 3PAR, and you’re talking a guy who’d easily score 24 a game.

Ball don’t lie…but ball don’t tell the whole truth sometimes either.

Likewise, those 6.7 rebounds translate to something like 7.5 today just adjusting for pace, and that’s with Sheed never having to assume the duties of the primary rebounder. Portland had Arvydas Sabonis and a young Jermaine O’Neal for that, and Detroit had the no-relation Ben Wallace for all their glass-cleaning needs.

The guy put up great numbers for the role he was in on the teams he was on, adjusted for the molasses-in-January pace in both Portland and Detroit during his prime. Plus, just for good measure, the 2010 Celtics played at just a 91.6 pace, and they were practically speed demons by Sheed standards.

Anyway, let’s get on to…

The Advanced Stats

Let’s start with the obvious, namely VORP, since if you limit things purely to his salad days in Portland and Detroit, you’ve got a guy who posted 3.23 VORP/82 along with .146 WS/48 during those years.

Sheed was also a four-time All-Star, a lockdown defender who should’ve made All-Defensive at least once (2008 was his best case statistically) but somehow never did and still managed that whole just-outside-the-top-30 Defensive Win Shares total, and a guy whose advanced stats on both sides of the ball made him a net positive no matter whether his team had the ball or not.

He posted a 1.9 DBPM overall in Detroit, anchoring an absolute lockdown defense that was in the top 5 in the league in four of Sheed’s six years there, 7th in 2007, and then finally down to 16th in his last year in 2009 as the team clearly tried to hold a core whose best days were gone together long after they should have blown it up and started over.

Are 3.2 VORP and .146 WS/48 Hall of Fame numbers, though? Not really, but…

The “Other Stuff”

We’re talking about a guy who won a ring, appeared in the NBA Finals the following year (losing to San Antonio), appeared in the Finals again in 2010, and filled in admirably for Perkins when forced to start Game 7 of that decisive series before he fouled out—like I said, the refs had it in for Boston in that ballgame—and walked off into the sunset.

Plus, he appeared in the Eastern Conference Finals on two other occasions in Detroit, losing to Dwyane Wade‘s Heat in 2006 and LeBron James‘ Cavaliers in 2007, and in the Western Conference Finals in 2000, losing that gut punch of a series to the Lakers.

One ring. Two other NBA Finals. Six total conference finals on three different teams. Dude was a winner wherever he went.

But then again, one reason he’s unlikely to ever sniff the Hall of Fame is that he was notoriously cantankerous, antagonizing referees (until Draymond Green came along, nobody could rack up technical fouls like Sheed), media members, coaches, fans, and law enforcement authorities, that last contributing to the infamous “Jail Blazers” moniker for the Portland teams Wallace was on.

Well, you know how we feel about intangibles around here, so…


Does Rasheed Wallace have a Hall of Fame case? Ehhhhh…maybe. Not a good one, not one that would get my vote, but not one that would get you laughed out of a room for making it.

You get the nagging feeling looking at Sheed’s stats that he was no better than the third-best player on those Pistons teams behind Ben Wallace and Richard Hamilton and possibly wasn’t better than Tayshaun Prince either…

…but he didn’t have to be. Sheed was a feared lockdown defender, a guy who’d have been right at home playing alongside Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn during earlier glory days for the Motor City franchise that he was key to the culture of.

And those defensive numbers are the best indication we have that other counting stats aren’t telling us everything we want to know here. That’s been the case with every defensive-oriented player in the history of the league.

As far as that goes? Well, I don’t want to throw the Confirmed plate out here—a fringe guy needs better than one ring. Look at Horry, for example.

But it ain’t Busted either. Let’s go with Plausible. Ball don’t lie. But ball don’t tell the whole truth.

NEXT: Detlef Schrempf.