The Blazers made a trade on Thursday that they were supposed to make two years ago ahead of the 2009 Trade Deadline. Everything was right in Portland back then; Greg Oden and Brandon Roy were healthy, the team was on their way to a 54-win season and Kevin Pritchard had a valuable trade asset commonly known as RLEC.
With the expiring contract of Raef LaFrentz, the Blazers were going to consolidate some of their depth and take on a better starter to complement and enhance the trio of Roy, Oden and LaMarcus Aldridge.
A lot has changed since then and the Blazers are now being retooled on the fly around Aldridge, who has remained healthy and has emerged into an even better player than his most optimistic supporters prognosticated.
Along with Aldridge comes Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews on the wings, veterans Andre Miller and Marcus Camby at the 1 and 5, plus whatever Roy is healthy enough to offer. This is a team that has overachieved this season and is ambitiously in the playoff picture while Northwest Division rivals (Utah and Denver) have traded away their franchise players to begin rebuild projects.
Adding to that rotation in a trade that only cost Portland the expiring contract of Joel Przybilla and two 'future' first round picks is Gerald Wallace, who has long been a target of interest for the franchise.
The Wallace trade isn't the long-desired Chris Paul deal and Crash doesn't transform the team into a title contender, or even a Western Conference Finals contender, but no important vital asset is outbound and he gives Portland's playoff teeth some necessary venom.
The value of a player like Wallace to a team like Portland is his versatility. He can defend any wing in the league and also hold his own against a fair amount of the power forwards. The Blazers have successfully been going small with greater frequency later and playing Wallace, Batum and Matthews together at the two through four positions creates uncomfortable match-ups for opposing teams. Their collective strengths become greater than the sum of their parts if they hit all cylinders as Rich Cho predicts.
Offensively, Wallace has regressed from the efficient numbers he posted as an All-Star in 09-10. He had a TS% of 58.5% in 08-09 and 58.6% in 09-10, but that has dropped to 53.0% this season. His offense is coming with the jumper this season instead of at the rim and the evolution is glaring.
We'll see if the change of scenery brings Wallace back to the rim hawk he made his name on. He is still a weapon in transition and as more of a supplementary scorer, his efficiency should increase.
The Blazers have also struggled on the defensive glass this season and Wallace is a particularly good rebounder for his size on that end of the floor.
Similar to the way they acquired Camby last season for Steve Blake and Travis Outlaw, who weren't coming back anyways, this is a clear upgrade with little downside short of the loss of big man depth with Przybilla's departure.
Grade for the Blazers: A-
The far from certain prospect of clawing into the playoffs only to be swept by the Celtics or Heat was not a worthwhile prospect for the Bobcats, so they cut ties with a player they selected all the way back in the expansion draft of 2004. It was a long haul for Wallace with Charlotte and now he leaves in what is essentially a giveaway.
Charlotte aggressively and openly shopped Wallace to several other teams before the deadline and we need to assume the financial relief and draft picks were as good as it gets. If the Bobcats would have dealt Wallace a year or two ago, they would have surely received a much bigger haul, but then that first playoff appearance doesn't happen.
Now the Bobcats must now try to move onto unloading Stephen Jackson, Boris Diaw and Tyrus Thomas, gutting this thing completely and rebuilding in a way that is resembles what the Blazers went through in the summer of 2006.
Grade for the Bobcats: B