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Wallace or Perkins: Who Starts?

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Obtaining Rasheed Wallace gave the Celtics one of the most dangerous and complete big men available in free agency.

Many fans feel that Kendrick Perkins should be the de facto starter. He has earned that right. It is a chemistry thing because this will be year three together for this starting unit. You want to keep starting units together.

On offense, Perkins moves in down low. Garnett sets up outside. On defense, Perkins is the goalie. Garnett jumps out at the top to get the ball out of the point guard’s hands, then gets back into position quickly. It works.

You want to keep starting units together….. unless it makes the team better or stronger to do otherwise.
The good thing is that Wallace doesn’t seem to mind becoming coming off the bench for the first time in his career.

Ronald Uhlman, Yahoo Sports right after Wallace signed with the Celtics….

He wants that so badly that he’s even willing to come off the bench after being a starter in his 14 previous seasons. For his career, he’s averaged 34 minutes, 15 points and 6.9 rebounds with 1.4 blocks.

"Two minutes, 30 minutes, whatever, as long as I’m contributing to the team for the `W,’ " Wallace said. "If I score a point and we win, hey, it’s the sorriest point I’ve ever scored but we got the win. That beats 100 points and a loss any day."

Could I envision it being any different?  It is possible.

The most likely scenario is that Kendrick Perkins continues to start, but Wallace will get more 4th quarter minutes. Perkins 4th quarter point production is low and he is not a strong foul shooter

Doc Rivers has a front line option this season he hasn’t had before. Wallace gives the Celtics another long defender/shot blocker of the highest order.  

On defense I give Perkins the edge at this stage of each of their careers. Offensively, it is, of course, Wallace.

While it may come down to match ups. I think it may be also be about what is best over 48 minutes.

Perkins has shown two characteristics as a starter. He starts fast offensively and he starts with a tendency to foul. Historically, Doc doesn’t play Perkins as much in the 4th quarter anyway. His 4th quarter production is low. Are his minutes are less because his production is low or is it vice versa?

Boston also did not have strong 4th quarters last season. It was, by far, their worst quarter in terms of net points.

Let’s look at Boston’s production (net points) quarter by quarter:

Game: +7.5
1st quarter:  +2.6

2nd  quarter: +1.8
3rd quarter:  +2.5
4th quarter: +.5

Some of the low 4th quarter production is due to blow outs (both ways), where the second unit is in for a larger portion of the game.

But a look at the Cavaliers, the team with the biggest winning point spread (+8.9) reveals their 3rd quarter as their weakest (+0.6) but a +2.0 in the 4th.

The Celtic players all say that fatigue wasn’t an issue. But the starters didn’t close as strong as the previous year either.

Without going into a game-by-game 4th quarter look at the units that Boston played in that quarter, I think it is reasonable to say that the weak bench contributed to the problem. They couldn’t hold leads all that well. I’ll leave it open as to what other things may have contributed. No doubt not having Garnett for 27 games didn’t help. But even with KG, the team struggled a bit in the second half of the year.

Kendrick Perkins was often pulled for James Posey in the fourth quarter the year before. He played more 4th quarter ball this past season. But it was still his lowest PT and production of the game.

Here is Perkins QbyQ production (minutes are rounded):

Q Minutes points FGA   FG% reb. blks
1st 10:20      2.8      2.2   56%  3.0  0.6

2nd 5:20       2.0      1.4    60% 1.6  0.4

3rd  9:55      2.8       2.1    57% 2.5  0.6

4th  4:00      0.9       0.6    na    1.0   0.4
(4th Q approx. KP did not qualify with <300 minutes )

Q  Minutes  points  FGA  FG%  reb  blks
1st 10:30      3.9       3.2    47%   2.5  0.5

2nd 5:48       2.0       2.1    38%   1.4  0.2

3rd 10:30     3.9       3.5     43%   2.4  0.4   

4th  7:40      3.2        3.0    37%   1.7  0.2

Caveat: These numbers won’t necessarily equal the season averages because neither player played every quarter. The averages shown are per quarters actually played – not over 82 games.

Example: Perkins played 80 first quarters, but only 74 second quarters – averages reflect games played for that quarter. They indicate actual production when playing.

All I wanted to show above is how the minutes and production have gone for each player.
Other Things to Consider
There were many times the team got out of the gate slow. It seemed as if they knew that they could come back on most anyone – and that was true. But it’s not a great habit to get into.

Would Doc try starting Rasheed to give the team more offensive punch to start the game?

His outside shooting could draw out interior defenders and help clear lanes for Rondo and Pierce.

If his defense is solid, it saves Perkins fouls and energy for later in the game. It also gives the second unit the team’s best interior defender. That compliments Glen Davis at both ends of the floor, if Glen’s role is to continue to be a floor spacer and spot up shooter.

Thoughts on Wallace

I know that many power forwards (few centers) can step out and hit the three. I’ve always wondered how they can do that and still be effective around the hoop and as a rebounder. Yet players like Larry Bird, Kevin Garnett (18 footers), Dirk Nowitzki, as well as Rasheed Wallace have managed to find a way to do just that.

Still, I think that Rasheed’s biggest help will occur around the hoop on both ends of the floor. That is where he was born to play. Rasheed’s blocks went down and his long balling went up last season. I’d like to see a reverse in that trend this year.

Doc has always stressed attacking the hoop. Because they are an excellent shooting team, the Cs settle for the jumper at times.  

For the moment, it seems as if Wallace’s interchangeability with either Garnett or Perkins makes having him come off the bench as the ideal role. Foul trouble with either KP or KG can bring in Wallace and not miss a beat.

That Wallace can float inside or out, yet always require a defender to pay attention, his big game experience and comparably better foul shooting (77% last season) seems to make sense to insert him in close games in the 4th quarter.

While I see Doc experimenting with different line ups and certain situations where Wallace starting might be better, Rasheed as 6th man just looks right most of the time.

It is a nice problem to have, isn’t it?