HANG TIME, Texas — It was a good summer for Big Ben, the iconic symbol of London, still ringing loudly 153 years after its construction along the banks of the Thames.
The question is how much more ticking is left in iconic Big Ben Wallace of DEE-troit BAS-KET-ball! and whether it makes sense to bring the soon-to-be 38-year-old back at a time when the Pistons are striding toward the future.
On one hand, he averaged just 1.3 rebounds and 1.4 points and 15.8 minutes in 37 games last season. On the other, he could step in an right away become the best big man and inside force behind Greg Monroe.
In his PistonPowered blog at the Detroit Free Press, Patrick Hayes acknowledges that newcomers Andre Drummond and Slava Kravstov will need time to develop. He presents the pros and cons of the decision facing general manager Joe Dumars and comes down on the side of a 17th NBA season for Wallace:
I’m not big on the symbolic, mentor type narrative, though. I think Wallace is a positive influence in that regard, but I think his presence on the roster offers something more important. Namely, I don’t think it’s the right move to hand rotation spots to untested players. I think teams that are the best at player development are the teams that make young players earn their spot by beating out an incumbent for minutes.
Wallace would represent a nice in-house challenge for players like Drummond and Kravstov. He’s still a competent NBA rotation player, a heady defender, solid rebounder and, though his offensive contributions are minimal, he is an underrated passer for a big man. Having him in front of Drummond and Kravstov on initial depth charts would set a realistic bar for them to earn minutes. Wallace has enough skill left to offer tangible benefits to the team in limited minutes, reasonable things that they could ask their young bigs to replicate if they want those minutes, but he also doesn’t do present so towering a challenge that it would make it unrealistic for him to be out-produced by Drummond or Kravstov at some point during the season.
As a fan of Wallace, I would love to see him back another season simply because I enjoy watching him play. But his return would not merely be a symbolic gesture. If his presence provides a minimum bar that the young bigs have to reach in order to play, the team will be better in the long run for having him around one more season.