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Player Report: Ben Wallace

Ben Wallace (Clarence Tabb Jr. / The Detroit News)

Essentials

Position: Center/ power forward

Age: 35

Height: 6-foot-9

Weight: 240 pounds

Years pro: 13

From: Virginia Union

Role

Ben Wallace is Detroit’s starting center and best defender. Nobody else on the team comes close to matching his inside presence. Ideally, he’d play big minutes. But at 35, he probably can’t sustain such a heavy load – no matter how much the Pistons try to give him one.

Scouting report

Will: defend and rebound.

He might not be as athletic as he once was, but he’s smarter. His positioning is excellent, and that’s why he’s still effective.

Won’t: score.

Wallace has virtually no offensive game. He has no post moves, no jumper and is a terrible free-shooter. Most of his points come from put-backs and other hustle plays.

Must improve: free-throw shooting.

I was nearly inclined to put nothing here. By three seasons, Wallace is Detroit most-experience player. At some point, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

But Wallace is making a career-high 49.1 percent of his free throws this year, and he can keep that up. He actually has decent form in warmups. His problems are mental.

Maybe he’s past them and has improved from the worst free-throw shooter of all time to merely terrible.

Stock

Rising

Before the season, Wallace spoke to the media and gave short answers to every question. It seemed like desperately just wanted the crowd to focus on another player. Finally, some flatly asked him if he was trying to downplay his return to the Pistons.

“It’s kind of hard for me to downplay my return,” Wallace said. “I mean, I’m 6-9, 240. I’m pretty sure everybody sees me coming.”

I don’t think anyone saw this coming.

Wallace has been remarkable, and nothing shows that more than his playing time. Despite John Kuester’s preliminary plans to sit Wallace at times, Big Ben has played in all 30 of Detroit’s games and is second on the team in total minutes.

Nobody else on the roster comes close to matching his interior defense and rebounding.

Three predictions

1. His passing will become overrated.

Wallace is an excellent passer for his size. His passing was always pretty good, and it’s really improved since he first left Detroit.

He hasn’t gotten much credit for the skill, but that’s beginning to change. I think it’s only a matter of time until it goes too far.

Wallace was underrated for much of his career. Finally, people noticed, and it became chic to say Wallace was underrated – to the point he probably became overrated. I suspect his passing ability will receive the same fate.

One reason it’s easy to overrate his passing: his assists look remarkably skillful. But he either makes the pinpoint pass when he sees an opening or makes an easy pass back to a guard near halfcourt.

He’s not involved in the offense enough to make the quality in-between passes that teams must make to facilitate good ball movement.

2. Wallace will be a factor in end-of-season-award voting again.

Since he won the 2005-06 Defensive Player of the Year award, Wallace finished sixth for the award the next year. Otherwise, he hasn’t even received a single vote for any major award.

But that could change this year. Wallace should garner attention for Defensive Player of the Year and Most Improved Player. His numbers are better than they’ve been since his first year with the Bulls, and he’s forcing teams to account for him when they’re on offense.

3. Wallace will return next season.

It would be easy to look at Wallace’s near-decision to retire this offseason as evidence he’s almost done.

“Oh no, that wasn’t the first time I thought about retiring,” Wallace said. “I was pretty much retired. So, that’s not frustration. I know what I can do in this league. I know what I’ve done in this league. It was just one of those things where I thought I was closer to the end than the beginning.”

Wallace doesn’t seem very introspective. And I don’t think the season he’s having will push him any closer to the end. Trying to get a read on him, let’s look at why he returned to Detroit.

“I just figured that, if I was going to retire, this would be a good spot for me to retire,” Wallace said.

Why?

“C’mon, man,” he continued. “That’s a no-brainer.”

Maybe his only reasons for returning to Detroit were the painfully obvious ones. But I think it’s more likely he hadn’t put much thought into it. He liked it it in Detroit, and that was it. I don’t buy he was thinking about retiring when he made that decision.

A lot of speculation here, but my gut says he’ll be back.

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