When Ben Wallace decided on Monday that he'd like to sign with the Bulls, the Pistons immediately shifted gears and went to Plan B, setting up talks with Joel Przybilla. Unfortunately, those plans soon fell to pieces, as well, as Przybilla's agent confirmed Tuesday afternoon that his client decided to stay in Portland and accept a five-year deal from the Blazers.
Jilted for the second time in two days, the Pistons quickly flipped the page to Plan C and grabbed Nazr Mohammed.Once again, DBB readers scooped me while I was busy loafing on the holiday -- you guys don't miss a thing. He's not the guy we wanted, and he's not even the fallback guy. He's simply the next-next-best thing, but perhaps more importantly, the guy we got.
Mohammed cost the Pistons the mid-level exception, or about $30 million over the next five years, with the final year being a team player option. For those counting at home, that's about $30 million cheaper and one year longer than what Wallace commanded from the Bulls.
But while Mohammed's paycheck will be lighter than Wallace's this year, so will his contributions on the defensive end. Despite having the size (6-10, 250 pounds) to bang with most NBA centers, he's not known as a strong defender, and only twice in eight years has he averaged more than one block per game.
Mohammed, who turns 29 in September, has never averaged more than 26.4 minutes per game, but it's promising that he tends to make the most of his limited time on the court. In just 17.4 minutes per game last year with the Spurs, he averaged 6.2 points and 5.2 boards. That translates to 17 points and 14.4 rebounds per 48 minutes, with the latter ranking ninth in the entire NBA.
Of course, there has to be a reason Mohammed has never played 30-plus minutes per game, and the fact remains that he likely won't receive that opportunity this coming season with Antonio McDyess (and hopefully Jason Maxiell) likely taking on a larger role.
However, Mohammed does have one leg up on the man he's replacing: he's a career 66% shooter from the free-throw line, and he shot 78.5% last year. That compares awfully favorably to Wallace's career mark of 41.8%, and his playoff average of 27.3% this past year.
I'm a little nervous about what the fan reaction will be toward Mohammed. Sure, he's going to be the new starting center, but he's not going to be able to truly "replace" Ben Wallace, not through his performance on the court and certainly not as the face of the franchise.
But by all accounts he's a good guy, a solid worker with a clean nose and a hard-luck background who's never been able to find a permanent home in the NBA. There's something to be said for giving a guy like a fair shake instead of subconsciously asking him to live up to a once-in-a-lifetime ideal. He is what he is, a journeyman big man with his fair share of limitations, only he's more than willing to be the team's lowest-paid starter instead of being insulted by what degree the Pistons were willing to make him the highest paid.
And in two years when Mohammed is 31 years old, Ben Wallace is 34 and they're each putting up comparable stats, I honestly believe the Pistons will be in much better position instead of ruing the day they broke the bank. As for what happens between now and then, I'm not too sure what to expect, though I'm definitely not ready to concede the division to Cleveland or Chicago just yet.