On Saturday, the Detroit Pistons retired Ben Wallace’s #3 jersey during halftime of their game against Golden State. Wallace spent nine seasons with the Pistons, including their championship season in 2004, and is the first player from that team to have their jersey retired; Chauncey Billups‘ will have his retired later this season. The ceremony caused me to reflect on Wallace’s career and ultimately prompted me to ask if he’ll be an eventual Hall of Famer.
Before we begin, let’s regress to 1996. The draft class that year is always brought up as one of the best, and with good reason. It was star-studded with the likes of Kobe Bryant, Ray Allen, Allen Iverson, Stephon Marbury, and many others. However, Ben Wallace didn’t hear his name called on draft night. The six-foot-nine-inch forward from Virginia Union University had gone undrafted but was signed by the Washington Bullets on 10/2/96. As time progressed, however, Ben Wallace would display defensive prowess that even Bill Russell would appreciate.
Over the course of his 16-year career, Wallace would become the second player to win DPOY four-times (Dikembe Mutombo), and cement himself as one of the best defenders in Detroit’s history.
Ben Wallace In Detroit
As mentioned earlier, Wallace spent nine total seasons with the Pistons, but his best were 2000-01 to 2005-06. In those seasons (six total), Wallace finished in the top-5 in:
- Offensive Rebounds (league leader 2x, 2002-03 & 2005-06 )
- Defensive Rebounds (2000-01 league leader)
- Total Rebounds (league leader 2x, 2000-01 & 2002-03)
- Rebounds Per Game (2001-02 & 2002-03 league leader)
- Blocks (2001-02 league leader) *Number nine in 2000-01*
- Defensive Rating (League leader 3x, 2001-04 )
- Defensive Win Shares (league leader 4x, 2001-05)
- Defensive Box Plus/Minus (league leader 5x, 2000-04, 2005-06)
They say that championship teams play defense and rebound. With Ben Wallace, Detroit had both categories covered, and he was instrumental during their Finals run in 2003-04. The Pistons’ DRtg as a team that year was 95.4 and Wallace led the team with 87. During the playoffs, Wallace led all players in TRB, DRB, ORB, STL, and his 56 blocks were second to Shaquille O’Neal‘s 61; his 83.9 DRtg was first, and his 2.8 defensive win shares were also first.
Looking at his career in Detroit as a whole, Ben Wallace ranks first in four categories — DBPM (5.9), blocks (1486), blocks per game (2.3), and defensive win shares (49.0) — but is top-10 in a bevy of other categories:
- Games (9th, 655)
- Minutes Played (8th, 21358)
- Offensive Rebounds (3rd, 2286)
- Defensive Rebounds (2nd, 4978)
- Total Rebounds (3rd, 7264)
- Steals (2nd, 931)
- Rebounds Per Game (7th, 11.1)
- Offensive Rebound % (7th, 12.4)
- Defensive Rebound % (2nd, 29.4)
- Total Rebound % (3rd, 19.8)
- Block % (5.2)
- Defensive Rating (2nd, 94.7)
- Box Plus/Minus (3rd, 4.4)
- Value Over Replacement Player (2nd, 34.6)
Evidenced by his production with the Pistons, Ben Wallace is one of the top-3 defensive players in franchise history. All four of his DPOY awards also came during his time in Detroit.
Ben Wallace Everywhere Else
Unfortunately for Wallace, after his first stint in Detroit, he declined rapidly. In the summer of 2006, Wallace signed with the Chicago Bulls and averaged 10.7 boards & 2.0 blocks per game — the last season where he would average those numbers. From 2007-2012, Wallace experienced severe struggles and only averaged 3.6p/7.0r/1.2b over his last five seasons.
Because someone needs to play Devil’s Advocate, voters looking at Wallace’s career would look at his offensive numbers as a reason to keep him out of the Hall. He was a poor offensive player, but remember that teams weren’t signing him for his offense. Teams wanted Wallace because of his hustle and defensive presence.
Going back to Wallace on offense, he was a horrendously poor free throw shooter. I don’t like criticizing players, but Wallace was really bad from the free throw line. Of players with 500+ FTA, Wallace has the second-worst percentage at 41%; Andre Drummond is ahead of Wallace with 39%.
Would I Vote For Ben Wallace?
If Dennis Rodman can get into the Hall of Fame, Wallace deserves consideration. Their numbers are eerily similar, and although Rodman had better rebounding numbers, Wallace’s ability to block shots and create steals was better than Rodman. If I were able to vote, I would vote Ben Wallace into the Hall of Fame.
Quick Stats: Ben Wallace is one of five players to have four or more games of 10+ ORB in the playoffs since 1986 (S. O’Neal, D. Howard, C. Barkley, and D. Rodman).
Also one of three players to four or more games of 10+ ORB, and 20+ TRB in the playoffs since 1986 (D. Howard, C. Barkley).
*Photo Credit: Ronald Martinez / Getty Images*
*All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference*