The 2012 NBA offseason has been highlighted by big names finding new homes. As we've come to learn over the years, however, the most important players to sign new contracts are the ones whose names have gone unnoticed.
The ever-important role players.
The guys who specialize at hitting the three that changes the pace of a late postseason game. The assets who dedicate their all to facilitating the second unit with no worries of their personal numbers. The weapons who can take on even the best scorers in the NBA and slow them down with their defensive prowess.
Despite taking in a hefty payday, Gerald Wallace finds himself at the top of that list.
On a roster filled with big names and offensively gifted players, Gerald Wallace represents the outlier. He is an all-out defender whose effort, strength, physicality and athleticism enable him to shut down even the greatest of opponents.
With defense the last thing on a majority of his teammates' minds, this makes Wallace's job that much more difficult. It also makes his presence and play imperative to postseason success.
Consider Gerald Wallace the Chuck Daly to Brooklyn's Pat Riley.
It should be noted that, when applied, Deron Williams is amongst the best defenders at the point guard position. Such has been evident during Team USA's nine games together, which have seen Williams pick up opponents off of the inbound and smother them until their shot or pass was released.
Who is most important to the Brooklyn Nets' success?
The most impressive improvement for Williams, however, has been his movement when his opponent was off of the ball.
Regardless of the defensive prowess that Deron Williams may possess, he will be delegated to the point guard position at virtually all times. This calls for another defender to take on any perimeter threat, specifically the elite scorers in the Eastern Conference such as LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Danny Granger.
Regardless of position, this calls for Gerald Wallace.
Wallace has made a living by shutting down any and every opponent who comes his way. From elite swingmen to stretch 4s, the man they call Crash has made even the greatest scorers and ball-handlers feel inferior.
Throw in an elite point guard and he'll hold them down as well.
Due to this fact, Gerald Wallace is the X-factor. He's the guy who can hold Carmelo Anthony to 20 points rather than 30. The guy who can take on Rajon Rondo and limit him to 10 assists rather than 15. The player who can't stop but can contain LeBron James.
Oh, and was it mentioned that he has a history of dropping 30 in the postseason?
During the 2010 NBA playoffs, Gerald Wallace posted averages of 17.5 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.3 steals per game. That's a full stat sheet each and every night according to the averages, and this time, numbers don't lie.
The 2011 postseason offered more of the same as Gerald Wallace averaged 15.2 points, 9.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.3 steals. He also put up 32 points and 12 rebounds as he fought to save Portland from elimination against the eventual NBA champion Dallas Mavericks.
Although Portland came up short, this is the type of player Brooklyn re-signed.
Paired with postseason veterans Deron Williams and Joe Johnson, the Brooklyn Nets may have discovered that they possess a Big Three of their own. If they want to win an NBA championship, however, they must not undervalue the third member.
To win a title, they must trust Crash and his defense to lead the way. After all, defense does win championships.