Why Losing Rasheed Wallace Severely Hurts New York Knicks' Title Aspirations

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Why Losing Rasheed Wallace Severely Hurts New York Knicks' Title Aspirations
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The recent news that Rasheed Wallace will be having season-ending surgery should make New York Knicks fans worry about their team’s chances at an NBA championship.

The 38-year-old came out of retirement before this season and contributed to the Knicks’ great start.

In the 20 games Wallace participated in before his injury, the Knicks were 16-4.

The last time he was on the court was on December 13 when the Knicks beat the Lakers 116-107 and extended their record to 17-5. During that game, Wallace had eight points, three rebounds and shot 3-of-5 from the field as well as 2-of-4 from behind the arc in 12 minutes.

He also had 12 points and seven rebounds against the Miami Heat in the second meeting between these two teams in this season, which ended in a 112-92 victory for New York. The Knicks could surely have used Wallace on Sunday, as they ended up losing 99-93 with the game slipping away in the final minutes.

Over the course of this season, Wallace averaged 7.2 PPG and 4.2 rebounds in 14.6 minutes.

However, once you look into his per 36 minutes stats, you start to get a sense of Wallace’s impact on the court.

Now, he’s averaging 17.8 PPG, his highest since the 2002-03 season. He’s also averaging 10.2 rebounds. In his entire career he has never averaged more than nine rebounds per 36 minutes.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Rasheed Wallace in the last game he played.

His win shares per 48 minutes is .104 and his PER is 16.8, both of which are above the league average.

Another crucial element that Wallace brings to the team, which can’t be quantified in a statistic, is veteran leadership. He has won an NBA championship and played enough seasons at the highest level that he could have had an impact for the Knicks down the stretch.

The loss of Wallace also negatively impacts the Knicks’ key players, as they will have to spend more time on the court, which will increase wear and tear.

That should be a red flag for the Knicks, as they had to face the Miami Heat last year without several key players such as Jeremy Lin and Iman Shumpert.

The Knicks bench is depleted. Just compare the Knicks lineup from opening night and Sunday’s game, both against the Miami Heat. In the first game, the Knicks had seven players coming off the bench. In the second game, the number was reduced to four.

Carmelo Anthony’s minutes have gone up from 35.3 MPG to 38.8 in February. In his first two games in March, he has averaged 42.5 MPG. Tyson Chandler has also seen his minutes increase dramatically. He averaged 29.5 in November, but last month the number had gone up to 34.5.

How much do you think the Knicks wished they had Wallace’s 14 MPG right now, so they could allocate some time on the bench for their star players?

The question going forward for the Knicks is how to replace the veteran. The reality is that while the Knickerbockers could probably have found someone who gave them 7.2 PPG in 14 minutes, that’s not what they did.

Rasheed Wallace scores 10 points against the 76ers.

The Knicks signed Kenyon Martin, another veteran player, but so far it remains to be seen if he can make up for the loss of Wallace.

Martin has only played five minutes since he arrived in New York, so he has not exactly provided any relief for the starters.

Additionally, judging by Martin’s stats, there’s very little indication that the Knicks will get the same offensive production from him as they got from Wallace.

In his last season with the Clippers, Martin averaged just 5.2 PPG in 22.4 minutes, which equates to 8.3 points per 36 minutes.

There have been some reports that Wallace could return once the playoffs start. Although he might be reeling from the lack of playing time, Knicks fans should keep their fingers crossed.

Wallace’s production during his 20-game stint, as well as the Knicks’ lack of spark from the bench, should be enough for them to wish for his return.

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