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Gerald Wallace May Be the Portland Trail Blazers' X-Factor Heading into 2011-12

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Gerald Wallace May Be the Portland Trail Blazers' X-Factor Heading into 2011-12
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Though LaMarcus Aldridge shouldered most of the load for the Portland Trail Blazers last season, many people forget that Gerald Wallace, too, had his fingerprints all over each and every game since he arrived.

He made so much of an impact that Portland fans should be excited, if not ecstatic, when he actually plays an entire season with the Trail Blazers.

Trying to explain what Wallace does on the court is a hard task—he does almost everything—but no one could put it in better words than coach Nate McMillan himself.

In an interview with the Oregonian just days after the trade, McMillan said:

"Toughness, versatility. He [Wallace] can play the three or the four. You can give him the ball and he can play with the basketball. Good rebounder; a guy who can get out and run, and allow you to make some adjustments. If you want to go small, you can go small, but not feel as small as we were...his outside shot has improved, but he has been a guy that you could give him the ball and he can score."

And score he did. In his few months with the Blazers, Wallace averaged 15.7 points, along with eight rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.5 steals and 0.89 blocks per game. Those might be low for a player of Crash's stature, but for coming onto a new team and fitting into a new game plan, that's not too shabby at all.

As coach McMillan alluded to, Wallace's versatility creates mismatches for the defense. He's too strong for lanky, frail Forwards to handle, but he's too quick and crafty for bigger, slower Forwards to deal with. 

But what really makes him worth the contract is his versatility on defense. Wallace is quick and aware enough to effectively defend Guards, but he's strong and lengthy enough to guard Forwards. It's almost unfair to have him on the court.

He's a weapon that Portland has yet to utilize to its fullest potential and bringing Raymond Felton over from Denver—someone who, let's not forget, played with Wallace earlier during his years as a Bobcat—was definitely a great move by the Trail Blazers' front office.

With a starting lineup of Felton, Wesley Matthews, Wallace, Aldridge and either Greg Oden or Marcus Camby, the Portland Trail Blazers finally seem to have a complete team for the first time in a long time. And with Crash in the game for a full season, the Rip City just might make that deep Playoff run they've been yearning for. 

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