Although it can't be official until July 12th (when the salary cap is set), it looks like Ben Wallace is moving over to Chicago from the Pistons, where Big Ben was a crucial component to a team that won it all three years ago and almost did it again two years ago. Now, in Chicago, he's looking to be the final piece to their championship puzzle. For the last two years, Chicago has been tagged as the team on the rise, one with "future" championship potential (although they did push eventual champions Miami Heat to six games in the first round of the playoffs.) PTI's Michael Wilbon had dubbed them "The Baby Bulls." Well, with the addition of Ben Wallace, they just grew up.
The Bulls already have some excellent young talent in clutch shooter Ben Gordon, Kurt Heinrich, Chris Duhon, and Luol Deng. All were in college just three years ago, and it seems like these guys are all legitimate NBA players.
Ben Wallace will bring something they were missing those last three years. He will give the team the rebounding and blocking they didn't have the last few years. Wallace averaged 11.3 rebounds and 2.21 blocks per game last year. By comparison, Tyson Chandler lead the Bulls in the regular season in rebounds and blocks (9 and 1.37, respectively). In the playoffs, the Bulls leading rebounder was small forward Andres Nocioni with 8.8 a game. On the Pistons it was, of course, Wallace with 10.5.
Of course, Wallace brings more than stats. He brings intimidation. He brings experience (deep playoff experience that most of the "Baby Bulls" don't have.) Could that experience and intimidation have pushed the Bulls past Miami and given Chicago someone to rival Shaq's presence? We'll never know. But it's a damn good possibility.
On the other side of the story, the poor Pistons didn't plan for this. At all. Their only draft pick (the last of the entire draft) was spent on Will Blalock and unless he's the only point guard to average 2 blocks and 11 rebounds a game, they have no contingency plan. Are they going to depend on the aging Antonio McDyess to fill the void? Or Kevin Cato, the rarely-used center who's as old as McDyess? I doubt it. It looks like the Pistons need to make a huge move to fill that void. In short, they're fucked.
We're looking at a new East next year. Miami is the team to beat. LeBron and the Cavs were impressive in the postseason last year and there's no reason they won't get better. Toronto picked up T.J. Ford to play point guard, feeding big man Chris Bosh down low, which makes them a threat suddenly as well. The Nets always contend. And of course, Chicago just looks nasty. It's a new East. An East where the Pistons don't really seem to matter any more.