Year in review: Cal men’s basketball alumnus Tyrone Wallace

Phillip Downey/Senior Staff

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With the 2017-18 season having come to a conclusion, The Daily Californian will break down the performance and future of Cal men’s basketball alumni in the NBA.

Of the six Cal men’s basketball alumni in the NBA this past season, rookie guard Tyrone Wallace unquestionably had the most unique campaign, for better or worse.

Wallace’s first offseason as a professional hooper began on a sour note with a string of poor performances during the summer leagues.

The former second-round pick headed into summer fresh off a respectable rookie season in the Development League, averaging 14.8 points per game in 26.8 minutes per game, but couldn’t build off that success.

To put it lightly, the numbers weren’t pretty. In seven games, Wallace only posted 4.9 points per game, shooting an ice-cold 27.3 percent from the field and failing to drain a single 3-pointer.

On July 18, 2017, the Utah Jazz renounced Wallace’s draft rights, making him a free agent after one season in the Development League.

Despite a shaky performance during the summer leagues, Wallace found a saving grace in the Agua Caliente Clippers, the G League affiliate of the Los Angeles Clippers that signed the guard.

After coming off the bench in Agua Caliente’s first game of the season, Wallace transitioned into a starting role and blossomed into the squad’s primary bucket-getter.

In 23 games, Wallace improved on all facets of his play, posting 22.8 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.4 assists per contest.

The Bakersfield product was playing some of the best basketball of his professional career, and when the already depleted Clippers lost another point guard, Miloš Teodosić, to a foot injury, Wallace was the obvious replacement.

Wallace was immediately thrown into the fire, not only playing heavy minutes, but also having two of his first three games against the Golden State Warriors.

The rookie responded well, hitting double digits in points in five of his first six games and dropping 22 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals on the Dubs in his third career game.

Much to the tune of fellow rookies, however, Wallace encountered the dreaded learning curve.

After averaging 11.9 points per game on 50.6 percent shooting in his first 10 games, he posted 8.5 points on 41.5 percent shooting in his next 11 contests.

The best medicine for a youngster is to play through the struggles and continue to learn the intricacies of the game, but Wallace didn’t have that opportunity because of a rather strange set of circumstances.

When Wallace joined the Clippers, he signed one of the league’s new two-way contracts. A stipulation of the two-way contract is that a player who agrees to said deal cannot spend more than 45 days with their NBA team.

At the end of the 45 days, the only way a two-way player can stay with the NBA team is if the contract is converted to a full NBA deal.

If the club does not choose to convert the contract, the two-way player must wait until the conclusion of the G League season to rejoin the NBA team, but doing so means they will not be eligible for the playoffs.

The Clippers offered Wallace a four-year minimum contract that would have begun immediately and run through the 2020-21 season, but Wallace did not agree because the latter three seasons were fully nonguaranteed, according to ClutchPoints.

With both sides failing to agree to a deal, Wallace would miss 14 games before returning to the NBA hardwood.

A month after the contract conundrum, Wallace returned to Los Angeles and played the team’s final nine games of the season, concluding his impressive rookie campaign posting 9.7 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game over 30 contests.

Should the Clippers present Wallace a qualifying offer by Saturday, he’ll be a restricted free agent, meaning he can sign any team’s deal, but Los Angeles can retain him by matching said deal. If the Clippers do not present the qualifying offer, Wallace will be an unrestricted free agent.

Regarding Wallace’s future, he’s in an interesting position.

Most of the guard’s playing time last season came as a result of the Clippers’ depleted guard depth. Patrick Beverley and Avery Bradley underwent season-ending surgeries in November and March, respectively, while Austin Rivers and Teodosić missed significant time as well.

Rivers and Teodosić both opted in to their player options, worth $12 million and $6.3 million, respectively, and are set to return to Los Angeles barring trades.

Should Beverley, Bradley, Rivers, Teodosić, Lou Williams and Sindarius Thornwell all return next season, the minutes for Wallace may be few and far between.

Bradley will more than likely command more than the $8.8 million he made last season, and it wouldn’t be shocking for him to pursue a big contract.

Even if Bradley walks, Wallace would also have to compete with recently drafted Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jerome Robinson, a pair of guards selected in the lottery whose playing time will be prioritized.

With a six-guard rotation in Beverley, Gilgeous-Alexander, Rivers, Robinson, Thornwell and Williams, leaving Los Angeles is a very realistic option for Wallace.

Among the teams that could bolster their guard rotations are the Charlotte Hornets, Detroit Pistons, Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies and Orlando Magic.

As a rising second-year player who only played 30 games, Wallace won’t be able to command too much money on the open market.

Justice delos Santos covers men’s basketball. Contact Justice delos Santos at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @justdelossantos