The Truth About Paul Pierce

On June 24, 1998 the Boston Celtics selected Paul Pierce with the 10th pick of the NBA Draft.  12 years later the more appropriate sentence would be that Paul Pierce fell into the lap of the Boston Celtics on that day.  12 years later there is conversation that Paul Pierce is among the all-time Celtic greats.  Celtic enthusiasts would argue with me until they are blue in the face that Pierce being a Celtic great is blasphemy.  It is ignorant to not classify number 34 as a top 5 Boston Celtic.  What he has done in this city over the past 12 seasons is incredible.  Not only is he one of the best Celtics of all time, he is one of the best players of this generation in the NBA.

The 1998 Draft

Olowokandi, Bibby, LaFrentz, Jamison, Carter, Traylor, Jason Williams (the white one), Hughes, and Nowitzki.  These are the 9 players that were picked ahead of Pierce in 1998.  It doesn’t take Hubie Brown to realize that Pierce is the best player out of these 10 names.  Dirk vs. Pierce you ask?  Who has the ring? In fact from 1998-2002 there weren’t many notable players selected in the draft. According to my research, the following players are the only players I would consider to put in the same sentence as Pierce. They are Dirk Nowitzki (1998), Pau Gasol, Tony Parker, Joe Johnson (2001), and Amare Stoudimire (2002).  The argument could be made that Pierce was the best draft pick from 1998-2002. Gasol and Parker have their rings while Dirk has never been able to show up for the playoffs.  Stoudimire is one of the top 2 big men in the game, and Joe Johnson is more of a great role player.  Paul Pierce has his ring and has won with a supporting cast.

Pierce’s career before The Big Three

Pierce’s lowest scoring average was his rookie year when he averaged 16.5 a game which was a lockout shortened season.  Other than that year he has averaged more than 18.3 ppg and his career high 26.5 during the 2005-2006 season.  Pierce was a unanimous pick for First Team All Rookie in 1998-1999 season.

Before the trades that landed the Celtics Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, Pierce played with some terrible teams.  The only supporting cast he really had was in the form of Antoine Walker.  They made to the Eastern Conference Finals but lost to the New Jersey Nets in the 2001-2002 season.  Pierce and Walker’s supporting cast included Rodney Rodgers (acquired via trade for Joe Johnson), Kenny Anderson, Tony Delk, and Eric Williams.  The fact that team made it to the Eastern Conference is a minor miracle.

That year Pierce led the league in total points scored, and became the first Celtic since Larry Legend to post back to back 2,000 point seasons. Pierce and Walker would lead the Celtics back into the playoffs the next season as Pierce would average 25.6 ppg. He also became only the second Celtic ever (Bird) to have 3 straight 2,000 point seasons.

The Celtics beat the Pacers in the first round of the playoffs but lost to the Nets again, this time in the Eastern Conference Semis.  The next season Pierce would lead the Celtics to the playoffs for a third year in a row but they would lose to the Pacers in the first round.

The 2004-2005 season saw Doc Rivers take over as head coach and lead the team to a 45 win season but lose in the first round once again to the Indiana Pacers.  Pierce would be supported by Walker, (after they traded back for him) Raef LaFrentz, Ricky Davis, and rookie Al Jefferson.  Old man Gary Payton was the Celtics point guard that year. The next two seasons were terrible for the Celtics as they didn’t make the playoffs and were in on the Greg Oden-Kevin Durant sweepstakes after the 2006-2007 season.

NBA Champions from 1998-2007

Now that you have an understanding of who Paul Pierce was playing with the first ten years of his career (Mark Blount, Tony Allen, Raef LaFrentz). Let’s take a look at the champions during that time frame.

The San Antonio Spurs won the title in Pierce’s rookie year behind Tim Duncan and David Robinson, both first ballot Hall of Famers with a role players such as Sean Elliott, Avery Johnson, Mario Ellie, and Steve Kerr. The Los Angeles Lakers would win the next 3 championships behind Shaq and Kobe, Big Shot Bob and a number of other experienced veterans that knew how to win.

The Spurs would win 3 out of the next 5 titles, with the Pistons and Heat being the other teams to take the title home. The Spurs were still led by Tim Duncanand David Robinson. They also  added Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli to the mix.  The Pistons had a great starting all around starting five when they won with Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Rasheed Wallace, and Ben Wallace.  The Heat had Shaq and Dwayne Wade.

This goes to show that no one is able to win a championship on their own.  These are just recent examples.  The greatest player who ever lived needed Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, and others.  Russell had Cousy and Heinshon.  Bird had McHale and Parish.

The point in me listing all of this for you is to show just how weak the Celtics were during the pre Big Three Era.  It is truly amazing that Pierce was able to keep the Celtics as close to relevant as he did during that time essentially on his own.  During those days the Celtics offense was to give the ball to Pierce and get out of his way.  Celtics fans can look at those years and see just way Pierce is one of the best isolation players in the game today.

Pierce and The Big Three

The argument that Pierce is nothing without Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett holds no water.  When Allen and Garnett came during the summer of 2007, Pierce had the freedom to change his game.  No longer was he relied upon to be the sole offensive threat for the Celtics.  He had the freedom to drive to the basket and kick to Ray Allen, not Tony Delk or Kevin Garnett and not Mark Blount. His defense was also put on display as he would often defend the opposing teams best player, whether it be LeBron James or Dwayne Wade.

Pierce’s true legend showed when he and LeBron went head to head a la ‘Nique and Larry in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semi finals.  Pierce had 41 points 4 rebounds and 5 assists to lead the Celtics past the Cavs in an epic Game 7 at the Garden. He would be the NBA Finals MVP that year as the Celtics beat the Lakers in 6 games where he outplayed Kobe Bryant.

Career Accolades

After a lot of typing I still feel that I can’t adequately express how great Paul Pierce is. So I am going to give you some cold hard facts in terms of hardware that Pierce has earned over the course of his Hall of Fame career.

*2008 NBA Champion

*2008 NBA Finals MVP

* All NBA Second Team (2009)

*3 Time All NBA Third Team (2002, 2003, 2008)

*8 time NBA All Star (’03,’04,’05,’06,’08,’09,10)

*NBA All Rookie First Team (1999)

*NBA Three Point Contest Winner (2010)

In Celtics Lore

Paul Pierce will never be Bill Russell or Larry Bird.  But Paul Pierce does deserve consideration in being talked about with the likes of Havlicek, McHale, Cousy, and Parrish.  He currently stands 3rd all time in scoring.  He has gotten the Green to the Eastern Conference Finals four times in 11 seasons, to the Finals twice, and was able to raise Banner 17 to the rafters.  He is a sure fire first ballot Hall of Famer. One day he will be able to raise his jersey to the rafters where it rightfully belongs.

 

I can be followed on Twitter at ScottieNTCF

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