I made a couple of comments in the game thread last night that I wanted to expand more into a deeper conversation. As I stated last night, it was pretty obvious that Phil Chenier is not a fan of signing Paul Pierce. He mentioned a few things last night that he believed may hurt the team: can he play defense against SFs in the league, is there too much veteran leadership, and he had his worse offensive season last year.
Let's break down each of these points.
1. Can Pierce play defense against SFs in the League?
It is no secret that Paul Pierce is not the best athlete in the league, he never has been. For years he has become an elite player by using craftiness to make up for his lack of athletic prowess. On defense, he has not had the same level of success as he has on the offensive end. Even still he has been regarded as a good defensive player. Perhaps it has been schemes, or may be even having some of his flaws masked by players like Kevin Garnett. Regardless, he will likely need the same here. We also have to consider that the goal may not be to make him a 30 mpg player, but rather split his time with Otto Porter. We should also take into account that last year Brooklyn used him as a stretch 4, which could be an option here. That also can help mask his deficiencies on defense. The only answer we have at this point, is that it depends on how he will be used.
2. Is there too much veteran leadership?
I think the team is definitely becoming too old. It was stated last night that they now only have 5 players under the age of 25. That certainly is a sign given that the youthfulness from the team has gone away, but Paul Pierce is on a much different level than any of the other veterans. He has won a championship, a Finals MVP and has been a multi-time NBA All-Star. He has a unique perspective that other veterans like Nene, Drew Gooden and Andre Miller just don't have. While I certainly agree that this team is getting old, it's really rare to find a player as decorated as Paul Pierce.
3. Pierce had his worst offensive year last year
There is a lot to be said for a player who spent almost his entire career as the franchise player for his team. Through the best and worst times, Paul Pierce has been a constant in the Celtics' line up. His knack for scoring regardless of who was on the team pushed him to being the first or second option on the team. But in Brooklyn, things were different. He was in a lineup that featured the likes of Joe Johnson and Deron Williams, who were considered the first and second options for the team offensively. Clearly he wasn't going to get the shots that he previously had the ability to take. During the season he only took 9.5 shots/game which is 6 less than his career average (15.6) and about 5 less than his last year in Boston (14.2). You also have to factor in that he played a career worst 28 mins/game (Career average: 36.1). With those numbers, is it any wonder why his offensive numbers were down? Let's give a real analysis of his numbers:
Per 36 Minutes he averaged 17.3 PPG which would rank him just below his rookie year but he also attempted 2 less shots a game from that year. If you interpolate that further, the year that the Celtics won the championship, which is the year he got Finals MVP, he scored 1.42 points per shot attempt in 2007-08 and last year he scored 1.41 points per shot attempt. Given that his role will not require the same level of attempts as his prime year, efficiency will be key and as long as he is able to maintain his scoring at the same efficiency as last year, then he will be an effective player for this team.
He certainly will not be asked to be a primary scorer but when you look at his statistics, there isn't a huge drop off as has been suggested. My expectation of Paul Pierce is he will be a steady offensive player that can go for 10-15 ppg, occasionally guard slower 3s and smaller 4s, be the go to option at the end of games and provide leadership from a perspective of a winner. He will not be the Paul Pierce of old and I don't think that's the goal here. The best move maybe to get another wing as a defensive specialist and use Pierce as a 4 in a small ball lineup to mask his defensive flaws more.
Thoughts? What do you believe is good or bad about this signing? Do you agree with Chenier's assessment?