It's increasingly hard for NBA teams to find older talent that meshes well with their teams on cheap deals. In the most recent collective bargaining agreement, the middle-class of the NBA has been phased out. Teams have to be much more frugal with their spending to avoid stringent luxury tax penalties that increase as teams remain in the tax.
So when the Wizards stumbled upon Paul Pierce after Trevor Ariza left when they would not give him the salary increase he wanted, people were skeptical about the fit and how productive Pierce would be. The cause for that skepticism, though, has slowly but surely faded away as the season has gone by. John Wall is the Wizards' best player, but Paul Pierce has been one of the more consistent forces on the team.
Pierce is having his lowest usage season to date with a usage rate of just 20.6 percent, but when Pierce is taking these shots he is making a majority of them. He has a 58 percent true shooting mark and an effective field goal percentage of 53. He's been an absolute marksman from deep, hitting 38 percent of his shots from beyond the arc while hitting 50 percent of his two point shots.
Let's take a look at his shot chart. When there is this much green, it cannot be a negative.
There were questions about how well Pierce would mesh with Wall upon arrival, but those questions have been put to bed. Ariza was the perfect corner specialist for Wall, but Pierce 52 percent of the passes Pierce has received as a Wizard have come from John Wall. He shoots 45 percent from the floor when receiving passes from Wall and 38 percent of his threes--both on par with his averages for the season.
He's unquestionably fit in very well with this team. He understands what his role is and he accepts his duty of giving backup to Wall and Nene, who are the team's most productive players this season. Pierce routinely shows up with the team's best lineups and has a net rating of +6.3--only behind Nene, Marcin Gortat and John Wall.
He's proven to be a versatile fit as well. While Pierce has not had to use his post and isolation skills very often this season, he has still been productive in both of those areas. Pierce scores .98 points per possession as a post-up scorer, which ranks in the 82nd percentile among NBA players. In isolation situations Pierce scores .87 points per possession, which ranks in the 60th percentile among NBA players.
Though Pierce is way passed his prime, there are situations where you can give him the ball, ask him to get buckets and he'll give the team some production. These are going to be invaluable skills during the postseason. We may see Pierce used in a variety of ways where he's playing as a small-ball power forward or playing against smaller competition who he can body in the post.
Pierce's ability to still create his own shot is going to go a long way once the game slows down for the Wizards and transition opportunities come less and less. Players like Pierce are made for those moments with his crafty old-man moves and ball fakes.
Pierce's addition has taken this team to another level. As far as things that cannot be measured on the floor, Pierce brought the attitude of protecting home court to this squad, brought an element of no-nonsense and toughness and continues to set example after example for the team's young, budding backcourt.
Pierce is only making $5.3 million this season, but has been worth far more than that to the Wizards this season. He's got a PER of just 15.3, but the way he's shooting the ball with consistency from so many areas of the floor makes him someone opposing teams have to respect and keep track of.
He's got a player option for next season and could very well opt out and get a more lucrative offer elsewhere, but Pierce has been incredibly valuable for this team this season. That value is only going to increase as the playoffs draw closer and closer. Maybe we'll see a moment where Pierce shows exactly why the Wizards brought him to D.C.