Run This NBA Town



If I asked you right now to compile a list of some of the best small forwards in the NBA, your list would probably look something like this:
-Kevin Durant
-Carmelo Anthony
-LeBron James
-Gerald Wallace
-Caron Butler
-Ron Artest
-Tayshaun Prince
-Danny Granger
-Rashard Lewis
-Andre Iguodala
-Shawn Marion

That about sums it up right? Some are better than others, but ultimately; these guys represent the best that the NBA has to offer at the small forward position. For the most part, they all present huge match up problems for their opposition and are able to contribute to their respective teams success in a multitude of ways. Indeed, if you have a great small forward on your team, he will help cover up for a lot of mistakes that some of his teammates might make. A small forward usually has enough size to snatch rebounds away from some big men, post up guards as well as forwards and finish in traffic. In addition, he typically has the speed to rotate quickly on defense, guard different types of players on switches and get into passing lanes. If this guy can shoot, watch out.

When you’re an elite small forward, people tend to notice; you’re all over the court. And yet, how is it that nobody really mentions Paul Pierce? Admit it, unless you’re a Celtics fan, when you read my list of small forwards, you didn’t really think about Pierce.

And yet, all Paul Pierce has done in the past three years (and counting) is shine on the brightest stage in the NBA Finals, play Kobe Bryant to a standstill in that same Finals appearance, win an NBA title, win an NBA Finals MVP trophy, eliminate current reigning MVP LeBron James twice (in 2008 and 2010) in the playoffs, take down Dwyane Wade and Dwight Howard in the same postseason run and he will be playing for a chance at a second ring.

Paul Pierce is an underappreciated star. For whatever reason, he just seems to go unnoticed (which is odd considering that he could probably hold his own in a trash talk pay per view event versus both Michael  Jordan and Larry Bird) despite an impressive body of work. Let’s have a quick look at it:

-One time NBA champion (2008)
-2007-08 NBA Finals MVP
- Selected three times to All-NBA 3rd Team
-Selected to 2008-09 All-NBA 2nd Team
-Eight All-Star selections
-40th in total points scored
-29th all time in points per game
-25th all time in made free throws
-14th all time in made career 3pt field goals

Let’s have a quick look at Paul Pierce’s regular season numbers throughout his career:

Season
PPG
RPG
APG
SPG
FG%
3P%
FT%
1998-99
16.5
6.4
2.4
1.7
0.439
0.412
0.713
1999-00
19.5
5.4
3.0
2.1
0.442
0.343
0.798
2000-01
25.3
6.4
3.1
1.7
0.454
0.383
0.745
2001-02
26.1
6.9
3.2
1.9
0.442
0.404
0.809
2002-03
25.9
7.3
4.4
1.8
0.416
0.302
0.802
2003-04
23.0
6.5
5.1
1.6
0.402
0.299
0.819
2004-05
21.6
6.6
4.2
1.6
0.455
0.37
0.822
2005-06
26.8
6.7
4.7
1.4
0.471
0.354
0.772
2006-07
25.0
5.9
4.1
1.0
0.439
0.389
0.796
2007-08
19.6
5.1
4.5
1.3
0.464
0.392
0.843
2008-09
20.5
5.6
3.6
1.0
0.457
0.391
0.83
2009-10
18.3
4.4
3.1
1.2
0.472
0.414
0.852
Career
22.5
6.1
3.8
1.5
0.445
0.369
0.802

And now his playoff numbers:

Season
PPG
RPG
APG
SPG
FG%
3P%
FT%
2001-02
24.6
8.6
4.1
1.7
0.403
0.288
0.764
2002-03
27.1
9.0
6.7
2.1
0.399
0.356
0.863
2003-04
20.8
8.8
2.5
1.3
0.342
0.294
0.839
2004-05
22.9
7.7
4.6
1.9
0.505
0.259
0.868
2007-08
19.7
5.0
4.6
1.1
0.441
0.361
0.802
2008-09
21.0
5.8
3.1
1.1
0.43
0.333
0.842
2009-10
19.1
6.2
3.6
1.1
0.437
0.39
0.81
Career
21.7
6.7
4.2
1.4
0.424
0.337
0.817

Pierce has been a gifted player for years in the NBA but few people have realized it. Indeed, Pierce is like a 22 inch Sony television that you bought back in 1998 that still does the job today. He’s been overshadowed by all of these new plasma and LCD flats screens (LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant) that display images in high definition but seem to fail the test of durability. The Pierce television on the other hand still displays a great old school image and keeps working to this day even after 12 years.

However, about five years ago, Pierce’s production started to somewhat decline and some felt as though he had lost a step. Although players lose some explosiveness with age, Pierce’s game did not really suffer from any drawback. In fact, his game remained the same but his circumstances changed. He was no longer playing alongside battletested veterans; instead he was surrounded with a cast of up and coming players that he had to lead and defer to in order to allow them to grow. The Celtics captain never shied away from his responsibilities, instead he chose to embrace them. Some people have at times questioned his character, but never did they question his heart….and ultimately that’s what being a Celtic has always been about.

On Thursday night, the bright lights will come on and we will be treated to the oldest and best rivalry in NBA basketball: Celtics Vs. Lakers. Paul Pierce will try to lead his team to another victory over Kobe Bryant’s Lakers in the Finals. This might sound blasphemous to some (which means that Lakers fans are going to give me a hard time over this), but Pierce may end up being Kobe’s equal in this year’s Finals. Think the statement is ridiculous? Check out their numbers from the 2008 Finals:

PLAYER
PPG
RPG
APG
FG%
FGA
FTA
PIERCE
21.8
4.5
6.3
43.2
14.7
8.8
BRYANT
25.7
4.7
5.0
40.4
21.8
8.2

Doesn’t seem like a huge mismatch now does it? Win or lose, Paul Pierce should be recognized as one of the best players in the NBA and one of the all time Celtic greats. Let’s hope that he and Kobe put on a show for the ages that we are all fortunate enough to tell our kids about in a decade or two.  But until then, I would like to leave you with this one question: who has been the best Celtic since Larry Bird retired? The answer should be #34…because he runs his NBA town.

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