Name: Paul Pierce
Height: 6-foot-6 | Weight: 230-pounds
Age: 36 | Years in the NBA: 15
Contract: Expiring contract worth $15.3 million
2012/13 Stats: 20 PTS, 6.8 TRB, 5.2 AST per 36 minutes, 50.2 eFG%
OUTLOOK: Paul Pierce never wanted to leave the Celtics, he envisioned himself retiring there, but he realized that they were rebuilding and that his arrival in Brooklyn made the Nets championship contenders. So he convinced Kevin Garnett not to void the trade and the pair showed up with the goal of a ring or bust.
Pierce or KG aren’t the players that they used to be, but they don’t need to be. They can let Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson lead the team while providing them with veteran leadership and drive that they will need to be serious contenders. Nobody is claiming that the Nets got Pierce in his prime, but he and KG are significantly better than Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries.
STILL PRETTY GOOD: Pierce is not the Pierce of old, but he’s still pretty good. The Celtics were 5.4 points per 100 possessions better offensively when he was on the court last season and 2.7 points better defensively as well. Offensively he was worth 3.5 win shares, which is decent, but his 3.7 defensive win shares is among the top-25 in the Association. Compare that to Wallace, the man he’s replacing, who had 0.6 offensive win shares and 2.5 defensive, and this is a huge upgrade for the Nets.
THE SPOT-UP THREE: Speaking of Gerald Wallace, one of the things he did especially poorly was hitting the spot up three. With the way the offense is normally spread out, with Deron Williams at the point and Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson as the main scoring threats, it could have been big for the Nets to have a solid spot-up three guy. It wasn’t Wallace, who shot just 28.2 percent behind the arc, or Keith Bogans or even Mirza Teletovic. This year it could be Pierce as his 38 shooting percentage from three last year is a huge step up from Wallace. That’ll give the Nets a whole new dimension this year.
BENEFITS OF DEPTH: Pierce averaged fewer minutes per game last season, 33.4, than he has in his entire career including his rookie year. Expect that trend to continue this year, but that’s a good thing because the Nets have the depth to do it. Andrei Kirilenko will get plenty of playing time, provided he stays healthy, and Mirza Teletovic and Alan Anderson could even get time at the three. With that kind of depth, Pierce will be fresh to play the most important minutes and at a high level.
DEFERRING ON OFFENSE: One of the first thing the new Nets hit on during their introductory press conference was sacrifice. Pierce, at this point in his career, is all about that and it should really help the team. He’s averaged a steady 19.8 points per 36 minutes over the last six years and it’s possible we see that drop slightly this year. That will only be because he’ll defer to Johnson and Lopez more often than not an focus on filling other areas on the stat sheet.
STOKING THE FIRE: One thing Pierce did right away when arriving in Brooklyn was he started poking the Knicks. This is what he does, he provokes other teams, and it pays off because it just increases the rivalries and the games which makes them bigger, almost playoff like. Thing about how big the Nets/Knicks games are going to be — playoff like. That can only be good experience for a team looking to win a championship.
PREDICTION: I expect that Pierce’s offensive numbers will dip a little bit, but he should still contribute by racking up assists and rebounds. In fact, I think he could be a solid triple-double threat, he’ll just be scoring more like 14-15 points per game instead of 17-19 points like he used to. That will allow players like Brook Lopez, Joe Johnson and even Andray Blatche to step up and lead the offense.