Greatest NBA Player #24: Paul Pierce-150.04
Although his post-playing career has sullied his reputation a bit, Paul Pierce was still a great NBA player. Perhaps not as great as he thinks he is, but still great. Pierce spent the first 15 years of his career in Boston, where much of his legacy was built. He carried the Celtics to success early in his career, including leading them to the Eastern Conference Finals in just his fourth season.
However, for years, he was far and away their best player, allowing them to make the postseason four straight times from 2001–02 to 2004–05. Then, after missing the postseason in consecutive seasons, the Celtics turned the fifth pick in the 2007 draft (Jeff Green) and two other players into Ray Allen and a table scraps into Kevin Garnett.
Finally, playing with two other all-stars allowed Pierce to shine. The Celtics won the NBA Finals in their first season together, with Pierce being named Finals MVP. Pierce and company then followed that up with four more deep playoff runs, including an improbable run to the NBA Finals in 2010, where he was literally four minutes away from a second Finals MVP.
After Celtics GM Danny Ainge opted to dismantle Boston’s core, Pierce was traded to the Brooklyn Nets and later played for the Washington Wizards and Los Angeles Clippers before retiring after 19 seasons and 1,343 games played. At his best, Pierce was the ideal big wing who could score, rebound, and create for others.
He never reached the same heights as, say, Kobe, but being a rung or two below is still far better than most players ever become. 24th in win shares has more to do with his durability than his peak, but he was still very good, nonetheless.