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Saturday, October 8th, 2011 at 1:36 pm  |  68 responses

Top 50: Paul Pierce, no. 21

The definitive ranking of the NBA’s best players.

by Dan Shapiro

The Truth: Still at it.

Take a second and look at who’s already made our Top 50. How many more guys been in the League for 10+ years are going to be included? Not many. It’s only a handful of guys who can call themselves elite this late in their career.

Paul Pierce is about to, hopefully, enter his 14th year in the league. In his 13th year, Paul did 18 and 5 and you can’t put a number on the fact that he’s one of a handful of guys who you feel good about giving the ball to at the end of the game. Sure, Ray’s likely to take the shot, but do you really feel comfortable leaving Paul Pierce with an open look with the game on the line? I’d think not.

Full disclosure: I’m a Celtics guy. Like a Dino Radja, Tommy Point, Walter kind of Celtics guy who wells up with tears watching “Larry Bird’s 50 Greatest Moments.”

Concerning last year’s team, I felt like they got the rug pulled from under them. The Perkins trade cut short the storyline of the Celtics’ revenge campaign coming off the crushing, and I mean crushing, ’10 Finals collapse. Maybe it was the likelihood of having to put money behind Kendrick’s inconsistent knees, maybe it was something Danny Ainge saw in Jeff Green that the rest of the world couldn’t see. It was likely some combination of both but either way the second half the last season, to my mind, was a recovery from that trade.

Still, they managed a first round sweep of the new look Knicks. There’s no question Paul’s got help. Ray, KG and Rondo all hold spots in our Top 50. But if you look at Paul’s history with the Celts he’s taken this team on his back time and time again.

He got drafted into a team trying to resuscitate itself from a rudderless decade of Celtic basketball. A run down of the Celtic ’90s: a move from the Garden to the generic confines of the Fleet Center, the death of Reggie Lewis, 1997’s 15-67, and not winning the Duncan lotto.

Having survived a near fatal stabbing, Paul, with a mixed bag of characters, has made the Celtics some version of relevant almost every season during his tenure with the team.

Add KG and Ray to the mix and the ’08 Finals run was the most fun a Celtics fan had in more than a decade. On top of that he’s turn around from the kind of guy that could be in a near fatal stabbing to a family man, and the kind of teammate any fan, player or owner would gladly have on their team.

As a Celtics fan, I’m hoping we can find some stability and toughness in the middle because I don’t have a doubt that, with Rondo and the Big Three, we got a formidable shot next year at taking down any team in a Playoff series. I start to laugh out loud (LOL) when I picture the Armageddon-levels of intensity Paul and KG will bring into next year’s Playoffs.

Paul’s an intense, passionate Celtic lifer and what would cap off his Celtic career nicer than a NBA Championship?

In a league where a player’s loyalty to his city’s been thrown out the window, it’s been the pleasure to have Paul Pierce as the guy in Boston all these years. And that’s the Truth.

SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2011
Rank Player Team Position Pos. Rank
50 Luol Deng Bulls SF 8
49 Andrew Bogut Bucks C 7
48 Ray Allen Celtics SG 9
47 Marc Gasol Grizzlies C 6
46 David West Hornets PF 15
45 Kevin Martin Rockets SG 8
44 Andrew Bynum Lakers C 5
43 Brandon Jennings Bucks PG 11
42 Lamar Odom Lakers PF 14
41 Gerald Wallace Blazers SF 7
40 Brook Lopez Nets C 4
39 Joakim Noah Bulls C 3
38 Carlos Boozer Bulls PF 13
37 Kevin Garnett Celtics PF 12
36 Eric Gordon Clippers SG 7
35 Tony Parker Spurs PG 10
34 Andre Iguodala 76ers SG 6
33 Al Jefferson Jazz PF 11
32 Al Horford Hawks C 2
31 Stephen Curry Warriors PG 9
30 Tim Duncan Spurs PF 10
29 Josh Smith Hawks PF 9
28 Manu Ginobili Spurs SG 5
27 Tyreke Evans Kings PG 8
26 Rudy Gay Grizzlies SF 6
25 John Wall Wizards PG 7
24 Danny Granger Pacers SF 5
23 Monta Ellis Warriors SG 4
22 Joe Johnson Hawks SG 3
21 Paul Pierce Celtics SF 4

Notes
• Rankings are based solely on projected ’11-12 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Maurice Bobb, Shannon Booher, David Cassilo, Bryan Crawford, Sandy Dover, Adam Figman, Jon Jaques, Eldon Khorshidi, Ryne Nelson, Doobie Okon, Ben Osborne, Quinn Peterson, Dave Schnur, Abe Schwadron, Dan Shapiro, Irv Soonachan, Todd Spehr, Tzvi Twersky, Yaron Weitzman, DeMarco Williams and Ben York.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.

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  • Jono

    Aging well PP!

  • http://zogs.com zogs

    Although everybody probly agrees with this ranking…THIS GUY CAN DO NOTHING NOW!!!!! HE’LL AVERAGE LIKE 14 5 AND 3 THIS SEASON!!!!

    GUYS LIKE DEMAR DEROZAN ( WHO WILL BREAKOUT) WILL DESTROY THIS SEASON AND IS A FARRR BETTER PLAYER AS OF RIGHT NOW!

    SMFH

  • http://www.optimabbc.be Max

    ^
    Sure…
    I do think Gay will have a better season than PP

  • Heals

    3 down and 1 to go…

  • http://bedotwater.bandcamp.com BE.water

    So wait. Is DeRozan FORSURE not on this list? Crazy. Next year!!!

  • Heals

    Nice Max, and zogs how will Derozan’s (a player I do like though) numbers translate into W’s, can he run the point, how’s his midrange with the seconds ticking in a close game? If your boy does what you say he will for 2-3 more years you’ll see him jump right up this list. And yo all caps is unflattering man…

  • http://philosopher.view@blogspot.com The Philosopher

    THE TRUTH

  • http://Slamonline.coM nbk

    Yes Derozan is for sure not on this list. Because he doesnt deserve to be. Paul Pierce deserves this spot, he did everything for Boston, even replaced Rajon Rondo for a stretch of games. If you think Pierce isnt top 50, or that Derozan is somehow better then him then you know straight up nothing about what you say.

  • http://bedotwater.bandcamp.com BE.water

    nbk, I didnt say at all that DeRozan is better than anybody, yet. I was just simply asking. I think he will be top 50 Material soon enough. Him, Harden and a few others have their time coming. Pierce is top 50 for sure.
    Just because i dont say much doesnt mean i donkt know.

  • http://bedotwater.bandcamp.com BE.water

    Nah, Derozan has game. Top 50 capability soon. Him, and Harden… maybe a few others….but another note Just because I dont say much on these boards doesnt mean i dont know/watch the game. Pierce > Derozan all day, just think demar has a case to have at least been in the 40s.

  • Airnest

    Too low, PP shoulda been anywhere from 18-20.

  • http://Slamonline.coM nbk

    I didnt say you did Be. I addressed every comment at once, callin out those that deserve it. That’s why i said if – I know from past comments you pay attention to the game.

  • http://slamonline slams chuck barkley

    Dis woulda been a good spot for pp like 2 years ago..now it seems like a reach..I like pp but he should not be 21..I would say e gordon rudy gay and maybe ellis should be
    Higher..25 to 30 seems more reasonable at dis stage in his career

  • Cameron

    I’ve been a Paul Pierce fan my whole life since i started basketball and this spot is perfect..I bet he would score more than 18 if KG, Ray and RR weren’t there….Oh and Zogs, fk you for saying Derozen is better right now. You gotta be either a Raptors fan or from LA to say that nonsense

  • http://www.bulls.com Enigmatic

    Wow, DeRozan is not all that.
    Y’all can’t be serious! The kid ain’t done sh*t for people to seriously consider him anywhere near as good as Paul Pierce.

  • http://slamonline slams chuck barkley

    Dis woulda beenm a gOod spot for him like 2years ago but now it seems like a reach…he should deff be in the top 50 but not 21..I wold put gordon r.gay n m.ellis ahad of him at dis stage in his career .25 -30 seems more reasonable imo..also darozen is headed for dis list but deff not dis year

  • Greg

    Hey ZOGS (2nd post) – You have to be kidding me with the DeRozan/Pierce comparison, right? I’m not even a PP fan, but your claim was so laughable I had to comment. No matter how much he may improve, DeRozan will never have Pierce’s combination of strength and skill. You think DeRozan’s ever going to lead the league in free throw attempts (like Pierce did in 02)? You think DeRozan is ever going to shoot over 40% from three (Pierce shot 39%+ six times in his career)?

  • Greg

    You may say DeRozan’s only 21, so those numbers don’t matter. But when Pierce was 21, he was putting up 17 points, 6 boards, 2 steals, 3 assists, and a block per game while shooting over 40% from three. They both have similar PPGs at the age of 21, but Pierce was already outboarding, outstealing, and outpassing him. At 21, during his rookie year, Pierce outshot Steve Nash from three. How did DeRozan fare at the same age? 5-of-52 for a sub-10% season mark.

  • Greg

    Nail in the coffin: Pierce’s CAREER PER puts him in the top fifty ALL-TIME. DeRozan’s PER last season (the season you’re probably basing your comparison on) was sub-15 (i.e. below average).

  • Greg

    They’re both from LA though.

  • http://Slamonline.coM nbk

    Paul Pierce is from LA too.

  • http://zogs.com zogs

    Y’ALL THINK YOU KNOW SH*T, PP WAS ON THE CELTICS WHICH WAS FOR A WHILE (UNTIL RAY RAY, AND KG) WAS THE BIGGEST F*CKIN SH*T A$$ TEAM EVER!!!

    DEROZAN DOUBLED HIS AVERAGES FROM HIS ROOKIE SEASON!

    AND NEXT SEASO(AND SLAM IS MARKING INDIVIDUAL PLAYERS, NOT AS A CAREER
    , OR HOW MANY RINGS THEY WON!!! WHICH IS SOMTHING COMMENTERS DONT EVEN THINK ABOUT. THIS AIN T TOP 100)
    *and just to compare him to someone his age, brandon jennings (which is one of my faves), upped his scoring by 1 point to 16 ppg, upped his FG shooting by 2% to make only shoting 39%(!)

  • http://LEBUM.COM LEBUM

    ^^^co-sign zogs^^^
    He’s actually got a point, we hav been kinda judgin list on rings and how the players career has played out, but it actually is based purely on how the player is going to play next year (skill wise, obviously because a man named…KEVIN LOVE is about to be named in the top 20)
    so it obviously is based on stats and skill and not how the team performs.

  • http://LEBUM.COM LEBUM

    Oh and BTW to Greg, Paul Pierce was the number 1 option with actually expectations, while DeRozan performed while being number 2 behind bargs, so Greg you really dont know what your talking about…

  • http://thetroyblog.com Teddy-the-Bear

    Okay even IF you like Demar DeRozan and think he’ll be top 50, what in the world makes you think he’s number TWENTY??

  • http://thetroyblog.com Teddy-the-Bear

    nvm forget i said anything.

  • http://www.bulls.com Enigmatic

    Jennings ain’t sh*t either.
    And if Boston was “THE BIGGEST F*CKIN SH*T A$$ TEAM EVER!!!” what does that make Toronto?
    And you’re wrong.
    They were bad, but they made the playoffs four of the nine seasons Pierce played in Boston pre-Big 3.
    That ’02 Celtics team made the Eastern Conference finals.
    Hardly worthy of being called the worst team ever.
    DeRozan doubled his SCORING average.
    His 3.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists per were still sh*tty.
    As was his 9% 3pt shooting.
    Also, wasn’t that hard to double his scoring average with 13 more minutes per and Chris Bosh in Miami.
    And he’s so nice Toronto’s win total went from 40 to 22!
    Let’s crown him NOW!!

  • http://slamonline.com datkid

    i’m ok with derozan in the top 50…. he’s not great now but he will be very good very soon. IMO

  • MUBWAR

    come on zogs. Im a raptors. I don’t like the C’s either, but Pierce and Demar? a Finals MVP against a sophomore? In this top 50 he only deserve Brandon Jennings’s spot.

  • MUBWAR

    i meant to say raptors fan

  • Heals

    Good points slams, none of the Big3/4 can be accurately judged by statistics alone. Matic hit upon the EC trip and they were routinely in the playoffs with him and Toine (albeit early exits but look at the rest of the rosters) Zogs your dependance upon irrelevant stats is misguided is this argument. Plus most heads here agree with you on Demar’s potential, but you are either just a PDouble denier or part of the Raptor mob (Tor fans are often crazily optimistic about the skill of their players relative to the rest of the league)…

  • http://www.bulls.com Enigmatic

    Heals speaks The Truth.

  • http://ZOGS.COM ZOGS

    MUBWAR again “finals mvp” your judging based on careers!
    and for ENIGMATIC THE “GOAT” MICHAEL JORDAN SHOT 17% FROM THE 3PT LINE IN HIS ROOKIE SEASON, 16% IN 2ND SEASON, 18% IN 3RD SEASON, AND 13% IN 4TH SEASON!!! SO DONT BE JUDGIN DEMAR ON HIS 3 PT %, AND DEMAR ALSO SHOT A HIGHER FG% THAN MJ IN THEIR 2ND SEASON!!!!
    not to say demar is anywhere close to MJ, but just a point

  • http://www.bulls.com Enigmatic

    So out of everything I wrote, all you took from it was what I said about his 3 point shot?
    That’s it?
    Michael Jordan sure as hell averaged a lot more than 3.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists per in his rookie year, and his second year, and every year after that.
    You know Jordan played injured his second season, right?
    He broke his foot and only played in 18 games that year, so don’t give me that “DeRozan shot better in his second season than MJ did in his second season” BS.
    If DeRozan has five-plus seasons of shooting over 50% in his career like MJ does, then I’ll be impressed.
    I can’t believe it’s come to this, comparing DeRozan to Michael Jordan.
    Wow.
    I for one, am not judging based on careers.
    Paul Pierce > DeMar Derozan RIGHT NOW.
    Believe that.

  • MUBWAR

    instead of arguing over nonsence go to this website and watch lebron wade bosh durant RW amar’e melo and all.
    http://miami.cbslocal.com/game-live-broadcast/?utm_source=home&utm_medium=dl&utm_campaign=all-star-classic-on-cbs4-online

  • Shifty

    First of all “The Truth” deserves this spot and maybe even a bit higher, the dude is still carving up. The dude got a triple double last regular season, and when a player goes down in injury he steps it up like the time when he basically took point gaurd duties for Rondo when he was injured. Also anyone notice the nasty dunks when he throws it down, he doesn’t dunk as much as he use to but when he does…one word: “Highlight.” Also ZOGS ur a moron, typing in capitals to get attention is just childish and so are your stupid comments, sure Demar has some talent, still average to me and maybe he’ll have a season worth being in the top 50 but PP will own his every day for the rest of his days, I doubt Demar will have a Hall of Fame career and how many times will you give the ball to Demar this up coming season if the Raps were down by one with 8 seconds to go? I bet PP will get that ball a majority of the time as he one of the best clutch players we still have, I doubt Demar will get the ball. Anyway cheers ZOGS fot making most of the posts here about Demar when it should of been about why PP is still one bad a#s dude for the celtics!

  • http://ZOGS.COM ZOGS

    NOT REALLY SURE HOW CAPS IS CHILDISH LOL, MAYBE YOU HAVE YOUR CAPSPHOBIA BUT STRIGHT UP YOU CAN T DO SH*T ABOUT ME TYPING LIKE THIS.
    and for ENIGMATIC are you retarded, did i not clearly state that DD is not even close to MJ, so STFU, and learn how to read, and if you want to continue to continue to talk about FG% MJ in his 3rd year (82 games), his FG % was virtually the same as DD.

    ***AGAIN NOT TO SAY HE IS EVEN CLOSE TO MJ****

  • http://www.bulls.com Enigmatic

    ZOGS, I really hope for your sake you’re just a 13-14 year old kid.
    I don’t even know why I continue to debate this with you, I mean the simple fact that you’re just resorting to insults at this point pretty much cements the fact that my arguments are the more valid of the two.
    But PLEASE for your own sake STOP bringing up MJ and then saying “not that he’s even close to MJ”.
    Why the f*ck even bother to bring up MJ then??????

  • http://ZOGS.COM ZOGS

    Obviously when i say he’s not even close to MJ, im obviously talking about fg%, stop f*cking overlooking and microanalyzing everything i say.
    Sh*t it was a point, not a Fu*king commandment!

  • http://www.bulls.com Enigmatic

    Well, sorry but if you bring something up trying to refute my point, I’ma analyze the sh*t out of it.
    His low 3pt % was but ONE point I pulled up, but you chose to run with it by saying Michael Jordan was just as bad early in his career.
    I mean, can you not see how that opens you up for criticism?

  • Heals

    Shifty, is it just me or did PP have more highlight reel dunks last year than all his previous years combined. Way to bring another POV of someone who watches him all the time into the mix. Zogs if you saved caps for the words you really wanted to emphasize it would have a much more meaningful impact; as is your comments are like tv stations when they go all static. My bad Greg and Cam ya’ll were on point too…

  • Shifty

    Heals i’ll most likely have to agree, one of the more outstanding dunks would have to be the one on Chris Bosh when the raps were at the Garden, PP pretty much knee’d him in the nuts, and then he just gave him the big stare down after, was off the hook. Also don’t know how he manages to shoot off before a defender gets his face but his slow walk up 3′s are pretty funny. But yeah im liking his highlights more over the past couple of years then some of his goodies back in the early 2000′s. ZOGS YOU ARE A MORON, WHO OBVIOUSLY DUG A HOLE AND JUST KEEPS ON DIGGING, WITH EVERYTHING YOU TYPE IS JUST ANOTHER SPADE FULL OF CRAP. how do you like dem caps.

  • http://www.bulls.com Enigmatic

    By the way, I’m no DeRozan hater nor am I sleeping on dude.
    What’s funny to me about DeRozan is most Raptors fans didn’t even know who dude was till their team drafted him.
    I’ve known about dude since he and Lil’ Romeo were on the same 15 and under AAU team some 7, 8 years ago.
    Athletically, he is top 10 in the League. But he needs to develop a MUCH more well-rounded game to be worthy of a spot on this list, in my opinion.
    @Heals and Shifty – my favorite Paul Pierce highlight is still the one where Joakim Noah dunked on his grill in the ’09 playoffs.
    My bad, y’all, I’m a Bulls fan, sorry!
    But I’ve always loved PP’s game and I sorta kinda got love for the Celtics on the low because Doc is a Chicago guy and y’all gave us Thibs…and Scal!

  • DukeFromDeep

    This is great. Everyday I wait for my fav Blake Griffin.. C’mon slam and the rest of the guys…. Go BG32!!!

  • Shifty

    @Enigmatic I remember that dunk, and I must admit I’m a celtics fan but I remember that dunk and watching that series was one of the most funnest on the edge of my seat, nail biting experiences ever, and yeah pretty gutted we lots scallllllllllllllllllllll!

  • Blakos

    Please Stop Zogs

  • http://www.bulls.com Enigmatic

    Yeah, that series was a CLASSIC, no doubt.
    I was still living near the Chi at the time, so I managed to make it out to game 4 that went to double-overtime.
    Bulls pulled out the win at the UC, and I thought “man, I got to go to the best game of the series! No way any other game can top this!”
    Then in game 6 it went to TRIPLE overtime, with the Bulls winning by one at the UC, ha ha I was like “Damn…nevermind”.
    Great series though, and in general I don’t really like Celtics fans but I respect them cause they’re passionate and knowledgeable.
    And they come up with some of the funniest chants too lol.

  • http://cnbc.com JTaylor21

    PP deserves this spot but if Deng’s 11/12 season is similar to his 10/11 season, he has to be ranked above PP.

  • Shifty

    The difference between Deng and Paul Peirce is the clutch factor, Rose will always well most of the time anyway being making that crucial play if there were a few secs to go in aball game and the point difference was one or two…..paul peirce has made plenty of those shots in his carrer and last year, anyone remember the New York game where he J’d up in STATs face? Also @ Enigmatic yeah those games were unforgetable, and I when i read Bill symonds book of basketball his descriptions of the Boston Celtics fans in the 70′s 80′s made them look even more ruthless and I think a bit of that ruthlessness has come back since KG and sugar ray have come back, the chant “you got the ugly one” in refernce to Lamar Odom’s wife was in my opinion big LOLS

  • Shifty

    sorry keep refering to the season as year, my bad.

  • http://www.bulls.com Enigmatic

    There were a lot of players I thought Deng deserved to be ranked higher than, but even next year, unless Pierce’s number go down to like 14, 4 and 2, I’d still put Pierce above Deng.

  • Heals

    Ugghhh Matic don’t remind me about that play, I was cursing at PP34 like he’d never come through in the clutch before. “I sorta kinda got love for the Celtics on the low because Doc is a Chicago guy and y’all gave us Thibs…and Scal,” that’s why I wouldn’t have minded losing to the Bulls last year cause it would’ve been like passing the torch. I look at Chi and Bos (Philly too) like kindred sports spirits; they all hate each other, but hate LA and NY more…

  • ripslam

    Pierce has a better season than last year and drops two spots? Sure he’s another year older, but he’s still top 20 in my book.

  • http://bedotwater.bandcamp.com BE.water

    @nbk my bad!

  • james

    oh wowwwwwwww

  • Drig

    Okay…….seriously guys were comparing PP to DeMar?

    Anyways, Istill believe Gay, Tyreke and Eric have gotta be ranked above PP here SOLELY on the basis of next year’s performance. Eric and Reke will explode and Gay’s gonna still be Gay……that sounded weird :P

  • http://dodgers.com Joey E.

    21 for Pierce? im guessing that means Iverson will be top 20 knowing SLAM and their love for him…

  • bunn3

    you cant argue that PP is very productive even at this point in his career? who cares if hes old? congrats to him for performing how he has been? ya demar derzoan is going to be UNSTOPPABLE(sorry im a raps fan) but PP right now is still a very good player. nuff said

  • http://Slamonline.coM nbk

    No stress.

  • the truth

    derozan is nice…but come on, comparing him to PP lol

  • http://www.kbv4.com KBV4

    DeMar for President!

  • http://nguniblog.gkogko.co.za Nguni P.

    How are you going to call their ’10 campaign collapse. I mean, these guys went all the way to gave 7 and the game was decided in the last mean. I wouldn’t exactly call that a collapse.

  • marc

    Why is this guy so angry? lmfao. I think Demar is good but he’s not as good as Paul Pierce. No way. Who would you rather give the ball to in the clutch?Pierce or Demar?

    PS why do yal hate AI so much? Just let him do him. So what SLAM loves him. He gets hate from every other magazine or paper. Just let it be. How quickly people forget what AI was doing. smh

  • vtrobot

    You can’t do anything about me typing in all caps. Wow, kids. Bye. P.S. Yeeeeeaaah, Truth!

  • http://slamonline.com Spaceship Jay

    In a league where a player’s loyalty to his city’s been thrown out the window, it’s been the pleasure to have Paul Pierce as the guy in Boston all these years. And that’s the Truth.

    Mmmm, cold.

  • http://hoopistani.blogspot.com hoopistani

    Though I love Pierce’s consistency and loyalty, isn’t this a ranking for the NEXT season? This article was more about the past than the future

  • http://www.slamonline.com Wayno

    Who the hell is this ZOGS character and why is he yelling so much?

  • Richard

    Are you serious PP is definitely a top 20, if not top 15 player. He is so much more clutch than half of the SF on this list (i.e LeBron James). He is THE TRUTH! and that was from one of the most dominant big men to ever grace the hardwood

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