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Monday, September 30th, 2013 at 3:00 pm  |  75 responses

Top 50: Paul Pierce, no. 36

Pierce still has lots of game to be reckoned with.

by Jonathan Evans

Paul Pierce is an old-ass man. His first SLAM cover was 137 issues ago. He’s so old, he’s been in the League since Kyrie Irving was in the first grade. He’s just one year younger than new Cs coach Brad Stevens.

No two ways about it, No. 34 has been around the block a few times. If this were a list of who can jump the highest, or who has the quickest first step or who could sell the most sneakers, Paul Anthony Pierce would have a tough time cracking the top 50. End of the day though, none of that matters. So yes, the truth is, at age 35 he’s lost a step. But the Truth is still the Truth. Heading into the ’13-14 season with a fresh start, Pierce is prime to show he’s still one of the best small forwards in the game.

Pierce brings one of the most well-rounded games in the League to the table with a resume that includes 10 All-Star appearances, four All-NBA selections and a Finals MVP. He leaves Boston as the Celtics’ second all-time leading scorer, and top 10 in minutes played, assists and rebounds.

For a more immediate perspective, just look at what he did last season. Pierce carried an injury depleted Celtics team on his back. With Rajon Rondo out, he took on the load as the primary ball handler and offensive generator for Boston. As both facilitator and scorer he filled the box score with 18.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game. As Rob Mahoney of SI pointed out, those are all-around numbers that were only matched by LeBron and KD.

Entering his 16th season, it’s reasonable to wonder just how long can Pierce keep this up. For Pierce’s game, his age is less of a concern because his exploits aren’t from sheer athleticism but rather the result of guile, veteran savvy and great footwork. At this point we’ve all seen it over and over. Pierce can rock defenders to sleep, get them off balance, and get his points. Even when the whole arena seemingly knows where he’s going, Pierce can still get to his favorite spot on the elbow for a step-back jumper. He’s got a game that ages well, and should be able to thrive on a well balanced Nets team.

After spending damn near half his life in Boston, Pierce has turned in the storied Celtic Green, for the oh-so-contemporary black and white of the Brooklyn Nets. On the deepest roster he’s ever been a part of, Pierce won’t have to shoulder the whole offensive load. Relieved of having to be the man, he’s arguably more dangerous because he can pick his spots and should have fresher legs for a deep playoff run.

Pierce has proven he can thrive playing alongside other stars, and as the team takes shape, he has the type of game that can mesh well with others. Need someone to hit a corner three and play stout defense? Pierce can do that. Need someone who can initiate the offense? Pierce’s got you there too. Take a big shot? Pierce’s more than happy to oblige. At this point, with this being his last best chance, Pierce will likely do anything to get another shot at the O’Brien trophy.

“Right now, I see ourselves ready to win another Championship,” Pierce recently said in an interview with Nets Daily. “I’m more hungry than I’ve ever been knowing this may be my last couple of years in the League. I want to make the most of it.”

So far, Pierce is making the most out of being in New York. While the white hot spotlight of New York has taken down many, Pierce is relishing it and stoking the flames of a rivalry with the Knicks. While the back and forth with JR Smith is entertaining summertime fodder, it does begin to set a tone. For a team whose listlessness was exposed by Chicago in the Playoffs, Pierce’s boasts and assertions fill a vacuum. It establishes an attitude that’s more meaningful than the arena blasting Brooklyn-centric hip-hop. Pierce ups the ante and brings relevance and accountability to the table.

“I think it was just vanilla and I think you guys can see after the trade with Garnett and Pierce that it’s kind of changed,” Kidd said recently to the New York Daily News. “So I think we’re doing the right thing with changing the identity. It was just there was no flavor, and no identity. So with that trade, that changes the whole game.”

Without playing a game, Pierce has already has filled a leadership and attitude void for Brooklyn and has helped set the stage for the final act of his Hall of Fame career. Fully motivated and with all the backup he could ever need, Pierce is in a position to show he still has a game to be reckoned with.


Where should Paul Pierce rank in the SLAM Top 50?

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SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2013
Rank Player Team Position Pos. Rank
50 Monta Ellis Mavs SG 5
49 Luol Deng Bulls SF 10
48 Ricky Rubio TWolves PG 14
47 Greg Monroe Pistons PF 12
46 Kawhi Leonard Spurs SF 9
45 Mike Conley Grizzlies PG 13
44 Al Jefferson Bobcats C 9
43 David Lee Warriors PF 11
42 Jrue Holiday Pelicans PG 12
41 Anthony Davis Pelicans PF 10
40 Joe Johnson Nets SG 4
39 Serge Ibaka Thunder PF 9
38 Kevin Garnett Nets PF 8
37 Rudy Gay Raptors SF 8
36 Paul Pierce Nets SF 7

Rankings are based on expected contribution in ’13-14—to players’ team, the League and the game.

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  • Luffytyc

    THE TRUTH!!

  • Max

    Has there ever been a SLAM top 50 with all the starters of 1 team in it?

  • spit hot fiyah

    not what i know of, but this year there will be

  • spit hot fiyah

    same as with KG, i don’t mind the ranking, i just don’t think they will play enough minutes to justify it. the kirilenko signing was huge

  • LakeShow

    Talk about stacked.

    AK-47 is just barely outside the top 50 too. Jason Terry is still one of the best 6th men.

    East is very top heavy/

  • spit hot fiyah

    and reggie evans continues to be one of the most under appreciated players in the L

  • LakeShow

    Absolutely.

    I wanted to say him but didn’t want everyone to get upset with me lol.

    He averaged 16.3 (11 in 24mpg) boards per 36 mins last season.

    Rodman averaged 15 per 36 over his career….

  • spit hot fiyah

    clippers shot themselves in the foot by not resigning him for cheap. he basically won that playoff series against the grizz 2 years ago. he was terrorizing them

  • Junior Taylor

    Am I wrong to think that if all the new additions for Nets mesh in just their first season together, they are better than IND and CHI? Their starting 5 is better than those teams’ starting 5 on paper. The only significant problem I see stopping the Nets from making it to the CFs is their head coach, JKidd. Kidd’s inexperience makes Vogel and Thibs look like PJax and Red Auerbach. We all know that coaching plays a huge role in just how far a team makes it in the Postseason. MIA did not become a championship team until Erik Spoelstra became a better coach.

  • bashmo

    I agree. It may be a bold statement but I truly expect JKidd to be fired within 20 games if the Nets come out the gate slow. Such a major gamble picking up a player with no experience and expecting them to coach such a stacked team from the jump. We will have to see.

  • Björn Atli

    I think Pierce and KG are going to become the de facto leaders of this BKN squad. Deron Williams isn’t a proven winner, neither are Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez. PP and KG have real rivalries brewing with their cross river rivals and with LeBron and Wade too. We’re gonna see some vintage Truth this year. /rant

  • LakeShow

    I personally think it’ll be a blood bath lol.

    CHI, IND, BKN… Those three all have the capability to grab the top seed in the east. (Mia obviously but they are a shoo in)

  • Slick Ric

    The Nets are going to the finals this year, they’re old but still completely capable of playing at a great level. They have the leadership that was missing from last season, many options offensively yet many unselfish players. Defensive minded players and capable shooters who can spread the court. The only big question mark is Kidd’s ability to coach and how quickly the acclimation process takes to coaching a team with such high expectations. With Kidd being the type of player he was, I have confidence in him being able to get the job done.

  • danpowers

    so slam is trying to tell us that 5 players of the same team will be able to have a top 50 output in the same season. could it be that this would be the first time in modern basketball history?

  • Kim Hargreaves

    Was just thinking the same thing, and with Blatche, Kirilenko, Reggie and JT on the bench this team could be scary.

  • Stepfan Raiford

    Nah your not wrong. All the Pacers are missing is a point guard. George Hill < Deron Williams. Drose still doesn't have enough offensive fire power surrounding him, so like you said if the Nets mesh, I agree they are better than IND and chi town. Is it safe to say the Nets have the best starting five in the league…? (On paper)

  • danpowers

    true. i just wonder how this should work for all those guys individually. let the nets games be played with two basketballs?

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Can you guess which one of the starting 5 it won’t be in the top 50? i have no idea. Paul Pierce is probably going to be their second leading scorer, and a still very potent all around player. Joe JOhnson is about to have each teams worst defensive wing on him, so he could end up looking like the best player on the squad. Deron Williams will clearly be better than last season, at worst. Garnett we’ve covered, his stats may not look great, but what he does provide is top 50 worthy (at least imo) — and Brook Lopez is a top 5 Center.
    .
    that’s the defense i see for putting all 5 in here.

  • danpowers

    i would like to see a gamble/prediction on who the top 3 guys will be. some of them will have to step down numbers wise. i thought this top 50 is about output, so stats should play a role. we all know about the quality of those guys. i would tend to say that pierce and garnett will step down numbers wise and “assist” the “core 3″ of williams, johnson and lopez just to be fresh and have less of a grind behind them come playoff time.

    i also expect kidd to try to treat the grandpas with care as his own memory of heavy bones come playoff time should still be very present for him.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    the top 50 is about,

    Rankings are based on expected contribution in ’13-14—to players’ team, the League and the game.

  • danpowers

    “expected contribution” to me this is about numbers, too. i still wont doubt / argue the quality of those guys. they can easily be in the top 50. thatll just not be “fair” towards guys with bigger roles.

  • shockexchange

    The only problem with the Nets is that there is only one basketball to go around. Can all 5 Nets (let’s not forget about Jason Terry) get enough touches to justify being Top 50 simply based on stats?

  • Rockwell

    With leaders like KG and Pierce on that squad, I think that team could coach itself.

  • Mike Gilbert

    Obviously KG will improve their defense, but it still will not be near the Bulls, Pacers, or Heat

  • AddingVelocityDontTellMe

    pistons with rasheed billups, rip tayshaun

  • AddingVelocityDontTellMe

    on paper.. but pacers will smash nets

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Age before beauty. If Nets are 100% healthy in the playoffs, imo, they are the second most dangerous team in the conference. But that’s a huge if.

  • AddingVelocityDontTellMe

    compare this line up

    Geroge Hill, Paul George, Danny Granger, David West, Hibbert

    Deron, Joe, Paul, Garnett, Lopez –> pacers are better

  • AddingVelocityDontTellMe

    look not at he past but assuming this 2 of players of nets fianla season

  • AddingVelocityDontTellMe

    age is this issue. How are nets going to play transition ball?

  • AddingVelocityDontTellMe

    there’s no beauty on the pacers roster

    they are a better offensive grizzlies in the east

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    If it’s a treat of your defense…that’s how. Deron Williams is still the terminator on the break anyway. Nobody dribbles like him going full speed (ok…Kyrie does).

  • AddingVelocityDontTellMe

    john wall, rajon, rose, westbrook

    Deron is better than CP3. I don’t see CP3 as a franchise changing pg because you have to provide him an amazing supporting cast for him to really excel.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Good lord is all of that false. I am not talking about the guys ability to just run fast with the ball. Look at a Deron Williams highlight tape or watch him play or something. You’ll figure out what I’m talking about when I talk about his ability to handle the ball running full speed. .
    And please, draw your attention to the New Orleans Hornets and LA Clippers, both before and after Chris Paul was apart of their team. “Great supporting cast” is called having Chris Paul making them look great. He’s such a good pg that all these freaking people argue that he’s had help. His supporting cast has always sucked. Including last season. Next what, you are going to try and tell me DeAndre Jordan is a good center? The guys had a few good teammates, but he’s always been the overwhelming reason the actual team as a whole looked good. This year is the year you guys can start criticizing Chris Paul. If they don’t make the conference finals, then he deserves some blame.

  • AddingVelocityDontTellMe

    Please lets respect people who believe in God and not use God’s name in this conversation.

    I know deron is good at handling the ball in a fast break, but in terms to quickness getting up and down the court which I think is more statistically relevant according to fast break points.

    I mean Paul isn’t capable of having the impact Stockton had. That’s like what paul needs to aim for a stockton time career. But i’ll say paul is more like a poor man’s version of isiah thomas.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    I believe in God, didn’t mean to offend. Just an expression.
    .
    I don’t care whose better than Williams, you asked me how Brooklyn can take advantage of the fast break. You don’t have to be the best at everything to be successful.
    Uhm, Isiah Thomas was more successful than John Stockton in terms of leading a team….so uh, try again?

  • https://twitter.com/jasontichenor Mr. Wet

    I’m okay with pierce being a top 50 guy. I just don’t see how he could be rated higher than he was last year. I’m too lazy to look up stats, but dude fell down a lot on youtube.

  • TR

    NBK is right, Deron Williams uses change of direction dribbles on the break and in the half court as well as anyone.

  • AddingVelocityDontTellMe

    leading a team yes thomas was and thomas was a better player than stockton, but in terms of player abilities. Chris paul is a poor mans isiah.

    Rose, Westbrook, Rondo are above Paul. I can’t see why people give paul the benefit of the doubt. I wish paul played when stephon marbury and francis played then people would realize how great marbury and francis are

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Because people watch and pay attention and understand basketball. You should take your not understanding what he majority of those who pay attention feel as a sign.

  • AddingVelocityDontTellMe

    so majority usually is right? that’s historically shown to be inaccurate. Once ago humans of darker pigments/greater melanin concentrations were considered lesser intelligence and inferior

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Yeah? Is this basketball or science?
    .
    Because the more science we’ve put into basketball, the better Chris Paul looks. So go ahead, want to use the advancements in the sport? That’s fine. They ALL say Paul is the best PG in the NBA. The entire “no he isn’t” argument is based on opinion. And nothing else.

  • AddingVelocityDontTellMe

    he said she said is useless. so i agree with you. tomorrow we should start another great conversation. Peace be upon you and your loved ones.

  • Armando

    Where’s the argument in your post? (not saying I disagree with the conclusion, but you’re really not saying anything here)

  • AddingVelocityDontTellMe

    what are argument do you want presented? Since Brooklyn hasn’t played one can only provide conjectures/theories as to how one arrives at the conclusion.

    The pacers are better offensive version of the the grizzlies. I don’t see the NETS being capable of playing at the speed and tenacity of the pacers. especially with the 2nd unit the pacers have. It’s difficult to give any conclusive evidence because no data exist on how the nets will do.

  • http://soundcloud.com/tray-8 T-Ray

    Just looking at the lineups I can’t really say which team is better to be honest with you. They actually match up pretty well on paper. Obviously games aren’t won on paper but I don’t see a huge advantage on either side.

  • http://soundcloud.com/tray-8 T-Ray

    Is MIA really a shoo in? I mean I know they will be the heavy favorites but I can really see those 3 teams you stated being a major problem for them.

  • Ryan Seavey

    Jason Terry was terrible for my Celtics last year… don’t expect much from him. Paul is better than 36 though. He can still take over when he needs to

  • Ryan Seavey

    I watched Pierce play every game for the last few years… he never fell off. He hasn’t been taking a lot of shots but his percentages went waaay up. He can still take a game over if he needs to and he can really create well for his teammates. Deron Williams and Joe Johnson will bee able to score more with pierce in the line up.

  • Drig

    NBK, you got your list for the top 50??? I wanna check them out……

  • RKJ92

    You’re sleeping on Brook Lopez bro, he is one of the best centers in the league right now.

  • Drig

    While Pierce is a top 50 guy, I can’t see how he will outshine A.Davis statistically (which is what this list is based on ).

    I mean, Unibrow is gonna be the undisputed no.1 on that team and will have a MUCH greater impact than Pierce on D. IMO, his impact both ways is gonna be higher than what Pierce can provide on the loaded Nets team.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk
  • Björn Atli

    I’m not sleeping on him, him and KG are going to be a great inside outside tandem. I’m just saying that Pierce and KG are going to be the alpha dogs

  • RKJ92

    Ok just as long as you weren’t calling Brook Lopez a losing player, because that would be ludicrous.

  • LakeShow

    You’re right that he has taken a big step back.
    “one of the best 6th men” doesn’t really apply to him anymore.

    What he is still very good at though, is being a great 7th, 8th man, lol.

    He still stretched the floor at 37% on 3 pointers last season.

    That’ll be crucial for letting Deron drive and dish. And allowing Lopez and Garnett to do some work in the low post.

  • LakeShow

    A shoo in to be top 3 seeded in East… I think so.

    Maybe not though if Wade regresses and Bosh stays consistently underwhelming.

  • http://soundcloud.com/tray-8 T-Ray

    Oh well yea I agree with you there. I thought you meant a shoo in to be number 1.
    As long as they have a somewhat healthy Wade and Bosh that shows up sometimes and the best player in the world they’ll be ok.

  • Björn Atli

    He’s one of the better centers in the game I agree. After he upped his rebounding from 4 to 7 per game last season along with 19 ppg on 52% shooting and two blocks I have nothing but respect for this dude. He’s no KG though, in terms of intangibles and game changing attitude.

  • Drig

    1. If you’re gonna penalize Kobe, Rondo and Rose for coming off injuries, why not Russ since there’s no timetable for his return either? Esp. since he’s had two surgeries to the knee as well…..

    2. Hibbert deserves to be above Timmy especially since he can play more time on the floor and impacts D in the same way Timmy does.

    3. No way LMA should be above Marc Gasol. Even though LMA has a better perimeter shot, Gasol has him beat at post play, D, post playmaking etc.

    4. How is Harden gonna have a better season than Kyrie or even Kobe/Rose/Rondo if they’re at 80% and play atleast three fourths of the season? His D is shambolic. His playmaking didn’t improve last season. Neither did his post game. I’m stumped……

    I’m having a hard time deciding who’s #5 on my list……It would’ve been Kobe had he been healthy but with him out, I can’t see any huge difference between Melo, Hibbert, P.George, TP, Marc Gasol, DWill and Dirk ( who’s been vastly underrated in your list. Any reason why? Haven’t heard anything which might force him to miss part of the season or have his minutes cut short…… )

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    1 – man, that surgery was minor. He would have been back by the finals. he’s 100% healthy, and has been for 2 months.

    2 – this is regular season + playoffs. go look at Roy Hibbert’s regular season career.

    3 – i’m aware my opinion of Lamarcus Aldridge is higher then everyone else’s. i can’t say it any other way then, it’s a preference thing.

    4 – so you didn’t watch Harden last season? that’s what you are saying. dude was amazing. his playmaking was off the charts, and he was incredibly efficient. his defense will be an issue, of course, but he has a happy/healthy Dwight hiding much of those deficiencies. He will be the best offensive player on a 55 win team.

  • Drig

    1. It’s in my news feed right now. Westbrook out for 6 weeks. Does that change your list?

    2.I know he struggled with his offense in teh regular season. Esp. in the first half. However, I’m assuming that was a glitch and he’ll be back with a better showing.

    3. Fair enough.

    4. I know that he was incredibly efficient but in the few games that I did watch of Harden ( about 12 I think……4 of them vs Lakers outta which he was really good in one of them at Houston. Rest I don’t remember but they had to be poor ) , his play on D was sloppy and his playmaking wasn’t much to talk about.

    Granted the only games which were televised in my country of the Rockets were against the elite ( Miami, Boston, LA, SAS and, MEM maybe GS/NOH…..don’t remember it all that clearly ), but Harden struggled to shoot well and his passing was pretty much at his OKC level.

    Maybe I was unlucky whenever I watched him because aside from the game in Houston vs LAL where he totally dominated us, I didn’t get to see too many superb harden moments of shot creating except drive and dish and a few set plays assists………

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Bad timing on that #1, just heard Westbrook’s knee surgery was botched. Had to get it repaired again. Smh

  • Drig

    Happens to all of us at times man.

  • https://twitter.com/jasontichenor Mr. Wet

    i didn’t mean he fell off. I meant he actually fell down a lot.

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