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Can Paul Pierce Avoid His Ghost in DC?

August 13th, 2014 at 2:49 PM
By Matt Graber

Photo credit: Keith Allison / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Paul Pierce had an interesting dream this morning;

The fact that Pierce is openly contemplating his NBA mortality may seem discouraging to Wizards fans, but it doesn't mean that he's ready to call it a day quite yet. In fact, Pierce seems as motivated as ever, and as long as he maintains his famed work ethic, he should have plenty of life left.

Pierce landed in a good position with the Wizards. He won't be expected to be a primary option or score 20 points a game like he did for years in Boston. He'll be the third option behind John Wall and Bradley Beal; if he can average somewhere between 12-15 PPG, the Wizards should be happy. Pierce should also be able to continue to cut back his minutes. He averaged a career low 28 MPG last season, and that number should continue to decrease with Otto Porter waiting in the wings. Once Martell Webster returns from injury later in the season, the Wizards should have two decent options behind Pierce and can continue to reduce his minutes or rest him if need be.

Pierce may have lost a step over his 16 year career, but he can still shoot. Last year Trevor Ariza averaged over 14 PPG while serving primarily as a spot up shooter. Pierce has proven to be an effective shooter throughout his career, with last year's .45 FG% and .37 3P% in line with his career averages. Wall excels at creating three point opportunities for his teammates, assisting on a league high 247 threes last year. If Pierce can continue to reliably make clutch threes, which he should have plenty of opportunities to do, he will remain a valuable offensive asset.

One of the reasons Pierce was so effective with the Nets last year was his ability to play power forward, which provided the Nets with offensive and defensive flexibility and allowed Pierce to outmaneuver bigger and slower defenders. With the depth the Wizard's now have in the front court, Pierce won't get nearly as much run at the 4 as he did in Brooklyn, but the loss of Al Harrington instantly makes Pierce the Wizards' best stretch 4, and that versatility opens up new lineup combinations that were unavailable with Trevor Ariza. Lineups such as Wall-Beal-Webster-Pierce-Nene/Gortat would provide plenty of shooting and spacing

Another thing working in Pierce's favor is his relative lack of injury history. Pierce has played at least 60 games every season since 2007 and has only played less than 50 games in a season twice in his career. He doesn't have the same nagging injury concerns that a player like Dwayne Wade has. Of course, his relative health means that he's logged a ton of minutes after a long career and several deep playoff runs. But Pierce remains in good shape and seems motivated to work his tail off in order to avoid a noticeable letdown.

Pierce may be in the twilight of his career, but he should still be able to outrun his ghost for at least one more season. He's in a nice spot as a veteran on a young, talented, playoff-hungry team. It looks like the ghost will have to find a new aging soul to drag into the NBA afterlife; his leadership and clutch scoring is needed elsewhere.

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