After fifteen years and a NBA Championship in Boston, Paul Pierce is starting what looks to be the final chapter of his career in Brooklyn this coming season. Ever since Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov took over majority ownership of the Nets, he has spared no expense to get the team back to the level it was at when Jason Kidd was leading the franchise to the Finals. Bringing in Deron Williams and Joe Johnson was a start, but with the additions of Pierce and Kevin Garnett from the Celtics over the off-season, expectations in Brooklyn are incredibly high. Bringing in players with the pedigree that these two have will come with those expectations, but they are not the players they used to be, and with the way Pierce plays, he will need to find the fountain of youth to help the team live up to the championship aspirations the organization now has.
Pierce’s game should be well known for every NBA fan by now. He is a scorer and one of the best scorers of all time. At 20th in total points in NBA history, the numbers prove that he knows how to put the ball in the basket. He is a well rounded scorer as well, with great range to shoot threes, ranking fifth in league history in attempts and makes. He also has a good mid-range game, the ability to put the ball on the floor, and an incredible knack for getting to free throw line, ranking 10th in league history in free throws made at a career percentage of 80.6%. While he has had terrible shooting slumps over the past few years, if given enough time to work things out and find his shot he will score at a high level.
Defensively he has started to slip with age, with his foot speed sliding and father time taking a toll on his knees, but he is still a competent player on the defensive end of the floor as well. He has a great history being able to steal the ball and force turnovers, averaging 1.4 per game over his career leading to the 30th most in league history. With these statistics to back this point up, it’s safe to say that Pierce is a future Hall of Famer and an upgrade over Gerald Wallace for the Nets.
The biggest question mark surrounding Pierce is his age and all the battles he has been in over the years. He has been an extremely durable player throughout his career, playing in 1102 games over his 15 seasons, but is there enough tread left on his tires to play an entire regular season and potentially post-season effectively? If the Nets are going to reach the level that the fans and ownership expect of them, they are going to need Pierce on the floor, and it’s a matter of fact that eventually your body breaks down. It has happened to every athlete. The Nets are putting quite a few chips down on the table that Pierce can continue his great play at his age, and that move is rather risky.
The fit on the court in Brooklyn is quite an interesting one. With Pierce’s aforementioned scoring talents, there is a log jam on the offensive side of the ball. Deron Williams may be a very good distributor, but he likes to score from the point guard position. Joe Johnson is a shooter and scorer but is not a passer from the shooting guard position. Garnett is a great defender and a capable scorer as well, but he will not be someone that demands the ball at all times. Brook Lopez is a primarily offensive center. With four of the five starters on the floor looking to score the ball as a first option, all of this adds up to that potential log jam with the ball sticking at one spot, and not moving enough to find the open man. Someone in this equation will have to accept a lesser scoring roll if this is all going to work. A first time coach like Jason Kidd could be in over his head trying to convince someone to take that lesser roll, and even though the devil’s advocate might say that with Kidd being a player so recently, he understands them better than an older coach would, it is still up to the players if they are going to change their game and swallow some of their pride for this experiment to work. Even with all of these questions surrounding the potential offensive issues, the Nets have a starting five that will give almost any team problems defending. The ball movement is a legitimate concern for Kidd and the coaching staff, but having the players mentioned forces the defense to play them all honest, leading to a myriad of options. Defensively they look to be an improved team as well with Garnett in the post being a very good rim protector and rebounder to go along with rebounding machine Reggie Evans.
Pierce, along with Garnett moving to Brooklyn helped the perception of this team going from a middle of the road playoff team to a potential title contender. Even with all the question marks around the team and the potential problems they could have on the offensive end of the floor, the Nets should challenge the front runners in the Eastern Conference and play deep into the playoffs.