Thursday, June 19, 2008

Make Room for No. 34

Also see: Analysis - Kobe & Pierce: A Tale of 2 Pick-and-Rolls

Save a place in the rafters of the new Garden. With his NBA Finals MVP performance (not to mention the 41 points in Game 7 vs. Cleveland), Paul Pierce has clearly ensured that his no. 34 will fill out the 30s, joining 31 (Maxwell), 32 (McHale), 33 (Bird), 35 (Lewis), and many others as a retired jersey number of the Boston Celtics.

It's worth noting the numbers of Pierce's outstanding Finals performance on both ends of the court one more time. Here's how he compared to Kobe Bryant for the series:

TRUTH: 21.8/4.5/6.3, .432 FG
KOBE: 25.7/4.7/5.0, .405 FG

These numbers probably look more impressive in relation to the players' respective regular-season stats, as Pierce's numbers were up and Kobe's down:

TRUTH: 19.6/5.1/4.5, .464 FG
KOBE: 28.3/6.3/5.4, .459 FG

And of course, The Truth also pitched in on the effort against another All-NBA First Teamer, LeBron James. Here's how the Pierce/LeBron numbers looked for the Celtics-Cavs series:

TRUTH: 19.4/5.0/3.6 .404 FG
LEBRON: 26.7/6.4/7.6 .355 FG

Not nearly as close, but the main story of that series was the defensive job that Pierce and the Celtics team defense did on LeBron. Here are his regular season numbers for comparison, with the difference in FG% remaining the most shocking:

LEBRON: 30.0/7.9/7.2 .484 FG

So, there's absolutely no debate now that Pierce's number will be retired by the Celtics. The only question left is this: did Pierce elevate himself to Hall of Fame status?

At age 30, the resume looks like this:
- 1 NBA Championship
- 1 Finals MVP
- 3 All-NBA Third Teams
- 6-time All-Star
- 23.1 ppg average, 16,945 career points
- 21.4 career PER

In terms of raw stats, his career numbers are higher than I expected, as he is already no. 72 in career NBA points, with plenty of career left. He's also no. 20 in career PPG and no. 36 career PER, though those average numbers are sure to fall as he ages.

Also, Pierce is already no. 6 on the career points list for the Boston Celtics, and he could easily get up to no. 3 next season (he's 1300 points away). He certainly has a great shot to surpass Larry Bird's 21,791 to eventually end up as the no. 2 Celtic scorer of all time, behind only John Havlicek's 26,395.

Basketball Reference has a Hall of Fame Probability page, which measures the likelihood of a player making the Hall of Fame based on the criteria that voters seem to favor, moreso than necessarily measuring the worthiness of a player's qualifications. As Justin Kubatko wrote, "Keep in mind that my goal was not to determine who should be in the Hall of Fame, but rather who is likely to be in the Hall of Fame."

Pierce rates 9th among active players and 52nd all-time with a probability of .9512. All of the players above him on the career list who are eligible for enshrinement are in the Hall of Fame.

The variables Kubatko tracks include average points, rebounds and assists per game, All-Star games played, and MVPs and championships won (though not Finals MVPs won), so the probability can go down as a player's averages start to decline late in his career.

I haven't made up my mind on my own opinion yet. It's hard for me to think that a guy who I've rarely had on the top 10 of my personal MVP ballot could be a Hall of Famer, but Pierce's heroics over the last two months have clearly elevated himself in my mind. At the least, I'd certainly have to say that I think Paul Pierce has moved from "unlikely" to "likely" status as a potential Hall of Famer following his performance on both ends of the court in the 2008 Playoffs.

Also see: Analysis - Kobe & Pierce: A Tale of 2 Pick-and-Rolls


At 12:47 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Vince Carter is no. 8 on that list...

I think Pierce will have to wait, unless he starts making more all-nba teams, which is unlikely given his age and competition.

Is Pierce better than Dennis Johnson? It's easy to quickly say yes, but their notable HOF-worthy achievements are similar. Johnson won a finals MVP and was on 2 all-nba teams. He was also widely regarded as one of the best defenders of his time, while it would be a stretch to call Pierce one of the best offensive players of his time, although Pierce is probably top 10.

I think we need to temper the enthusiasm from the recent championship. Pierce has put up similar stats to Kobe, TMac, Carter, Allen, etc, but the difference is he lucked into joining two superstars at the tail end of his prime.

If Pierce can keep up his winning ways while leading the Celtics deep into the playoffs for the next few years, I'd be more comfortable to label him a HOFer.

At 2:42 PM, Blogger Michael W. Tucker II said...

This is a great question. Pierce was the lone star, the rock, of the Celtics franchise over the past decade. His jersey will hang high.

On the HoF question, it is important to remember that one does not need to be an MVP-Type / Best-Player-on-a-great-team to get into the Hall. There are other routes.

If the Celtics turn this into a Dynasty with Pierce and Garnett as the corner stones, I think the Hall is in Pierce's future (KG is almost definitely in regardless). If this is one and done, and what we just saw is the highlight of Pierce's career, he's got a shot (like DJ) but probably doesn't get in.

At 12:28 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

If the Celtics had been relevant for the last ten years this wouldn't even be a question and Pierce would at least be above Vince Carter on that list.

He would have had more exposure, more all nba teams, and who knows, maybe an mvp in the years he was getting 25-27ppg.

He's always been explosive, and a good shooter. for me has has always been an HOFamer and I am biased, me first becoming a sports fan hsi rookie year. All i can say is im lad the rest of the country is finally noticing him.

At 12:31 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

oh and one more thing, you can say he couldn't do it without the help, neither could KG and Ray Ray but KGs a 1.000 n that list. put this same supporting cast behind PP and Tione in 02 and I say they get to the finals but lose to the Lakers thanks to Shaq (but apparently not Kobe)

At 9:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not even close....Pierce is a star, not a superstar. I feel only superstars should be in the HoF. His performance in the playoffs has been the result of some lucky breaks i.e. Celtics landing KG and Allen.

I think it will take 2 or 3 more MVP type performances for PP to make it. With the team they have, there's no reason they should be a dynasty.

I wonder what Red Auerbach would say about this Boston team. It was 'ready-made' which he spent his last few years blasting Phil Jackson about. There's no way they could have gotten KG without the Danny Ainge/Kevin Mchale link. no KG. no championship.

At 12:42 PM, Blogger TWR said...

Tony Parker and Chauncey Billups were also Finals MVPs...unlikely either will even be considered for HoF. No way in hell for Pierce. He played on too many crap teams and only elevated his game when management bought him some good teammates

At 1:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

untrue, pierce has been playing at a high level since at least 2002. the fact that he elevated his game in this year's playoffs should not count against the fact that he elevated it once before in 2002 and never dropped back down. even 2 seasons ago, he was putting up MVP-type numbers.

but one factor they forgot to mention - pierce played his entire career for one team, and that team is the celtics. when all is said and done, that will count for him, because old school basketball heads like loyalty, and they seem to LOVE the celtics. (check out the 50 greatest players list and see how many of them played for the celtics...)

At 1:40 PM, Blogger STC said...

Pierce was probably going to be elected to the Hall of Fame before this championship run; now, he is almost certainly a lock.

As for the people who are saying he doesn't deserve to be enshrined: Adrian Dantley, Alex English, Joe Dumars, James Worthy, Calvin Murphy, K.C. Jones, Dave Bing, and a few other non-"superstars" have been elected to the Hall of Fame in the past. These players were never dominant and were almost never considered to be legitimate MVP candidates, and yet all of them were ultimately honored by the Hall, and rightfully so. One does not have to be a "superstar" in order to be great.

At 4:51 PM, Blogger George said...

Pierce, great player. Hall of Fame, maybe. But it better not happen without Ginobili getting a nod. If the Argentine star was healthy, could the Celtics and beaten the Spurs and a healthy Manu? I don't know, but I think the Celtics were lucky the Lakers didn't have to test that one out before them.

At 5:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I REALLY hope that this formula is wrong, because if Vince Carter gets into the HOF before PP it's going to be a crime. To have vince even on the list is ridiculous, i didn't think quitters could get into the HOF.

At 4:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just felt the need to also note that Vince Carter is number 8 on that list. Vince. Carter. There's less bawling and whining at my kid's daycare over the course of a week than when Vince get sneezed on during a game. Oakley should have used a pillow and induced some crib death.

At 6:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Lakers got straight up outplayed by the Celtics. It will be an interesting offseason to see which teams make what moves to keep up and compete with the Celtics and Lakers. We are doing a series on offseason moves and evaluating them at

At 1:27 AM, Blogger Michael said...

Vince Carter a hall of famer? Gag me. I know that formula is wrong if Vince is above "The Truth" even before this championship year.

Dave Bing not a superstar? Gag me. The dude was dominant and had he not retired playing for Boston the same year Havlicek retired this wouldn't even be remotely a serious statement.

Only superstars get into the hall of fame? Gag me?

Joe Dumars a superstar? No way. Great player, yes. Superstar, no.

Bill Bradley a superstar?

And yes Ginobli is the real deal, the best foreign player since Drazen Petrovic. But it says here he won't get a sniff despite the fact that as Ginobli goes so goes the Spurs. The Lakers were flat out lucky he wasn't 100% otherwise they never would have been in the finals this year.

At 1:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No way in hell. Take into account the horrific 6th place finish in the 2002 Team USA. He scored 19ppg, but he was an embarrassment to watch. Did he even shoot 40% in those games? I cringed whenever he touched the ball. Never passing, making stupid turnovers, and taking bad shots. He is the worst performer ever to be part of Team USA (there have been worse players, but none have choked like he did).

In the finals, the Pierce lucked into the worst defensive team matchup in the Lakers. Kobe wouldn't play team defense (only 1-on-1), so they just ran pick and rolls to death. He'd never rotate on weak-side swings either. Other notable examples... Nobody picked up Leon Powe going 80 feet down the floor, and Pau was wearing a skirt when Perk had his big game.

If he's a HOFer, he'll get in just for being a Celtic title-winner. That's the only merit he deserves. Exactly like K.C. Jones. If he and Allen were the one traded to the T'wolves and team won the championship, you wouldn't even find this discussion on blogs. Not even if the blog was from 'sota.

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