For the past 14 seasons, forward Paul Pierce has spent his career established as one of the best players in Boston Celtics history. Now 35 years old, the question is exactly how much does Pierce still have in the tank?
Pierce was overlooked for players such as Robert Traylor, Jason Williams and Larry Hughes in the 1998 NBA draft before the Celtics selected him 10th overall. Pierce used that as motivation to become the best player in his class and averaging an impressive 16.5 points and 6.4 rebounds and hasn’t looked back.
Since then, Pierce has been a model of consistency for Boston and has averaged at least 18 points in every other season of his career so far, including 18.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.8 assists this year. Pierce’s rebounding rate this season is actually the fifth highest of his career.
But while Pierce has been solid, his field goal percentage dipping to .435 is a bit alarming. Pierce has kept himself in good shape this year and he has always been a crafty scorer, but his lack of athleticism has been evident and makes it tougher for him to get some of the same open looks he was able to five or six years ago. Playing without point guard extraordinaire Rajon Rondo doesn’t help, either.
Pierce has a player option of $15.3 million on his contract for next season and given his long history with the Celtics franchise it’s likely he will remain with the team. But with Pierce clearly declining, the Celtics will need to find a young replacement soon to take over at the small forward position after Pierce’s deal expires at the end of the 2013-2014 season.