In a surprising turn of events, it appears Paul Pierce will be taking his talents to DC and will join the Washington Wizards on a two-year deal. After fifteen seasons with the Boston Celtics, and one year with the Brooklyn Nets, Pierce will sign for the mid-level exception in Washington, where he may end up finishing his Hall-of-Fame career.
This is truly shocking news, as the decision appeared to come out of nowhere. Entering free agency, the most likely scenario was that Pierce would return to the Nets on a short-term deal because they could offer him the most money. Recently though, signs began pointing towards Pierce reuniting with coach Doc Rivers and playing for the Los Angeles Clippers. Pierce also had a ton of other opportunities to play for contending teams that had interest in him, such as the Houston Rockets, Chicago Bulls, and Dallas Mavericks. Nearing the end of his illustrious career, it would have made sense for Pierce to sign with a championship-caliber team. However, Pierce ultimately decided to go with Washington.
With their current roster, it is hard to imagine Pierce looking at that situation and thinking they are ready to compete for a championship within the next two years. However, Washington is a young, up-and-coming team in the weaker of the two conferences. A year ago, the Wizards made the playoffs as the No. 5 seed in the East and defeated the Bulls in the first round. On Saturday, the Wizards lost one of their key pieces from last season in Trevor Ariza when he decided to sign a four-year, $32 million deal with Houston. Pierce is therefore Ariza’s replacement at small forward and possibly even an upgrade.
The Wizards have a very talented roster surrounding Pierce. They have one of the most exciting back courts in the league with star point guard John Wall and future star Bradley Beal. The front court along with Pierce consists of Marcin Gortat, who had a breakout season last year when he emerged as a dominant center in the NBA, and Nene, a veteran who can rebound, play great defense, and score in the paint. Washington is definitely a team that can make some noise in the Eastern Conference, especially with the addition of Pierce.
Still, the decision has to be considered a bit of a head-scratcher. With little gas left in the tank, there were other teams out there what would have given Pierce a more realistic chance to win in the next two years. Had he chosen to stay with Brooklyn, Pierce would have probably been making around $9 million per year, more than what he will be making in Washington. Therefore, it would have made more sense for Pierce to re-sign with the Nets, who are on a similar level with the Wizards in terms of talent. Pierce could have finished his career with long-time teammate Kevin Garnett and maybe even had more success in Brooklyn.
As for how this impacts the Nets, the team has to be displeased with the news. The Nets entered last season with championship expectations and amassed just a first-round victory. After giving up several first-round picks, the Nets cannot be thrilled with how the blockbuster trade turned out. Pierce and Jason Terry are now off the team, and Garnett is not the effective player he was in Boston. However, Brooklyn still has players in the front-court capable of playing substantial minutes, including Andrei Kirilenko, Mirza Teletovic, and Bojan Bogdanovic. Unless the Nets make other moves, Kirilenko will likely take Pierce’s spot in the starting lineup.
From the Wizards’ standpoint, Pierce is a solid trade-off for Ariza. The two play similar games and Pierce will fit in very nicely in Washington. The Wizards are getting a hall-of-fame veteran, a proven winner, and a leader on and off the court, and they are getting him at a great value. Shortly after losing Ariza, Washington has made an excellent move by signing Pierce.
Jordan Berkowitz is a Brooklyn Nets and NBA writer for RantSports.com.