Trading Paul Pierce Doesn't Make Much Sense
And heeeeeeere we go. The Celtics are off to a rough 4-8 start and the ”blow it up” talk has begun. Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen’s contracts are expiring at the end of the season — which will clear some $31.2 million in salary — giving the Celtics less incentive to move them. Having that cap space at the end of the year to pursue free agents is a good thing. Instead, the trade talk will focus on Paul Pierce, who’s got two years and $32 million left on his contract. Yesterday, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo reported that “Several contending teams have inquired about Pierce’s availability.”
In return for Pierce, the Celtics would want to get one of two things: either a promising young player or an expiring contract (plus a draft pick or two) to create even more cap space going into this off-season. But herein lies the problem: nobody’s going to give up a good young player for a good old player. As much as I’d love to call up sports talk radio, pretend I’m from Billerica (doesn’t it seem like all the callers are from Billerica?), and suggest a Pierce for Stephen Curry trade, it just ain’t gonna happen. As for the much more realistic option two, the Celtics would be effectively throwing away this season, taking on somebody else’s salary dump in the hopes that they can convince two stud free agents to sign with them in the off-season. Even putting this season’s outcome aside, it’s a big gamble, especially considering that frigid Boston has never been considered a particularly desirous landing spot for NBA stars. And, despite all the C’s struggles so far, you’d still have to think it’s worth seeing if they can get it together, sneak into the playoffs, and make a run.
And then there’s this: despite his cold start coming off a heel injury, Paul Pierce is still a damn good player. More importantly, he figures to be a damn good older player. He shot a career high 49.7 percent from the field last year and, per the stats site 82games.com, the Celtics were 13.9 points per 100 possession better on offense and 4.1 points per 100 possessions better on defense when he was on the floor (most games have about 90-100 possessions). Pierce’s defense is often underrated and that net plus of 18 points was the best on the Celtics last season. In general, it is really good.
Stats aside, Pierce’s game has never been based on athleticism. He’s always been more about guile, using his sly moves and persistent up-fakes to bait defenders into fouling him. Also, let’s remember, he’s 34-years-old, not 40. Factor in his leadership and 3-point shooting ability, and he’s just the type of player you’d want complementing Rondo and whatever stud free agent the Celtics can hopefully lure with the money cleared from KG and Allen.
As much as I’d hate to see Pierce go as a fan, if Celtics GM Danny Ainge could find the right deal for him, I’d have to sadly agree it was the right thing to do. I’m just having a hard time imagining that deal.