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"Let's say Pierce plays four more years (realistic) and finishes with regular-season numbers like 45,000 minutes, 27,500 points, 7,000 rebounds, 4,500 assists, 7,000 made free throws and 2,000 made 3s. Again, those are SAFE estimates. Here's how those numbers would land on the all-time list today: 15th, ninth, 104th, 73rd, seventh and third.
By the time Pierce's career wraps up, we'll remember him as the fourth greatest Celtic behind Russell, Bird and Hondo (in that order). There's just no way around it.

"Has there ever been anyone quite like Pierce?"

The short answer: No.

The long answer is a little more fun. Statistically, there's never been a wing player like him. In the regular season, he's already played 37,785 minutes (39th all-time), scored 22,591 points (30th), averaged 22 points a game (30th), grabbed 6,164 rebounds (150th), dished out 3,935 assists (100th), tallied 1,499 steals (40th), earned a 20.7 PER (52nd), submitted a 27.8 percent usage rate (19th), accumulated 131.2 win shares (34th), made 6,101 free throws (17th) and drained 1,679 3-pointers (ninth). The first number (minutes) and the last two (free throws and 3s) explain Pierce's career better than anything: He's one of the finest, most durable inside/outside offensive players ever, and that's before you factor in his career shooting splits (45% FG, 37% 3FG, 81% FT). He also hasn't been a slouch in the postseason: In 116 playoff games (and counting), he's averaged 39.6 minutes (33rd), 21.4 points (34th) and 6.5 rebounds (117th) with 43/35/83 shooting splits, making 190 3s (11th) and 714 free throws (24th) and even winning a Finals MVP (in 2008)."

I've always wondered where Pierce would end up ranking all-time with the Celtics. Obviously Bird and Russell are untouchable. Many traditional Celtics fans have Pierce in the top 10, but when I asked if Pierce would end up top 5 they're very hesitant to go there. Now Simmons can sometimes say some dumb stuff, but when he does columns like this he's on his A game. He's not just some guy writing hyberbolic thoughts from his couch. He's using stats and not just the traditional ones. I'm not 100% sure if I buy that Pierce has four more years left in him. I mean I'm sure he could play four more, but by years 3 and 4 at what level would that be? Still very good (at least offensively) Reggie Miller late 30's level or shell of his former self Celtics Michael Finley level?

By putting Pierce in the top 4 we can assume Simmons is only counting players who played the majority of their careers in Boston (so no KG). Without going to basketball-reference right now and looking up stats, guys that Pierce would have to beat out include Tommy Heinsohn, Bob Cousy, Dave Cowens, Sam Jones and Kevin McHale. There's a good chance all those players will finish with more rings then Pierce, so then Pierce longevity would be the key. Now if the Celtics can somehow win another title this year or next (while Pierce is still a key), that changes everything.

So what do you think? Can Pierce end his career as the 4th best Celtic of all-time? 3rd best? Or is that crazy talk? Who's your top 10?

JR 5/13/2012 09:24:00 PM Edit
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