Where do Paul Pierce & Kevin Garnett rank on the list of all-time Celtics?
Their contributions go well beyond the 2008 title.
If KG and "The Truth" have played their final games in green, where would they each fit among the greatest Celtics ever?
We'll start with Garnett. He's spent only 6 years in Boston, but he also changed the entire culture of the franchise. He turned the Celtics into a defensive oriented team all by himself, and was the primary reason for the C's return to elite status among NBA franchises. The impact he's had on teammates also can not be measured; his presence on the floor has gone way beyond just his playing skills. Being the driving force behind a single championship ranks him higher on the list than many other complimentary players who won multiple titles.
All this likely puts Garnett somewhere in the #12-18 range. For example, Frank Ramsey won 7 championships in his 9 year career, but was also never better than the 4th or 5th best player at any given time. The same can be said for Danny Ainge and Dennis Johnson, and their multiple rings in Boston. If KG is ahead of those three players, it would put him in the #15 spot of all-time Celtics. I don't think I can rank Garnett above Bill Sharman (Bob Cousy's backcourt-mate; a four-time champion and one of the greatest shooters to ever live) or K.C. Jones (Bill Russell's college and pro teammate who won 8 titles as a player and two as the C's head coach). Cedric Maxwell is debatable; "Cornbread" was a two time champion and managed to win the 1981 Finals MVP on a team that included Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parrish. Kevin Garnett checks in as either the 14th or 15th greatest Celtic ever.
Paul Pierce easily cracks the top 11, but with him the argument becomes the value of his longevity. Yes, Pierce has just the one ring, and was the best player on a number of bad teams throughout his 10 All-Star appearances. But his career totals are somewhat staggering. For example, he's the 6th leading rebounder in Celtics history, not to mention 4th all-time in assists and blocks (although they didn't keep track of blocks in Russell's day). Pierce has more steals and 3 point field goals (new stats too) than any Celtic ever, and is also the all-time team leader in free throws made and attempted. He's 3rd on the list for games and minutes played, as well as made field goals. But the big statistic for the Captain (and his best selling point) is his status as the second leading scorer in C's history, behind John Havlicek.
So where does all this rank Pierce among the 11 best Celtics in franchise history? I'd say it's good enough to put him ahead of the #10 all-time leader scorer and two-time champion Jo-Jo White, but I don't think it's better than Tommy Heinsohn's 6 All-Star appearances, 8 titles as a player, and 2 as the head coach. Comparing Pierce to Parrish and McHale gets difficult, as they're the 4th and 5th leading scorers respectively (just after Bird) in franchise history to go along with their 3 championships apiece. From there the list gets even tougher with Sam Jones (10 titles, 5 All-Star Games, 7th all-time leading scorer) and Dave Cowens (led the team to 2 titles, won an NBA MVP, 7 time All-Star, 9th leading scorer), and after that it's not even worth debating Pierce against Bob Cousy, Havlicek, Russell, or Bird.
This makes Pierce the 10th greatest Celtic ever, but I wouldn't argue with him being as high as 8th if you put him ahead of McHale and Parrish. So there you have it. Feel free to tell me why I'm wrong in the comments section.