With the season over and the draft still more than a month away, we're taking a look back and assessing the season that was. That's right - it's report card time! Over the next week, we'll be revealing a few players each day. This is the second installment in the series.
2012-13 averages: 18.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 4.8 apg, 33.4 mpg, 43.6 FG%, 38.0 3PT%
As he has every year since the Clinton administration (no, seriously), Pierce again led the team in scoring with 18.6 points per game but it was his admirable performance as the de-facto point forward for the post-Rondo Celtics that probably defines this season for Pierce.
Having averaged 4.6 assists in January, the Captain's statline jumped to 6.8 in the month of February as Boston scrambled (and ultimately, failed) to find a playmaking point guard to replace Rondo.
With Rondo out, Garnett refusing to shoot more, Jason Terry failing to provide the offense he was brought in to provide, Brandon Bass's shrinking offensive production and Avery Bradley's shooting woes, Pierce was called upon to carry the load. Shouldering that burden appeared to wear on him, as he sat out three of the final eight regular season games and played just 14 minutes in the season finale against Toronto. The rest was apparently not enough though, as Pierce looked exhausted in the playoffs, averaging 42.5 minutes per game, including a season-saving 50 minutes in their overtime victory in Game 4. While his 29 points were instrumental in avoiding the sweep, the performance appeared to have emptied Pierce’s tank. He logged another 44 minutes in Game 5 but shot just 6-19 (31.6%) and did not get to the line a single time. By Game 6 he looked to be running on fumes, posting a brutal 4-18 (22.2%) with five costly turnovers.
At 35, Pierce is clearly past his prime and coach Doc Rivers acknowledged that the Captain was being asked to do too much for the team. This is important to factor into his grade, as is the importance of Pierce’s leadership on and off the court.
Like Kevin Garnett, Pierce’s per-36-minute averages were on par with the last few seasons. In fact, his per-36-minute scoring average was 20.0, the second highest since Garnett and Ray Allen’s arrival in 2007-08. He also averaged more assists (5.2) and rebounds (6.8) than any season since 2007-08.
Also like Garnett, Pierce’s shooting percentages dipped, as he posted the lowest field goal (43.6) and free throw percentages (78.7) in that time span. Pierce did make more threes (2.0) per-36-minutes, averaging 38% from deep.
Overall the Celtics were plus-123 this season when he was on the floor and minus-141 with him on the bench and Boston’s offense was six points better per 100 possessions with him (offensive rating of 103.1) than without (97.2).
Pierce’s future is by far the biggest question mark of the offseason. He is due $15.3 million next year but his contract is not guaranteed. As such, Celtics’ boss Danny Ainge can waive him and take a $5 million cap hit, exercise the Celtics’ amnesty clause and waive Pierce while avoiding the cap hit, or trade him. (Or, of course, bring him back.) Ainge has repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to shop Pierce in the past but acknowledged on WEEI that the Captain’s status as one of the greatest players in Celtics’ history will factor into his decision.
“There's a lot that will go into [deciding to bring back Pierce], but it hasn't even started yet. We have until June 30 to make any decision. Listen, Paul's been one of the greatest Celtics of all time and that will play a part in it. We love what he's done for us, but ultimately we have to do what we think is the best for us from this point forward and I think that Paul still has a lot of basketball left in him.”
Where he’ll be playing that basketball is still anyone’s guess.
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